God-talk, the Gospel and the Pub
By Luke Midena, first published in Compass Winter edition 2020
Friday afternoons at the ANU campus are a highlight of every week – I get to meet with a group of believing and unbelieving students at a pub, to discuss life’s big questions around meaning, suffering, belief, freedom and morality.
What’s unusual about this group? Two things – which also have something to do with its success.
First, it’s fun! We eat, drink and talk about exactly what people want to talk about. The starting point of many a good friendship!
Naturally, this means the group has some rough edges.
Secondly, the believing students make every effort to give the ascendancy to the non-believers. As well as meeting in a comfortable space, as much as possible we want our non-believing friends to be in the majority, to set the topics and lead the discussions. Naturally, this means the group has some rough edges; there’s often swearing and ‘unwholesome’ talk, and the Christians are routinely ridiculed for their views. Sometimes, the Christians lose patience and resort to personally insulting or condemning the non-believers, which undoubtedly forms the roughest edge of all.
… such an ‘unspiritual’ environment wouldn’t lend itself to sharing the gospel. Not so!
Now you might be thinking that such an ‘unspiritual’ environment wouldn’t lend itself to sharing the gospel. Not so! None of this has hindered God. These people know what we’re about and what the group is, and rarely a week goes by where the conversation doesn’t present a believer with the opportunity to naturally share part of their personal experience of coming to know God.
It’s counter-intuitive. The more comfortable we make non-believers, and the more willing we are to embrace weakness and bear insult, the more access and opportunity we have to the very areas of their lives which are preventing them from coming to Jesus.
“…it pleased God through the folly of what we preach [Christ crucified] to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21)
After a recent discussion, we asked one of the quieter non-Christian students if he could suggest a topic for future weeks. I expected him to put forward a theme that would reflect his worldview, so I was shocked when he replied, ‘I have lots of questions about the Bible and want to understand it. Maybe we could spend a week talking about what the Bible says?’
We laughed. In our effort to be especially sensitive to other points of view, the Christians in the group had been hesitant to bring up Scripture. But God had been working through our discussions to grow this student’s interest in the Bible, and it is the non-believers who are pushing us to read the Bible with them! God’s Spirit is at work.
It is the non-believers who are pushing us to read the Bible with them!
This brings me to one of the biggest problems facing the group over the last year. Key people keep dropping out of the group to spend time reading the Bible together in twos and threes. But what a good problem to have!