Brewing Controversy:  Beer Costs Church Plant $6,000 from Missouri Baptist Convention

Orginally published on Wednesday, January 02, 2008 at 8:50 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Pastor Kevin Larson of Karis Community Church in downtown Columbia just lost $6,000 in funding from the Missouri Baptist Convention because he wonít forbid his churchís members from drinking an occasional beer. At its December meeting, the executive board of the Missouri Baptist Convention voted 28-10, according to the Baptist Press, to cut funding for all Acts 29-affiliated churches in Missouri. Acts 29 is a church planting, or starting, network based in Seattle. The motion came from Denny Marr, minister of education at Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, in response to what Marr thought was an abuse of "Christian liberty" by some Acts 29-affiliated churches, one of which is Karis Community Church.

“Iím aware that there are some Acts 29 churches affiliated with that organization Ö that use alcohol and even sometimes R-rated movies with content that has at least partial nudity to engage the culture with their church,” Marr said.

Marr is referring to two of Karisí ministries, Movies and Mindmaps and Theology at the Forge. Theology at the Forge is a monthly meeting that takes place at The Forge & Vine restaurant in downtown Columbia. Those meetings aim to discuss a current event from a Christian perspective over a meal, Larson said - and, if people choose, to imbibe a beer. Movies and Mindmaps is another monthly event where a current movie is shown and discussed afterward.

“We are required by the Lord to live a life that honors him, brings glory to him Ö and there are certain things that impede, detract or keep us from our faithful commitments to the Lord - things such as using alcohol as a beverage,” Marr said.

The difference of opinion comes down to scripture, Larson said. Because the Bible does not prohibit alcohol, neither does Karis Community Church, he said.

Not everyone is happy with the MBCís vote.

Roy Dameron, a layman with Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City and executive board member for the central region that includes Columbia, said he voted against the motion because he thinks itís going back on the MBCís word. Church-planting pastors sign an agreement with the MBC to abstain from alcohol and “teach strong Biblical warnings of the consumption of alcohol,” the agreement reads.

Larson said he has kept his word. He doesnít drink, and he preaches against drunkenness. But those 28 members of the MBC executive board think any ministry where alcohol is allowed goes against its prohibitionist stance, Marr said.

Gerald Davidson, president of the MBC executive board, said taking a broad swipe at all Acts 29-affiliated churches in Missouri, when itís unknown whether all of them tolerate the use of alcohol, is unfair. Marr admits he didnít investigate all the churches and has not spoken with Larson.

“I would not take that position because there are some involved with them that would be right where” the MBC “would stand,” Davidson said.

Davidson said he planned to meet with other executive board officers two weeks ago to discuss the vote. Interim Executive Director David Tolliver said he was working to find a way to keep church-planting funding going to Karis Community Church and Believers Church in Hannibal. There are nine Acts 29-affiliated churches in Missouri, but only these two receive funding from the MBC.

Larson said the MBC offered to reinstate the $6,000 of funding if Larson agreed to end Theology at the Forge. Larson refused.

“Biblically, weíre not doing anything prohibited. Practically, weíre not doing anything wrong. Weíre just having a meal and talking about things from a Christian perspective,” Larson said. “I canít look my congregation in the eye and tell them we compromised everything we stand for for $500 a month to pacify some angry pastors.”

You can read more here in the Columbia Tribune...

FOR DISCUSSION:  What do you think of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s vote?  Was it justified?  Did they go back on their word?  Is the church wrong for offering their"Theology at the Forge” program?  I’d love to hear your input...

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  There are 19 Comments:

  • Posted by jason allen

    I definitely think they are going back on their word.  While many wouldn’t like it they are totally within their right to say they will have no future dealings with any A29 affiliated church plants.  But to go back on their words with church planters they have current agreements with (which are agreements in writing mind you) is not only unjustified it’s sinful.

  • Posted by Josh R

    While biblically wrong, I think the Southern Baptists are okay to exclude churches that do not agree with their stance on Alcohol. 

    To cut funding from the 5 other acts 29 churches without investigation is just dead wrong.  Acts 29 does not require churches to tolerate the use of alcohol, and I would bet that not all Acts29 churches do.

    Seems to me that the SBC would run Jesus out of their denomination.  That just seems wrong to me.

  • Posted by

    To quotes someone I respect, these people seem to be doing this.  “Strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.”

    Having planted 2 churches, the 500 a month could be used by the church but will not kill it.  It is the partnership lost that is sad.  Church planting can be very lonely and this did nothing to say, we understand you, the culture your trying to reach, the call you have.  It sent the message; “you are not one of us.”

  • Posted by

    Sad.  I’m part of an SBC church and while we don’t really tell anyone to drink or not drink, I think we have an informal requirement that our leaders abstain.  (Not members)
    I think we realize that drinking itself is not forbidden by Scripture, but is an area of liberty that one can use or abuse the same as any other.  In this case, though, I think that the MBC is just plain wrong and is hurting themselves more than anyone else.  They’ve gained negative publicity about this and it’s just not worth it to me.  I agree with the above comment about straining the gnats.  This is so not worth fighting about, especially if these church plants are actually meeting people where they are and sharing God’s love with them.
    I’m glad that the church didn’t back down to take the $500/month - it’s not worth it.  I hope that God blesses their efforts and really hope that this trend in the SBC of completely condemning anyone who looks at alcohol reverses itself soon.  Sure it’s not helpful in most cases, but it’s not a sin to take a drink.  (And for the record, I’m a teetotaller myself.  I don’t care for alcohol, but will not condemn anyone for enjoying a drink or two. Perhaps if it went beyond that or translated to DWI, but not just for the act of drinking or being in the presence of those who drink.)

  • Posted by

    Josh hit the nail on the head. . . many in the SBC would run Jesus out of their denomination. . . Making non-biblical opinions a test of fellowship is disheartening if not despicable.

  • Posted by

    The major argument/premise is not about the rightness or wrongness of alcohol consumption.  As I understand it, the pastor signed an agreement and decided to amend/break the contract. That should not happen. All parties should feel just as good about MBA’s convictions to cut that local church’s funding as they do about that local church’s convictions in ministry. We are talking about Baptist Distinctives...an agreement was made to abstain from drinking alcohol and not to support its proliferation. How can I do that in a bar? Baptists generally pledge not to drink because of all the negatives associated with drinking in society. Everyone knows how harmful abusing alcohol has been to the world. It’s not about being a responsible drinker that Baptists promote. Taking a stand on the issue is a party’s right and parties have a right to support or not support that choice. Physiologically as well as emotionally, alcohol is harmful to too many people. For example, some people become alcoholics easier because of inherited genes. Many people have no tolerance for alcohol and their judgment is altered with only one drink. Decisions made under the influence of alcohol are much more likely to be different from those made without it. Just listen to some of the things that happen during Spring-Break and how many lives are altered forever. That’s just an example (I’m not singling out any particular group). Leaders, lights in the Church and in the community who condone drinking in any form are more likely to be a detriment to the whole rather than helpful. Look at all the fatalities associated with alcohol. No, drinking won’t solve all the problems in society but it will prevent many.

    Go ahead a tell all the families that suffer from losses from alcohol abuse that drinking is not prohibited in the Bible.

    I’ll be interested in their responses.

    p.s. Everything is not written in the Bible. Denominations ought not be chastised for what they do or don’t do that has the potential to help others.


  • Posted by

     I agree with your general argument, drinking really doesn’t improve life on the whole and doesn’t help to solve problems.  Only God does that.  However, we need to be where these people are.  You don’t easily save a drowning person by standing from a distance and shouting/encouraging them to swim.  You can toss a line or reach out, but sometimes you have to jump in to pull them up.
     Besides, I seem to remember this guy who lived a long time ago and started some weird sect who hung out an awful lot with drinkers/partiers/thieves - aka the “bad” people.  He even got something of a reputation for it among the religious leaders of the day, but his reasoning was that he needed to help the sick, not those who were well.
     Looking at the original article, it seems that the agreement was personal abstention and teaching about the dangers of drinking - something the pastor was doing.  However, teaching/preaching about not drinking to people who don’t drink anyway seems kind of silly to me.  They don’t need the message.
     This pastor was apparently going out to meet the people where they were and getting involved in their lives.  The MBC felt they had to stick to their guns on this, but I think they were wrong in this case and have done more harm than good to their cause, not to mention added more to the general (negative) stereotypes of Christians/Baptists.
     Let me add one other thought (and note that I really don’t support or endorse drinking myself) - how do you engage with the people who hang out in bars if you can’t go into them?  You don’t have to drink and going into a bar doesn’t make you a drinker any more than going to a carwash makes you a car.  I’d probably say that going to “adult” clubs would be giving cause for an inappropriate appearance, but more because of the other things that happen there.  I am saddened by the trend in the SBC to so strongly condemn alcohol that we won’t go near the people who consume it.  It seems that we’re missing the point somewhere along the way.

     BTW, I agree with your general observations overall and have lost a member of my family to alcoholism.  Even with that, other members of my family will have the occasional drink - some more than others, but not to excess and never even anything “hard”.  They’d all agree, despite the loss, that drinking is not a sin.  My general argument was that drinking is not a sin as outlined in the Bible.  To say that it is seems to be adding something to God’s word, kind of like the Pharisees did to protect the Law.

  • Posted by Josh R

    What about the other Act29 churches in MO that lost funding?  The Article says that they where not even investigated, and had their funding removed. 
    Acts29’s position is that the churches are to obey the bylaws of their denomination. 
    If the denomination made commitments to church planters, they are wrong to remove that without due process.

  • Posted by


    That last portion of your argument was very strong. What do you think about is these scriptures:

    Prov 20:1
    1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

    Prov 31:4-7
    4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
    5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
    6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
    7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

    Luke 1:15
    For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

    Rom 14:21
    21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

    1 Tim 5:23
    23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

  • Posted by


    It would be interesting to know all the details behind the MBC decision regarding Acts29 churches.

  • Posted by

    Daryl, I’ve seen all of the verses before - none say that drinking is a sin, but they do warn against drinking to excess (except that Proverbs 31 verse - seems to encourage that if you’re in heavy mourning grin ).  Luke seems to refer to a vow taken by some of the religious men of the day - something like taking a vow of chastity for service in some denominations.  I seem to remember that Samson was supposed to have had a similar vow.
    As for the Romans argument, Paul argues that he has liberty to do all things through Christ (though not all things are helpful as explained elsewhere). However, if he exercises that liberty in such a way as to cause others to stumble, that isn’t a good thing.  Still nothing about alcohol consumption being a sin.
    Timothy actually encourages the drinking of a little wine, though I realize this is for medicinal purposes.  grin
    Finally, there were several instances in Jesus’ life as recorded in scripture that dealt with alcohol.  His first recorded miracle of changing water into wine (and I don’t think it would have been grape juice as it was remarked that this was particularly fine wine).  It’s also recorded that Jesus passed around the cup for the Passover meal, containing wine.  He encouraged his followers to drink.  Yes, the argument has been made that this wasn’t really wine either.  It was also done in moderation and the drinking/eating to excess was condemned in Paul’s letters.
    I definitely agree that drinking is not helpful in most situations, but I think that in this case, the pastor seems to have been doing the right thing in not taking part himself while meeting the people where they were.  I think it’s sad that the MBC closed down all of the programs due to the handful that were using it in ways they didn’t approve.  I think it’s even more sad that the first reaction was to shut down the program rather than to ask if lives were being changed.  It’s possible to be in a bar without approving of drinking. Some places that serve alcohol do offer some good-tasting food.  It’s possible to be around drinkers without approving of them (or condemning them because of drinking) as Jesus lived out in His life.
    Now, I could be completely wrong about this and there may have been a part of the clause in the MBC agreement that indicated a pastor should not be in the presence of any drinking at all unless he starts condemning it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on anything I’ve read. If the pastor actually went against the agreement knowingly, then he should probably have been approached with the specific part of the agreement that addressed his behavior and if he still wouldn’t change, then revoke his plant’s part in the program.  I would support that because it would show a pastor not respecting an agreement or the authority behind that agreement.

  • Posted by

    Concisely, drinking can lead to conduct displeasing to God.  Causing one to stumble could be sin, right? Right!

    What about wine being a mocker and the effects of strong drink on the individual (the hardening of arteries and its damaging effect on organs like the liver)?

    What about this: “Whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” ?

    Sin (Heb. hatta’a; Gk. hamartia) a falling away from or missing the right path. (from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary)

    In my opinion many are missing the right path in the area of alcohol consumption. The key to solving the dilemma may be that Christian actions should never be based on personal preference but on God inspired commands.

    Your argument fringes upon the inalienable rights of God as creator to know what is best always. What ever Jesus did, is doing, or will do is His sovereign right.

    I believe we as Christians have to die to self .

    Thanks for sharing. It was quite thought provoking.

  • Posted by

    some people says that the wine that is allowed in the bible would not make you drunk, but it had to be wine instead of grape juice only, because grape juice will not make you drunk, i think he told timothy to drink a little wine because he was young and probially had to put up with a lot of bloggers,he needed it to stedy his nerves.

  • Posted by

    As former alcoholic and drug abuser (10 years) redeemed by the grace, mercy, love and forgiveness of God, I don’t drink and haven’t for 15 years now. However, my job is to do everything in my power as the Spirit leads me to reach the people from where I have come.

    As a SBC church planter, I answer many objections concerning the denomination that is against seemingly everything (Mickey Mouse, etc..). Every time this type of reporting shows up in the news, churches and church plants suffer. Sadly, if we were to hear the real story of the lives of pious and self righteous railers who ride pet ponies for Jesus, we would hear about many other “hidden” sins.

    The Missouri Baptist Convention ruined the ministries of some very good and Godly men in their nasty takeover of the denominational churches and seminary there. They alienated many folks, including myself, while I was a seminarian and church planter there. Their motto was “kill them all and let God sort them out.” It seems, as Sonny and Cher related, “the beat goes on.”

    Drinking and drugs will damage your life, that’s true. Viscious declarations and broad, damning judgements of other believers damage the church. People work hard to be accepted in the world ruled by darkness. Why would they want to jump through the hoops of the self imposed holiness police who rule at the denominational and often the church level? “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Instead, let’s focus on the grace of a loving God who sacrificed his very best so that all sinners might have a chance for forgiveness. We can’t relay a message of forgiveness. acceptance, humility, love, mercy and grace if we don’t model it among ourselves.

    Satan gets his jollies every time this type of stuff, for lack of a different word goes public.

  • Posted by

    It’s been a while since posting, but here it goes.


    Up until two years ago I had served in SBC churches for over 25 years.  In every SBC church I served there were many who were known to drink “alcheehol”.  These are the same individuals who want to dictate to every church their beliefs.  Doesn’t the SBC believe in autonomy?

    I would agree if this church signed an agreement to teach the MBC belief then it should do so.  However, my guess is behind closed doors a MBC rep with a heart for reaching our world gave his nod.  Sadly some want to mandate something that just can’t be justified by scripture.

    By the way, I don’t drink to protect my testimony only.  I have no issue with having a glass of wine or beer, but as a “leader” I must consider the cost of a simple pleasure mute.  I have however been at meals with “pagans” (those far from God needing someone to love them enough to lead them to Jesus) where they had a drink.  I was in no way offended and didn’t care what people thought because the only people who judged me for that were the “Christians” in the crowd who had their panties in a wad. 
    I am sure the $500.00 per month will not be missed for one reason.  The MBC is not the churches provider, God is!  Unless of course you believe God despises those who are open to reaching those who are lost.
    Stand strong Pastor Larson.  Thank you for not selling out your Vision for the all mighty dollar.  My guess is this person fighting for you learned the age old technique of cutting funds from his SBC members who are famous for that. Remember many of those who are fighting you have no Vision only Criticism of those who do!

  • Posted by ram

    I would agree if this church signed an agreement to teach the MBC belief then it should do so.  However, my guess is behind closed doors a MBC rep with a heart for reaching our world gave his nod.  Sadly some want to mandate something that just canít be justified by scripture.  thats cool

  • Posted by

    The argruments made by some in the church about the wine Jesus made was only grape juice has little weight about it.  When we read the instructions given by Paul to Timothy about the Elders, and Deacons, it tells us that they can use a little wine, or no wine, depending on which one is referred to.  If the wine referred to in the bible is only grape juice, why then can the Elders have no wine, but the Deacons can have “a little”.

    BTW, I do not drink alcohol myself because of personal convictions.  But nowhere in the bible will you find that merely drinking wine, or any form of alcohol is a sin.  However, I believe the bible does teach us all, that if we continue to drink and become drunk, that is wrong, just like if we eat, and continue to eat ourselves into gluttony, that too is wrong, or if we judge those who do drink strong drink, that too is sin.

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  • Posted by riflescopes

    In the New Testament, repeatedly refers to the fact that he used alcohol, even during his The Last Supper - wine.
    The fact is that in the ancient language does not distinguish between perebrodivshim grapes wine and juice. The difference visible only from context. A context is the following: during the Easter holidays in the homes of the Jews there should be no leaven: “Seven days there should be no leaven in your houses because people will eat leaven, that the soul will be cut off from society [the children] Israel, whether the alien is or a natural inhabitant of the land “(Exodus 12:19). Based on this, I can safely argue that the wine which Christ used - there was no alcohol, but it was clean grapes juice. Some people try to argue that in a Palestinian was simply impossible to store wine neperebrodivshim long time. But this is just an excuse people who have no understanding of reality. The ancient people has long been known method of sterilization products. That is, grape or other juice bring to a boil and tightly stopper. As such, it can be stored for years, even with Palestinian heat.

    Another condition is why we believe that Christ could not use alkogolnoe wine during the evening. The fact is that leaven synonymous with sin, especially in relation to Easter: “You have nothing to boast. Know ye not that little leaven kvass all the dough? So clear leaven old to be your new test, because you beskvasny, for Easter My Christ, zaklan for us. “Therefore will not celebrate the old zakvaskoyu not to zakvaskoyu vice and wickedness, but with opresnokami purity and truth” (1Kor 5:6-8; cf Mt 16:11,12; Luke 12:1 ). Thus, the unleavened bread and pure grape juice should symbolize sinless body and blood of Jesus Christ. If we use the Communion to leaven bread or leaven wine, it thus we say that Christ was a sinner, a sin against the body and blood of the Lord.


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