"Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." The apostle Paul wrote this, but could it possibly apply to something like pouring a beer? Luther was rumored to have said, "The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays." But could doing the will of God extend to the bar? It is easy to think of certain vocations (literally a "calling") as spiritual, but certain vocations, like a bartender, are not so easy to consider as an area to fulfill God's calling.
In order to explore what the doctrine of vocation looks like in the craft-beer world (I'm not sure you can poor crappy beer for the glory of God), I asked my friend Ken a series of questions about God's calling and how it might be possible to pour a beer for the glory of God. Ken Chitwood works at Crosspoint Community Church and Memorial Lutheran Church, both in Katy, Texas. He blogs at Sacred Duty and is a phenomenal preacher. Ken also is a volunteer bartender at a micro-brewery. Ken has become a good friend in the past year and has been a huge help challenging me specifically in the area of preaching.
An Interview with Ken Chitwood: Writer, Preacher, and Volunteer Beer Pourer
RJ: You work in a church and you work at a brewery; how's that work? You're called to minister to Crosspoint, how do you see what you do at the brewery as a calling?
Ken: Technically I don't get paid by the brewery, I am a working volunteer. However, they do pay me in beer. Now, let me answer your question:
The brewery is a calling because I am a human being.
I am a baptized believer called to live life following Jesus, dying daily, rising daily, obedient to his call. I am called to be a part of my community, to be present, to be visible, to work alongside and bless my neighborhood. For a few years now, I’ve been hanging out with people who drink, brew and wax eloquent about craft beer. I thought it was time to give back to this community and volunteered in order to help out, dive deeper into the community and bless people along the way. Plus, they pay me in beer…so there’s that too.
RJ: Colossians says, "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God?" How can you pour a beer for someone for the glory of God? Is that possible?
Ken: Yes, it’s more than possible, it’s part of the job. Martin Luther, the 16th-century revolutionary monk who helped us all rediscover the Gospel and its implications for our life, is rumored to respond to a shoemaker who asked how he could serve the Lord with, “Then make a good shoe and sell it for a fair price.”
To pour beer for the glory of God is pretty simple: offer a smile and be friendly to whoever saunters up to the bar, give suggestions for a good draught, and when you pour tilt the glass at 45°, make sure the beer isn’t pouring too deep in the glass, bring the pint upright for the final pour and make sure the head isn’t more than an inch-deep. If you overflow, wipe the sides down and flash a smile as you slide the drink across to the customer. Say, “Cheers.” Take a swig of your own brew. Repeat.
RJ: I'm pretty sure if Luther was asked that question, he would answer the same way. And I will be repeatedly using that when I talk about vocation. Do people in the brewery know you are a pastor too? What are people's reactions in the bar when they find out you're a pastor?
My favorite story from my time at the brewery starts with a conversation I was having one of my first times pouring taps at our Saturday tastings. All the volunteers were enjoying some drinks after the day’s work was done. The convo quickly turned to sex and pretty soon things were getting racy. Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to make a good impression, but I didn’t want to stay silent either. As the talk got even more salacious I spoke up, but with truth firmly enmeshed in love. No one seemed to take offense and we kept drinking and laughing together as friends.
A couple weeks later CrossPoint was having a big concert and fundraiser at the brewery and I was pouring taps with one of the women who was the ringleader of the risqué discussion we were having the other day. As people came up for a drink they kept saying things like, “I can’t believe my preacher is pouring me a beer!” or “Does God let you do this on your days off?” When there was a lull in the work she turned to me and asked, “All these church people know your name and keep calling you ‘preacher.’ Is that your nickname or something?”
I responded, “Less of a nickname and more of a profession.”
Her face. Oh man, if you could have seen her face. There was this visible plummet as she thought back to the earlier conversation and then this redness entered her cheeks as embarrassment took over. We both knew what the other was thinking and so I said, “It’s cool. We’re cool.”
Since then, her and her husband have become some of my best friends at the brewery and when CrossPoint was doing a drive for blankets, jackets and goods for the local homeless population they dropped by and donated some Snuggies…and brought all of the CrossPoint volunteers a case of beer.
And, as time has gone on, more people have found out I work for some local churches and am a public religion writer and commentator for newspapers and magazines (not to mention the fact I just finished leading a Bible study at the brewery, on HE-brews no less, in November). All the volunteers and employees at the brewery have nicknames. Mine is “The Preacher.” So, I guess it’s a profession and a nickname these days.
In my conversation with Ken about this topic, he kept giving me gold so I decided to split the interview into two parts so that it could let certain statements stand on their own. On Monday, we will follow up with Part 2 of this interview and ask questions like, "How might what we talk about in bars today shape Christianity for years to come?" and "What would one warning be to the Christian who wants to be on mission by going to the bar?"