When I first joined Theology Pub, I did it to be edgy.
I was launching a new church that I hoped would attract all the skeptical, hipster, twenty-somethings. And I hoped Theology Pub might be a doorway into that world.
It wasn’t. But, it turned out to be much more interesting than that.
Theology Pub meets in a pub, and is made up of folks who have both an interest in God-stuff and a membership in a web service called meetup.com.
At first, I was just an attender. I showed up for the fireworks. It was thrilling to observe the conversational ebb and flow, and watch how some people moved the conversation forward, and others - either intentionally or accidentally - derailed it.
But when I took the group over, I discovered how challenging it was to facilitate.
Theology Pub has been an awesome training ground for extending grace to those who believe differently. Over the past three years, we’ve had pagans, atheists, orthodox Jews, not-so-orthodox Jews, progressives, conservatives, gay, straight, agnostics, astrologers, wiccans, tea partiers, theologians, pastors, skeptics, seekers, and a few regular, old Christians.
This level of diversity makes it absolutely essential to state, up front, that, in this context, all views and opinions carry equal value. We’re not making any claims about the veracity of those opinions, only their relative value within this discussion space. If you don’t make this clear, fundamentalists will ruin everything.
Since I took over, we’ve had three major threats - a preacher, a new-ager, and an atheist. All were fundamentalists. All attended under the pretense of open-mindedness. But they just couldn’t help themselves; they had to be right, and everyone else wrong.
With certainty, it seems, comes an appearance of arrogance; it seems to be a package deal. I tried to convince them to leave their certitude at the door, to no avail. So, I had to block them. They drove people away, and nearly killed the group.
When facilitating a group like this, it is paramount that you make room for differences of opinion, affirm even ideas that you find peculiar, and shut down certainty.
In fact, I consider it a badge of honor that a first-time attender once asked me, “Do you believe anything?” I do; but I was tickled that she wasn’t sure.
You’ll be tempted to answer every question - to be “the certain one” - but consider that your Q Place might be the very first time a person has stopped to think through what they believe. And when that happens, it’s beautiful.
Because, the whole point of a group like this is that, when you make room for self-discovery, you create space for the Holy Spirit to do His work. He will use you to show how He loves. He will use you to protect those who are far from him. And only in that protected space, can people open their hearts to hear from Him.