Southwest's Spotlight Ministries: Theology on Tap
posted on October 01
In this series of our Spotlight Ministries, we are featuring Neosho United Methodist Church and their Theology on Tap ministry. This is held at Indian Springs Brewing Company on the Neosho Square the 1st and 2nd Thursday of each month from 7:00-8:15 pm. These questions are answered by Rev. Mitchell Jarvis who is Neosho UMC's Senior Pastor. You can find more information on Theology on Tap by checking out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Theology-on-Tap-2216859955263849/
How would you describe this ministry in three words? Generous, Community, Conversation.
Can you tell us about a volunteer moment that spoke to you? One week I invited Dr. Paul Teverow, a leader within Joplin's Jewish community, to share with us about Judaism in general, and Chanukah in particular. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastically the crowd responded to him. It's also fun to witness how the conversations continue at individual tables after our sessions close.
What prompted you to volunteer/partner with this ministry? The vast majority of churches around Neosho are theologically conservative, and are often viewed as rigid and unaccepting. I started Theology on Tap to challenge the perception that all Christians are hidebound, legalistic, literalist, anti-science or judgmental. We work hard to be very open to differing viewpoints, not to preach or to give the "correct answers." Furthermore, we hold the event in a local brew pub (and I make a point of drinking a beer) to show that we are not socially stiff or culturally disconnected. Plus, it's just fun to make new friends.
What are the challenges that you face with this ministry? It takes more preparation week by week than I thought it would. Ours is a very smart crowd that poses good, often difficult questions, so I have to work hard to be ready. Sometimes I struggle to come up with a subject that I think will be engaging to everyone. 3/4 of our crowd are not church members, but friends from the community, (some from other churches, several agnostic or atheists as well.) I don't want to only speak from a Christian/Protestant perspective, so I work to bring in outside voices. We've had Dr. Teverow from the Jewish community, Chief Wallace of the Shawnee Tribe to talk about Native American spirituality, a local chemistry professor who co-led two weeks on Religion and Science with me.) The other challenge is a good one to have - we have enough participation that we tend to take over the bar (we average about 35 folks, but have had as many as 56!) Sometimes customers wander in without any idea what there getting themselves into.
How do you feel this ministry is shaping the community? It's most definitely created a lot of interest and conversation about town, and helped break down some barriers. I've had a few folks from the community express concern that it's not proper for a pastor to hold an event at a bar, but even that opens the door to conversation about taking our faith to where the people are like Jesus and John Wesley did.
What is the goal for this ministry? My goal, simply enough, is to help non and nominally religious people understand that not all followers of Jesus are weird. It's working.