Faith. Hope. Love. Beer.
How Pub Theology is taking the love of Jesus outside of the walls of Church
Writer / Lisa Mitchell Photographer / Amy Unger
Fishers resident Daron Earlewine is known around town as the Pub Pastor. It’s a nickname that he welcomes and has come to earn honestly through his dedicated efforts leading the team of Pub Theology, a ministry that focuses on showing the love of Jesus in the spaces and places where people do everyday life. For some people, that everyday life space includes bars, clubs and pubs, so that’s where Pub Theology happens.
Why are you trying to talk about Jesus in a bar? It’s a question I asked Earlewine during our recent interview. His answer explains the fundamental reason for the ministry.
“In traditional churches, it’s people coming there because they are seeking something. With Pub Theology, people aren’t there seeking God or thinking that He is seeking them. It’s awesome to provide an opportunity for people to be surprised by the love of God, right where they are.”
How do bar patrons react when they find out that the Pub Pastor and his crew of ministry volunteers have decide to throw a party in their venue of choice on any given night? As you might expect, there are some skeptics, and Earlewine often gets asked by patrons, “Why are you here?”
He attributes that initial reaction to the fear that people have of being judged, which he can completely relate to. It can be daunting to walk into a bar or club to talk about Jesus knowing that people may judge him for the message he brings, but he feels strongly enough about the Gospel of Jesus and people’s need to hear it that he and his team continue to walk in anyway and show people what Jesus is really about.
One of the coolest things about being part of the Pub Theology experience, Earlewine shares, is that ”by the end of the night, people realize that we are there to share a message of love and faith and hope, and that changes the atmosphere.”
This unconventional ministry is changing the lives of residents in Fishers and the surrounding areas. Fishers resident Rich Abbott is one of those people who has come to accept Christ, thanks in large part to his attending Pub Theology events and getting to know Daron and the team. In December 2011, Rich was a non-believer, had lost his job and suffered a significant relationship loss in his life. He was feeling isolated and alone and was looking to make meaningful connections.
It was around that same time that Rich was invited to a Pub Theology event and had a chance to talk with Daron one-on-one. That began a relationship of growing in his faith and getting involved in a community of believers that were like him, in places where he was comfortable being. He began volunteering to do technical support for events and was even more impacted by what he saw and heard during his time assisting at those parties with a purpose.
For someone that may be skeptical of Pub Theology’s approach and impact, Rich offers this perspective: “I don’t consider myself a traditional Christian. I don’t feel like I have to go to a church to know Jesus. It’s more about the relationships with other believers and my personal relationship with God for me. I found that when it came to me right where I was. And that was because of Pub Theology.”
With the support of Daron and the Pub Theology team, Rich will be taking the Word of God into the world of wrestling fans. His motivation for doing so? Rich says, “I know what it feels like to be alone and not really feel like you have anyone. I want to be that friend that I didn’t have. If I get to share about God, that’s great.”
Pub Theology has found a community of strong partners that support the ministry in a number of ways. Local radio host Dave Smiley, of the Smiley Morning Show on WZPL, is one of them. As a media partner, Smiley offers the Pub Pastor a bi-weekly timeslot known as Therapy Thursdays to offer advice to listeners and further the message and mission of Pub Theology in general.
Smiley says of his support of Pub Theology, “My dad was a pastor. I grew up in a Christian home which was very conservative and strict. No drinking. Daron invited me to an event to see what Pub Theology was all about, and I was really surprised that Christians could drink beer and still do ministry. After learning more, I was really won over by the fact that Pub Theology works like a mission team in the field, only here locally in places where people aren’t expecting it.”
Smiley is just one of several key partners that support the Pub Theology mission. Wayland Thompson, Outreach Pastor at Northview Church, says the Northview Church community is also on board with the mission and approach that Pub Theology operates under.
He points to several key factors that have earned Pub Theology the church’s support: “First, I trust Daron and his staff’s hearts. These are folks that desire authentic relationship and have a compelling story to tell about how they have been transformed by God’s love. Second, this ministry is reaching people that might not ever hear this message otherwise. They go where others won’t.
“Third, they are doing it in a relevant and cool way that breaks down the barriers of what many people think church is. Jesus was a radical in his day, and he started a revolution that was based on love. I see a lot of that in Pub Theology’s DNA.”
In addition to Pub Theology, Earlewine also preaches at Mercy Road Church on a monthly basis. His relationship with Mercy Road extends beyond the traditional walls of church as they are avid supporters of Pub Theology as well.
Josh Husmann, pastor at Mercy Road, says that partnering with Earlewine and his team for Pub Theology is something that just makes sense. From his viewpoint, it’s a needed ministry and worth the investment of people, support and finances to see it flourish.
Husmann says, “Pub Theology encourages demonstrating the love of Christ to hurting and broken people in THEIR context, rather than requiring people to change their lifestyles before asking spiritual questions or seeking help. We love this! Why wouldn’t an organization support a life changing ministry like Pub Theology? We invest people, finances and resources in supporting Pub Theology because they’re following Jesus enough to risk everything to help people. That’s pretty amazing and too uncommon in our culture.”
Earlewine’s vision for the Pub Theology format began to take shape in 2007 with the first official event being held in 2009. He wanted people to experience the heart of Jesus before actually being introduced to Him. Part of Pub Theology’s current format is the “Party with a Purpose,” which focuses on raising money for and awareness of local charities through regularly held live events in the Indianapolis area and to engage people in meaningful conversations about faith, hope and love.
The goal is to let people who may just be looking for a fun event or night out at a bar hear stories of servanthood, generosity and love during the event and to be impacted in a positive way by those stories.
A typical Pub Theology event includes the same components as any well-executed party: great live music, fun games and interactive activities as well as beer of course if that’s your thing. There’s also opportunities to support the compassion spotlight organization being featured and do something good while having a fun night out.
For those that are interested in connecting further, there is The Invitation, which is a dinner held the Monday following a live event where people can come for great food, have more involved discussions with Daron and the Pub Theology team and connect with others in a meaningful way.
The Pub Theology mission will be expanding in 2016, including live events to be held in different cities such as Detroit. In addition to the live events, Pub Theology also produces a regular podcast, maintains an active and insightful blog and hosts tailgate parties at Colts home games to further introduce people to the love of Jesus in a fun and open environment.
The primary goal Daron hopes for is that anyone who attends a Pub Theology event leaves feeling that God is near. He’s not against you; He’s for you. He loves you and wants you to join Him and see faith, hope and love change the course of human history.
If you are interested in supporting Pub Theology or just want to know more about upcoming events, you can go to pubtheologyindy.com or contact Daron Earlewine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.