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Guinness… The Missional Drink

Guiness… the missional drink! From the files of things Christians were never meant to find out:

In the time of revival, at the turn of the last century in Britain, it was as if God poured out an entrepreneurial gift on his church and people started doing things that were unheard of. These are the people, normal people in the pews, that God got a hold of and helped them to use their entrepreneurial skills to change society, to see churches grow, and to see missions grow.


One of them was a man called Arthur Guinness. Guinness is a wonderful drink, it’s a black dark beer with a white head and if you’ve never drank it, I don’t want to encourage you to drink, but its rather nice, so give it a try. Guinness is the national drink of Ireland. You’ve probably all heard of Guinness but don’t know his personal history. Guinness was a young Christian man who was once walking the streets of Ireland crying out to God, “God do something about the drunkenness on the streets of Ireland.” Everyone was getting drunk on whiskey, there were whiskey houses, gin houses, etc. and his cry to God was do something about the alcoholism on the streets of Ireland and he felt God speak to him. In fact he felt God say this: “Make a drink that men will drink that will be good for them.”

That was his mandate from the Lord. “Make a drink that men will drink that will be good for them.” He then brewed a beer and called it Guinness. It’s a dark stout beer. You can still get it on the National Health Service prescribed to you when you’re pregnant because it’s so good for you. My wife drank it throughout her first pregnancy. Guinness is exported from Ireland as a food because it is so full of minerals and natural trace elements, etc. It has incredible qualities to it. So Guinness made men a drink that was good for them. He was an entrepreneur and, believe it or not, people started buying it and drinking it. And now it’s the national drink of Ireland. Irish men don’t go and drink much whiskey; they go and drink Guinness. And its almost impossible to get drunk on Guinness because its so heavy, so full of iron that you feel so full you can’t drink more than a couple of pints. It has a fairly low alcohol level. (OK-The recipe has changed recently and it’s a bit more alcoholic than it used to be, so don’t try it.)

Doing missions through business is certainly a valid thing to do. Or should we do business for missions, i.e. should we do business and make money and give it to missions. Or should we be doing business as mission. I think Guinness is somebody who did business as mission. He didn’t go into business to say, ‘Lord, I’m going to go into business and I’m going to make some money so that I can help your missions.’ His mission- eradicating alcoholism on the streets of Ireland- was the answer to that problem. It wasn’t sending out more missionaries – the answer was to produce a drink that men would drink that was good for them. His business was the mission. I think there is lots of validity in all the different models but this is just one particular model. Doing the Business was the Mission.

At another time Guinness was walking on the streets of Ireland and met another young man crying on the streets. And he talked to him and this young man said,” I’m crying because of all these kids living on the streets.” There were hundreds and hundreds of kids abandoned living on the streets of Ireland and Guinness said, ” What would you do if I gave you some money?” ‘Well,” he said, ” I’d buy a home, a Christian home, and we’d fill it with God’s love; and we’d fill it with these children who need to be parented and loved in the way God intended for them to be loved.” And Guinness said, “Look, you do it and I’ll pay for it.” That young man was called Barnardo and he started Barnardo’s Children’s Home, which became one of the biggest children’s homes in Great Britain, all funded by Guinness.

Guinness met another young man who wanted to be a missionary in China called Hudson Taylor. Nobody would accept Hudson Taylor to go with their mission society so Guinness said, “Look, if you’re willing to go, I’ll pay for you to go.” Guinness paid for him to go. Then Hudson Taylor wrote back and said we need more workers. Guinness himself said, ” I’ll find the next ten and send them and pay for them to come.” Then Guinness decided there was a need to train people all the time to be going out to China because there was so much need, so he built a college to train people to become missionaries to China.

He was elevated to the House of Lords because of his philanthropy and because of his wealth and he became Lord Iveagh. As Lord Iveagh, he brought about many, many changes in Britain in the legal system. We used to have dueling on the streets. You have seen it in the movies, take 10 paces and turn around and shoot each other- if you’re in conflict. He said, ” No.” The Biblical principle is if you’ve got something against somebody, you have to talk to them; if they don’t change or if they don’t accept what you’re saying, take somebody with you; legal representation, a lawyer as we now call it, and if they still don’t listen, then you go to a public court and you get witnesses and before witnesses you then argue your case. And he hooked Biblical principle to the British Judicial System. He was a young entrepreneur who changed the judicial system of Great Britain through applying Biblical principle.

People like Guinness are heroes of the faith in terms of businessmen. They should be our heroes if we were going to do Business as Mission and also give huge amounts of money to missions and bring about social reform and build churches.


From Rowland: I have no idea where this article came from. I’ve just received this helpful note from a netfriend:

Arthur Guinness was dead 30 years before James Hudson Taylor was born. While it’s true that Taylor’s son Howard is married to Guinness’s grand-daughter Mary Geraldine, who is the great aunt of Os Guinness, a great missionary who’s done his time in China, the story of Arthur Guinness meeting Hudson Taylor is pure contrivance.


From a netfriend (October 2007):

Hi Rowland

Was doing some research for a Guinness advertising campaign and came across the story on your site re Guinness and missionaries. It appears as though the story is conflating two men, Arthur Guinness (founder of the Guinness brewing empire) and Henry Grattan Guinness (Arthur’s grandson). Henry was a contemporary of Barnardo and Hudson Taylor.



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