This past Monday evening marked our fourth “Beer, Beliefs and Barbecue” meeting at Ernie’s Bar and Grill in Highland. A younger elder and I have been hanging out once a week with three of the young married men from our church. We meet in a semi-private dining area, eating ribs, discussing scriptures, getting to know one another and spending some time in prayer. It’s not your typical setting for such things but sometimes “typical” isn’t what God calls us to do.
In spite of our posted offers of free beer, no one else has joined the group but we did manage to pick up a little related interest this last meeting.
I made a quick trip through the main dining area and passed out some cards that made a pretty simple offer: identify someone you know who needs prayer and we’ll give you a free beer. And… we’ll pray for your friend.
As you can imagine, folks were a bit surprised at first. But, whether owing to thirst or simple sincere concern for someone else, we got seven cards filled out and returned. That’s not bad for a place with less than a dozen booths. And the needs seemed to be pretty real to us: an eight-year-old boy with a severe concussion from a football injury, an adult with a broken shoulder from a four-wheeler accident, two people with cancer, a man whose brother had just died and a couple of others.
After we’d prayed for those and some others whose needs we were aware of, Neil excused himself for a couple of minutes. On his way back to the front of the place, he overheard a group of three or four young guys discussing our strategy. One of them clearly did not approve. “I can’t believe they’re using beer to buy prayers for their church.”
Obviously, he’d sort of missed the point. The prayers weren’t for our church; they were from our church on behalf of other people. People we don’t know, people who might very well have no one else in the world praying for them, people facing tremendous challenges and difficulties, people in need of God’s intervention and blessing. People just like us.
I can’t turn water into wine or walk on it, either. I can’t feed five thousand people with a few fishes, heal lepers, raise the dead or do any of the other hundreds of thousands of wonderful things Jesus did that drew people to him. But like him, I can eat and drink with sinners.
And, I can buy one beer for a stranger. Buying that beer will get at least one person’s needs shared with others. Buying that beer will get at least a few people to interrupt their meal long enough to think about someone else’s needs.
If buying beer gets people’s needs shared so that they can be lifted up to God, if buying beer reminds people that there are things more serious than eating and drinking, if buying beer shows the world that we are willing to meet them where they are and do good to them, I’ll keep buying beer until the tap runs dry at Ernie’s.