Rocky River, Ohio — A Lutheran minister from Ohio has been hosting a bi-monthly Bible study for men — inside his local cigar shop.
Eric Van Scyoc of St. Thomas Lutheran Church calls the gathering the “Smokin’ Bible Study,” where the men gather in the back room of Cigar Cigars and smoke stogies as they study the word of God. He says that he has been leading the studies at the location for approximately three years.
“It’s an opportunity to get out of the cold, have a cigar and learn some Bible,” one of the attendees told the local publication The Plain Dealer.
“It’s a chance to bring the Bible out from the walls of the church,” Van Scyoc said.
He explained that when he was called upon by the owner of Cigar Cigars to lead the study, he was reluctant at first, but since no one in the church had a problem with the idea, he accepted.
“Some women have said to us, ‘I’m going to come by because it shouldn’t be just for men,'” Van Scyoc explained. “They’re certainly welcome, but so far, none of them have come by.”
The publication outlines that “the group has puffed through John and are now smoking into Matthew.” Van Scyoc smokes right along with the others in the Bible study.
However, the Lutheran minister is not the first to lead a cigar shop Bible study. T.J. Hill of San Diego, California explained that he participates in a local study called “Holy Smokes.”
“We’ve been doing it for a little over 8 years now. Guys come — and have come — from a few churches in our area.We get together about once a month, have cigars, great food and some adult beverages,” Hill outlined. “Holy Smokes gives these guys a safe but accountable place to talk, share, pray and encourage one another.”
He stated that he has purposefully kept the group independent because he knows that there are those who would disagree with the concept of combining stogies with the Scriptures.
“[W]e’ve intentionally kept Holy Smokes a non-affiliated group and event as per a specific church or churches go. We’ve found it’s way simpler this way and keeps any weirdness from cropping up if someone gets too ‘Pharisaical’ about the spiritual validity of such a group,” Hill continued. “We always say that all are welcome. If this ain’t your thing, that’s ok. But don’t think that God can’t work in our group until you’ve hung out at a Holy Smokes event.”
As previously reported, a number of churches across America are moving away from traditional church settings in an effort to win the lost by presenting themselves as being “relevant” to the culture.
“It’s pretty low risk to wander into a bar or movie theater or hotel,” Professor Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research told the New York Times. “It ends up delivering the message of relevance: we’re just like you, we’re struggling, we might have a beer together — and our faith is also relevant.”
However, some disagree with the concept of reinnovating church.
“Rather than relating with people by becoming like people, the Church is to present the glory of God,” Scott Brown of the Center for Family Integrated Churches exhorted. “When people come into the church, they should see a completely new kingdom, a completely new community. They should see how different God is than they are and how much more wonderful He is, and how His ways are much more beautiful than their ways.”
“Churches can meet in fields. Churches can meet in catacombs. Churches can meet in a traditional church building,” he noted. “But when the Church starts identifying with a [location other] than the imagery that God has provided, then the Church has really departed from historic Christianity.”