TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A Christian men's group in Tyler is reaching out the faithful in an unlikely way, through Bible study with a twist. Theology on Tap provides fellowship and conversations about faith and spirituality in a casual setting.
Rev. Justin Braun, a priest with the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, helped start the group in 2012. "We're East Texas men. We like beer. You know, and we like to talk about Jesus. So, we can do those things together."
Once a month, the group meets at various restaurants in the Tyler area, with as many as 70 men participating. Organizer Nathan Ihrig said the idea was to create a relaxed environment, while offering meaningful discussion. "Guys are more willing to come and enjoy a beer or two and eat and listen and ask questions."
Most of the participants are Catholic, but Braun says there's room at the table for all denominations. He said he hopes it starts an interfaith conversation. "So often men, no matter what faith they are, tend to be very reticent to articulate what they believe. Whether it's because they don't want to offend somebody, or they're unsure sometimes of their own faith."
After some food and fellowship, the lesson or discussion begins. Ben Fisher, a catechist, recently led a presentation on the history of the Bible. "You always hope that you provoke something new, that you give someone a piece of information and they say, 'I didn't know that. That fits in like a piece of the puzzle and I understand something about the faith I didn't know before and it pushes them over the edge into action."
Group members come and go, as family and work commitments permit. Wednesday was Albert Chibarria's first time attending Theology on Tap. He said he started the new year with a spiritual goal. "I was on the lookout for something to increase my faith rather than just the typical go to Mass, say my prayers, you know, whenever I can work it in. That was pretty much my routine."
Each month's presentation features a new topic. Past discussions have included: "Masculine Spirituality," "The Big Picture of Salvation," and "How to Pray Like a Man."
"I think it's important if you look at it just from an educational role," said Ray Brunson, a regular attendee. "If you stop studying, you stop growing, so there's continually always something to learn. This provides a format not only to learn about theology, scripture."
The concept isn't new. It's a popular program utilized by many Christian denominations across the country.
"There's a real need for men to be leaders in their faith," said Braun. "Saint Joseph is the best example. He took his son to Temple. He took Jesus, the son of God to Temple, but you know, he was a very faithful father. So my hope, most especially is that these men become better husbands, better fathers, and more in love with their faith."
Fisher, who has taught faith formation for years, says all Christians have an obligation to deepen their faith each day. "It has to be something active. This is the message that comes through strongly in the scriptures, strongly in the example of the lives of the saints, that those people, they do best with their faith when they react to it with action. They react to it by living the best, most Christ-like life they can live and then working to change the world, to make the world into an image of the kingdom of God."
Those who attend the presentations come from a variety of backgrounds: blue collar, white collar, young professionals, single, married, even retired grandfathers.
Braun says there is only one purpose -- learning together with a focus on Jesus. "This is about Christ. Christ coming into the world in these men's lives, and their families, and their professional lives and making a difference, not just on Sunday, but every day."
Theology on Tap typically meets at Tyler-area restaurants the third Wednesday of each month. For more information about the group and meeting locations, contact the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at (903) 592-1617 or http://www.thecathedral.info/