Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Welcome to 21st century Corinth.

There is a strong movement, particularly within some younger pastors to indulge their carnality under a cloak of spirituality. Specifically, these churches host “Bible studies” or some type of community forum in bars, pubs, breweries or some other venue where alcoholic consumption isn’t just tolerated, it’s encouraged.

I understand some of these folks are genuinely trying to reach people with the gospel wherever they are (including bars). They are not the consideration of this post. However, many of these churches seem bent on getting as closely aligned with the world as they possibly can.

I’ve been contending for awhile, that if Southern Baptists weaken our position on alcohol abstinence, the next social issue will be gambling. Well, today a friend sent me a link to Damascus Road Church in Seattle, Washington. They are an Acts 29 church plant and have one of the most aggressive and offensive “Beer & Bible” promotions of all the pro-alcohol Acts 29 churches.

In what appears to be a promotional email for their men’s Bible study, Damascus Road Church says:

“In the Northwest, we consider coffee a meal and Beer liquid bread. AND we know from the Psalms, God has given us bread to strengthen man’s heart. (Psalm 104:15). So, join us from some hard words and strong brew as we gather like men to learn about what God expects of us as men.”

But the really offensive part is their promotion of “Men’s Poker Nights.” Yep, you read that correctly.

Damascus Road tells you:

It's not about poker, its about relaxing, enjoying the company of some men, making grunting noises, and laughing at Junior High humor. If you're a man, and you have 10 bucks, here's your chance to prove your poker skills or lack there of. Depending on the number of men who show, we will have several $5 games in before the night is through. Bring your favorite soothing beverage (barley pop, soda, water, etc.) and bring something fattening to eat! For the same price as a movie, you can enjoy some laughs and, if you're lucky, go home with a little extra. Invite your buddies!

I’ve been arguing that these new Libertines would soon be promoting gambling (after all, the Bible nowhere gives an outright prohibition!), equating it with money spent on some other form of entertainment.

Guys like me keep seeing this common thread in a lot of Acts 29 churches. And we’re wondering to what degree are our Southern Baptist churches being influenced by this kind of (un)Biblical application?

I have no doubt many, if not most, of these churches are orthodox in their doctrine. But I find the application of their doctrine (if in fact it is orthodox) woefully lacking.


Geoff Baggett said...


Excellent, challenging, unbelievable post. I chased your blog down from SBC Outpost. I like what you say. There are so many cries for "freedom" right now, and so few calling for "Common Sense!"

I can understand a stance of moderation. But I cannot fathom a promotion of alcohol consumption and gambling as church ministries. Wow.

Rod said...


Exactly. I'm sure some Southern Baptists since our first resolution against alcohol in 1886 have chosen to drink in moderation. But it has never been flaunted like the current climate we find ourselves in.

The Bororean said...

Hey Rodney
I love your blog it's nice to see a fellow Hallsvillian posting on the web. I graduated from HHS in 1984 and I am now in Tennessee. View my blog here

Keep up the great post Brother!

Elder's Wife said...

'Tis truly a peculiar people who can look, sound and smell like the work and yet "be not of it." Did Jesus shout a round of beer when He came into town just so people would come to listen to Him? What ever happened to Romans 12:2?
Enjoyed your post-I'll look in again.

bryan riley said...


I have a particular issue with gambling. I think casino-style, big business gambling is a horrid blight on our culture and people. And, what really irritates me is that it is often promoted by politicians, claiming to be for the little people, as a great revenue source for things like education. Meanwhile, those same little people they are for spend their grocery money in the casinos gambling. I know that they have an individual responsibility and make a poor choice, but it still irks me that we promote such things in the name of education or the like.

Having said that, I also do not believe that having a game of Texas Hold'em or betting on a hole in a round of golf is a sin (or March madness brackets, etc.). It can lead to addiction and be problematic in that way, and for some it is a sin because they have a conviction against it. But it is one of those things like eating meat sacrificed to idols and should be left to the individual conscience unless and until it reaches an uncontrollable addictive stage.

So, here is the question.... if it is fine to do it, then is it wrong for it to be done in church? I understand a fear of promoting it and perhaps that answers the question (especially given the fact that for some it truly is a conviction against with good reason because of personal issues), but I also have to wonder if it is good for a church to ignore the issue or even preach against it while there are many in the church who do it on an occasional Friday night, but hide it. What if the church has a ministry to help gambling addicts and provides a safe atmosphere for those who aren't addicts to do it? I'm not advocating that; I'm just trying to think outside the box here and ask questions. I think all too often we discourage transparency with our messages.

I agree we can't be about trying to draw people in with human methodologies. We must preach Christ crucified and let the Holy Spirit work. We all too often do things at church in the name of relevance or whatever, but all we really are doing is imitating the world without consulting God's direction. But we also shouldn't be all about preaching against every aspect of culture. Some things are genuinely okay for Christians to indulge in.

I do think that there are bets that are okay, which would be I suppose, in a phrase, moderate gambling. :)

Please take my comments as they often are... questions, not teachings. BTW, I tried to link you from SBC Outpost in a comment, but obviously messed up and it doesn't work and most of my comment got zapped. :) sorry.. i liked your thought.

Micah said...


Thanks for this article. It provokes necessary conversation.

I'll be honest with you. I'm not a moderationist, per se; nor am I a gambler. I've never been in a casino nor have I even bet on a hole in golf (probably because all though I love golf, I'm not that good at it) but nonetheless, I see little teaching in scripture that is clear that outlaws gambling and/or drinking in moderation. Having said that, there are many reasons that we can, and should, preach about that are valid reasons why not to engage in said activities but to argue that they are un-scriptural is an argument that is devoid of biblical support.

Having said that, while I would not hold a poker night in my church, nor would I encourage drinking in my church (although I don't have a problem with having a bible study in a bar and I do have members who drink who don't bother me) I would say that this is an area where Christian liberty and the sufficiency of the scripture coupled with the Holy Spirit needs to supercede our preferences or even our personal interpretations of scripture.

For a clearer description of what I'm talking about I would encourage you to read what I just wrote on the topic. Conviction, Convenience or Conformity? A question of biblical application

Rod said...


I'm a KC transplant. Not sure when you left, but Hallsville's changed a lot, even in the past 5 years.

Being a Bonar fan myself, you might want to try

Rod said...

Elder's wife:

Another sore spot with me. How do we jump from "wine" of the first century to "beer" and other forms of liquor in the 21st century. It'll be the subject of an upcoming post.

Rod said...


You're causing me some trouble lately...having to think through some things.

Well, I don't embrace your premise regarding gambling, that "it's fine to do it," but I'll bite and say if I did believe that, that yes, there are some things that might be permissable, but not in church. Walking naked around your house (with certain provisios, of course) would be one that readily comes to mind.

Our church is helping gambling addicts (along with drug and alcohol and sex addicts) which is why I have such hatred for these things. They are sure and certain destroyers.

Yes, my brother, preach against it, but with love and compassion for those ensnared by it. We can stomp and snort about sins and then graciously teach the tender forgiveness of God.

My brother, I can't even register with the idea of providing "a safe harbor". That's beyond what you and I can respond to in a blog.

Would we do that with people who struggle with porn? Get them magazines to look through at a Friday night church event that show just enough flesh to tintillate, but not so much that full lust is born.

Forget all about Texas Hold 'Em parties, even if real money isn't used, and break our Pictionary.

Man, I hate being an old fogey!

Rod said...


Your post shows we've got a loooong bridge to build between us. What you see as a matter of liberty, I see as sheer foolishness.

Nevertheless, brick by brick...

Micah said...


Brick by brick is correct! :-)

I don't have any problem with you, or anyone else, seeing it as foolishness - for that matter I generally see alcohol use and gambling as foolishness as well. However, I also view a lot of other behaviors as foolish ones. There is a difference, though, between foolishness (in your eyes and mine) and biblical restriction. That is what I don't see in these issues. I simply do not see biblical direction that clearly mandates the opposition to these behaviors and as such am reticent to draw lines that the Bible doesn't clearly draw. I have no problem with you having a conviction about unclear areas and even teaching and sharing with other in regards to your conviction, however when scripture is fairly ambiguous about the topic we must allow a certain amount of flexibility ourselves in what others may, or may not, hold to be convictions themselves.

Does that make sense?

Rod said...

Yes, Micah, that makes sense.

The rub is found in what you call on your blog "conviction." We've become a denomination that is not unified on issues of Biblical ambiguity.

Can I/you entrust leadership in the SBC to someone who doesn't boycott Ford? Who openly drinks and gambles? Who participates with the CBF? etc, etc. etc. (these are rhetorical questions).

bryan riley said...

Thank you for a gracious and thoughtful response, Rodney. A few thoughts in response: are porn and gambling even close to the same thing? I mean, porn is designed to elicit lust. By definition it is designed to cause a person to sin (lust).

Gambling, however, is not so designed. It is designed to entertain and to give a form of entertainment an element of risk. For some, this element of risk becomes addictive and wreaks havoc on them personally. This is a sad aspect of our culture today and is all too common and for that reason I tend to agree that a church should be very reticent to promote it. However, I also think that because it truly is just entertainment when done correctly and does not involve moral choices, I also think the church should not preach against all forms of gambling.

I'd be the first to preach against (and have) big business and lottery types of gambling because it is a social ill. But I can't go so far as to condemn all forms of game playing. Your pictionary example is appropos, because even if it doesn't involve a wager, when do we stop the folly question? Is having fun folly? For some it might be. Some might be so addicted to laziness and pleasure that even that could be wrong... but let's not make a mandate for all people because one individual's personal application of Wisdom. As Paul Burleson wrote a week or so ago, such teaching is really heresy.

Now, as to your old fogey comment... I don't see you as an old fogey at all. To me what defines an old fogey is someone who is no longer teachable. They think they have learned it all and nothing can change their ways. If that defines you then I'd definitely challenge you on that. I doubt that it does, just by reading your writing.

Thank you for reading, thinking about, and responding to my comments. I truly am seeking to understand the Way, and to the extent God has revealed the Way to me, I hope others can gain more revelation through my following Him.

Rod said...


I'm not sure how thoughtful my response was. I was being a bit sarcastic, trying to portray my sense of frustration in how far to take this "the Bible doesn't explicitly condemn it" mentality that is traveling the SBC blogosphere.

Assuming you have kids, aren't there unwritten expectations and understandings about what being a "Riley" means? It's kind of like a marriage with our "unmet expectations."

I see that Biblically. God has given us principles to apply in our context. Some (SBCers) are now, in the absence of rigid guidelines and explicit Biblical prohibitions, moving away from long standing positions of applied morality, like drinking and gambling.

bryan riley said...

That's okay, Rodney. Are we still conversing? You didn't respond at all to my latest comment, a response to you question about pornography; rather, you just clarified that you weren't being thoughtful. :) I still think you are being thoughtful. I hope you are.

I frankly don't see anyone saying the bible doesn't condemn it therefore do it. In fact, it is at least my argument that we must look beyond legalistic approaches and ask what is the character of nature and God and how can it be applied to our daily lives. That kind of life is much more difficult than just having a list of rules and prohibitions.

It is this broadbrushing (I am referring to your statement that says there are all these people out there saying the bible doesn't condemn it) that is of concern, in my opinion, and it happens by those who would claim to be conservative and by those that like labels who label people as moderate and liberal.

Why are you broadbrushing things? My arguments do not at all hinge on the fact that the bible doesn't expressly condemn gambling or alcohol. If God did, then clearly we would preach that. Since He didn't, then we need to see what He tells us through His Spirit Who lives in us. And, that will differ from individual to individual as Paul made all too clear. That's hard and we don't like it, but it is biblical.

Rolling Disciple said...

I know some of the A29 guys and have been approved as candidate to plant through them. I also know that there are some SBC churches within their group.

I will say that Acts 29 is a solid group of visionaries who want to reach the world and be missional. They are one of the most committed groups of guys who stand firm in their theology. However, there are some pastors in this group that have taken great liberty with their faith in order to be "relevant and missional". This has been a huge concern for me.

There is a fine line that many Christians are walking today by trying to be in the world but not of it. I do not condemn any man for smoking cigars, drinking a beer, or playing Texas Hold'Em. We must take our "liberties" before the Lord and determine if it is unclean or clean meat before Him. But there is also Scripture that says we should not cause another brother to stumble. This is where I see the biggest harm coming from.

I will not drink a beer in front of my Southern Baptist brother or sister if I know that they do not believe it is right for them or if it makes them uncomfortable. I would rather choose to abstain from my liberties in the presence of believers or unbelievers if it will cause division or hardship. Unfortunately, not all pastors or church leaders agree.

My wife brought up a great analogy that I am going to share with some of these guys who test the limits: Would you sleep with another man or act like a gay person in order to reach the homosexual community? Most of the red-blooded, straight, doctrinally sound men would be repulsed by this thought. Why would we see a "keg night" as any difference?

There are things that I won't do to compromise the Gospel no matter how relevant or missional people think I should be.

Paul said...

Stumbled on your blog via Out of Ur... It seems what is needed, that you hint at in your post, is a good discussion about hermaneutics. Aside from social pressure, are ther sound principles of interpretation that can lay a better foundation to issues of social and political import? Is liberty vs foolishness the only issue?

On another note, Bryan, the only difference between your characterizatio of porn and gambling is that you used a sin word "lust" for porn and a nutral word "entertainment" for gambling. The secular world uses "entertainment" for both, as well as for getting drunk an other sins. What if you used the word greed and coveteousness in parallel to lust? That casts things in a different light.

Not from SBC, but enjoyed the discussion.

Rod said...


It sounds like we are in agreement, sort of.

Where we seem to agree is that the Bible does not specifically and explicitly address every situation and topic we'll ever face. Concordances are devoid of words such as: marijuana, abortion, somatic cell nuclear transfer, cross-dressing, casino, etc.

We seem to agree that the Bible does address every situation and topic we'll ever face through its timeless and eternal principles.

We seem to agree that the Holy Spirit is necessary to guide us or illuminate us regarding the teaching, understanding and application of these principles.


We seem to disagree regarding which issues are a matter of liberty and which ones are a violation of Biblical principles.

And that's the heart of the war going on within some SBC circles right now, particularly on the moderate drinking issue.

Rod said...


Thanks for chiming in. I haven't really engaged Bryan on the level of making the Biblical case against gambling. And yes, hermaneutics are/is the necessary issue.

Rod said...

Rolling Disciple:

You're the kind of Acts 29 guy I can drink with!

Not sure your wife's analogy will hold up with them. I've tried that line of argument and fortunately, to their credit, see things like that as sin. If there is a clear Biblical mandate, they usually will embrace it. But hey, you're the one hanging out with them, maybe they are that out of touch? I doubt it. Maybe try cross-dressing. BTW, if beer and poker are a matter of liberty, is a guy wearing a dress to church ok?

Also, being an ACTS 29 church seems pretty have to agree to a lot of doctrinal things. Seems like you guys could "crack down" on these mavericks if you wanted to...that's my beef with A29, there's an implicit endorsement of the beer stuff, especially with Driscoll and Mars Hill.

Brother, thanks for your allegiance to Biblical fidelity over and above "relevance." That refreshing to hear from your corner of the world (A29, emerging).

bryan riley said...

Paul and Rod, I agree that you can entertain yourself in ways that will cause you to sin, like greed and covetousness, and that is what you should avoid. The problem is to say that gambling in and of itself is equal to those things. I don't believe it is. Where are you going to stop the line between entertainment and sin? I can sit in a locked closet and lust, be greedy, covet, etc., but I'm not going to tell people not to sit in locked closets. I can shower and do all those things, but I'm not going to tell people not to shower. I simply do not believe we are to be about defining the world in terms of what we cannot do, lists of all the activities one should avoid. Rather, I believe we need to understand who Jesus is and emulate Him. We need to be loving, which takes care of almost all of those character issues of lust, greed and the like. We need to be compassionate, forgiving, forbearing, tell the truth, etc. and so on.

I simply don't believe that drinking is wrong or a problem. It is a symptom, for some people, of a problem, but not for all. And, just by telling people not to drink, even those who have an underlying problem that drinking results in, it will not solve their real sin problem. The same would be true of gambling.

Rod, do you think that it is a sin every time someone bets on a hole of golf? Every time someone plays March Madness? Every time someone buys a raffle ticket at a school? Every time someone participates in any game of chance?

Is it a sin to dance? To drink? To watch an R-rated movie? To read a book that isn't Christian in nature, whatever that means? To ....? Where will it end?? And why do we define that for everyone? Let God define it because we simply can't in my opinion.

bryan riley said...

Please remember, too, my earlier comments about relevance and the like. I do agree that we must be careful not to be the ones trying to attract individuals. We must allow the Spirit to do that. At the same time we must not build artificial barriers to the gospel, like extrabiblical works requirements.

Micah said...


I'm curious; if scripture is not clear about something, under what authority can we use to maintain strict adherence?

One other thing I want to point out is your earlier resppnse to me when you said that we've become a denomination that is not unified on area's of biblical ambiguity. I think you're choice of words is unfortunate & innacurate. In my experience of almost 30 years in the SBC and coming from a long line of Texas SBC'ers I don't know that we can say that we've ever been uniform on area's of ambiguity - and that's ok.

Lastly, you asked who I would vote for and I think you might be surprised to note that my ballot would probably look a lot like yours. That's the point, though. Autonomos (sp?) churches and messengers determining by acclimation what is and is not appropriate, rather than setting standards in stone that God Himself never saw a need to set clearly in stone. I'm convinced that it comes down to our willingness to value the supremacy of scripture.


Rod said...


I don't remember posting what you are referring to. I never asked about who you would vote for.

But I'll respond to one thing since it goes along with the sentiment...the argument is over whether scripture is clear. As regarding alcohol, I believe it is quite clear. The tension in our denomination is that others don't share my clarity. Personally, if I believed scripture was NOT clear about something, I would NOT advocate strict adherence.

bryan riley said...


micah said...


I'm sorry, your comment simply asked if leadership could be entrusted to certain individuals. I was interpreting that comment in light of the election of our denominational leadership.

Rod said...


Ok, I understand your post better now. I ought to have #'s with posts so we can follow the chain better.


Yes, the list can get quite long; that's why we need to fellowship with like-minded people, people who have been led by the Spirit the same way.

Can a marriage survive repeated and unresolved tensions about what "being holy" means? The farther out from intimacy you go (family--church--association--denomination) the better chance of surviving such a disagreement. But even on a denominational level there have to be shared interpretations for our efforts to be maximized.

bryan riley said...

I think with man it might seem impossible, but with God all things are possible and when people of differing convictions can all fellowship and share leadership, etc., it is to His glory that there is unity even in such diversity. That's why Paul could write to allow and accept to the churches and told us to do so. That's why Jesus prayed that we might be unified: so that those of the world would believe.

Thanks for responding.

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