As we approach St. Patrick’s Day and celebrate the passionate Christ follower God used to lead so much of Ireland into the Christian faith, it got me pondering another interesting character in Irish history, Arthur Guinness. Both Patrick in the 400’s and Guinness in the 1700’s used beer within the context of Christian mission and ministry. Patrick employed a brewer in his household and often brought beer as a gift to village leaders he was seeking to evangelize. (And try not to read into that any motivation other than beer was truly an appreciated gift!)
I first got a hint about what an amazing individual Arthur Guinness is when the Doyle family in a vacation last spring checking out our ancestral heritage, toured the amazing Guinness Brewery in Dublin. But I never really knew the full Guinness story until Darryl Buckle, our new Pastor of Adult Ministries bought me a gift, a newly published book by USA Today columnist, Stephen Mansfield. It’s titled, “The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World?” It was written to celebrate the Guinness Company’s 250th anniversary.
Who would have thought that a book about an iconic Irish stout and the family that had made it famous would actually be a riveting and inspiring read, challenging us how to live and do business for the glory of God. While it might sound strange to some from more traditional evangelical settings, Arthur Guinness was motivated by his deep personal commitment to God to develop a product that would contribute to the good of society through a company devoted to the well being of its employees.
Here are some interesting thoughts that have come from reading Mansfield’s book:
• Arthur Guinness was deeply impacted by John Wesley’s preaching in Dublin. With Wesley he accepted the idea from Psalm 104 that alcohol in moderation was a gift from God “to gladden the heart”. However Wesley deplored the use of distilled beverages such as gin, brandy and whiskey because they led so quickly to the sin of drunkenness. Guinness came to see the brewing of beer as a way to promote the God honouring moderate use of alcohol, while leading people away from the “Gin Houses” that were such a blight in Irish and British society. Brewing beer was part of his mission to make a positive difference in Irish society.
• Guinness founded the first Sunday Schools in Ireland. He fought against dueling. And he chaired the board of a hospital for the poor. He had a huge Christ centred social conscience. As a Protestant he fought for the rights of the oppressed Roman Catholic majority in Ireland.
• The generations that followed Guinness produced not only some very God honouring businessmen, but some passionate pastors as well. In the 1890’s, Rupert Guinness, future head of the brewery, received five million pounds from his father on his wedding day. Shortly after, he moved into a house in the slums and launched a series of programs that served the poor.
• The Guinness brewery routinely paid wages that were 10 to 20 percent higher than average and had a reputation for being the best place to work in Ireland. Guinness paid for all of his employees’ ages 14 to 30 to attend technical schools if they wanted and more advanced school if they qualified. He provided medical and dental health care to the whole family, with doctors and nurses on site; subsidized meals; provided a company funded pension, sports facilities, free concerts … And the list of way over the top generous employee benefits goes on and on. Guinness believed, “You cannot make money from people unless you are wiling for people to make money from you.”
• And then in 2003, scientists at the University of Wisconsin reported that a pint a day of Guinness is good for the human heart, confirming that call to drink a little wine in 1 Timothy 5:23, is relevant today and can be extended to beer!
It’s only been in recent years that major evangelical denominational families like Christian & Missionary Alliance that Redwood Park is a part of, have been officially willing to go back to a balanced biblically grounded understanding regarding the consumption of alcohol. The latest edition of the Manual of the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada states:
“The Bible contains guidelines regarding the moderate use of alcohol and warnings regarding its misuse. The misuse of alcohol is damaging to individuals, families and society. The C&MA expects its credentialed workers to exercise their Christian freedom responsibly within the framework of God’s Word.”
Guinness, Wesley and St. Patrick would all have approved.
But what’s most fascinating about the life and legacy of Arthur Guinness is not the novelty of seeing beer as a tool in Christian mission, as much as it’s simply to see how a Christian businessman worked out his faith so holistically through his business. We truly need to see God raise up a few more Arthur Guinness’ in the world!! Oh and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!