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God and Guinness: The Missional Drink that Changed the World

June 18, 2012 21 Comments
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God and Guinness?

To many, this juxtaposition may appear sacrilegious, if not rightfully awkward. But only those who know the story behind the Guinness family can fully appreciate the connection between the two; that is, how the national drink of Ireland became arguably the greatest instrument for propagating the Gospel.

Here are some interesting tidbits I gleaned in my study of the Guinness family:

  • The trademark thick foam head of Guinness is the result of the presence of nitrogen. This is why one should drink Guinness from a glass and not the can or bottle.
  • Hendry Grattan Guinness, the grandson of Arthur Guinness, was a contemporary evangelist whose name was often mentioned alongside the likes of D.L . Moody and Charles Spurgeon. His son married Hudson Taylor’s daughter.
  • Today, nearly ten million glasses of Guinness are consumed daily, nearly 2 billion pints a year.
  • Arthur Guinness, the founder of Guinness, founded the first Sunday School in Ireland.
  • In 2003, a researcher from University of Wisconsin concluded that a pint of a Guinness a day actually bolsters health and is infinitely better for you than the caffeine in coffee or the high fructose corn syrup in soda.

Calling – Business as Mission

Arthur Guinness was a man of faith.  Born in 1724 in a family where his father was an archbishop, he embodied the words that were his family motto: Spes mea in deo (My hope is in God). His influence from the famous revivalist John Wesley inspired and enabled him to use his God-given talents in entrepreneurship as a vehicle to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Wesley’s mantra which is known as the statement, “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can” profoundly impacted Arthur Guinness’ perspective in life and his wealth.

In mid 1700 in Ireland, there was a phenomena called “The Gin Craze.”  An overwhelming large number of people were drinking whiskey and gin as their primary beverage. Water was deemed unsafe due to the micro-organisms and mysterious diseases found in water unbeknownst to everyone. The parliament forbidded the importation of liquor in 1689, so the Irish and British began making their own. This led to excessive drunkenness resulting in a poverty-ridden, crime-infested time. Statistics show that every sixth house in English was a gin house.

Arthur Guinness was infuriated with this drunkenness. He constantly prayed to God to do something with the alcoholism on the streets of Ireland. In fact, he felt God calling him to “Make a drink that men will drink that will be good for them.” He then developed a dark stout beer called Guinness. Guinness contained so much iron that people felt full before they can drink more pints. During its creation, the alcohol level was lower than gin and whiskey.

[Tweet “Guinness truly was doing business as a mission instead of business for mission”] With the preserving influence of the salt and penetrating influence of light, his life truly exemplified Lord’s mandate to be the salt and light of the world.

The Legacy of Guinness

If the story of the Guinness story ended with a man of Arthur Guinness, it would be a fairly small footnote in pages of history. Many of Guinness’ accomplishments were done in his family by teaching values undergirded in his biblical faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. He created a family culture that focused on giving generously and investing in his people.

The grandson of Arthur Guinness named Hendry Grattan Guinness became a foremost evangelist spreading the Good News. Another descendant of Guinness received five million pounds sterling for a wedding gift, but then moved his new bride into the slums to utilize his resources to eradicate the poverty in the land.

Another Guinness heir became Lord Iveagh as a member of the House of Lords due to his philanthropic efforts. In his new role, he brought wholesale changes in the legal system. In that time,  people used to have dueling on the streets. Like you see in the movies, people would turn around and shoot each other whenever there was conflict. Lord Iveagh said you can’t do this anymore. The biblical principle said if you’ve got something against somebody, you need to talk to them; if they won’t change or refuse to listen, you will have a legal representation who will go to public court with a witness. This is how he embedded the biblical principles into the legal system.

Guinness – A Great Place to Work

If you think Google or Facebook has great perks, Guinness was one of them. A key belief that the Guinness family subscribed to were the belief that “You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you.” This starkly contrasts the traditional thinking of today’ corporation where they think of employees as a disposable resource instead of a unique human being created by God.

Guinness’s investment in their employees were impressive. If you had worked for Guinness in 1928, a year before the Great Depression, you would have had 24-hour medical care, 24-hour dental care and an on-site massage therapy. In addition to this, your funeral expenses was paid by the company as well as your pension all paid with no contributions needed to be made. Your education as well as your children and wife were all paid for. The company had libraries, reading rooms, athletic facilities and so on. Now, think again. This was 1928…not 2012.

The Guinness family was, by all accounts, a godly family and one the Lord used greatly in His service. What most fascinates me is not the novelty of utilizing beer as an instrument to spread the Good News but how a Christian businessman incorporated his faith so holistically in his business. Today, the world needs more people like Arthur Guinness.

Let me conclude this blog post with a departing question to you. What are you doing now that is giving glory to God. What tool are you using to maximize your God-given talent to advance the Christian mission? 

If this blog post piqued your interest, I highly recommended Stephen Mansfield’s book The Search for God and Guinness. It is a fantastic read even for those who don’t enjoy beer like myself. Mansfield ends the book, capturing the essence of the Guinness Way:

  1. Discern the ways of God for life and business.
  2. Think in terms of generations yet to come.
  3. Whatever else you do, do at least one thing very well.
  4. Master the facts before you act.
  5. Invest in those you would have invest in you.

 

About the Author:

Paul Sohn is an organizational chiropractor, purpose weaver, and kingdom-minded catalyst. Paul currently serves at The Boeing Company as a LEAN practitioner, providing expertise in continuous improvement initiatives, building high-performing teams and processes to create effective organizations. Paul also serves as an organizational consultant and Board Director at the Portland Leadership Foundation. He is writing his forthcoming book on how to live intentionally as a twenty-something. Paul received a Bachelor of Commerce degree at University of British Columbia in 2010. Above all, Paul’s vision is to turn the world upside down by equipping, connecting, and transforming emerging Christian leaders and organizations.
  • JoshuaLeeHenry

    Another reason why I love the black stuff! I’ve been to the Guinness factory in Dublin, Ireland before, but it was a year before Mansfield’s book came out. Great article! 

    • saia5053

      Wow, I’d love to hear more about your experience at the Guinness factory. What were some of the key highlights?

    • http://www.robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

      I’ve been on that tour too. It was a fun experience.

  • Sarah

    Just thought I’d say—EXCELLENT post! Really appreciated the bio. Very inspiring and encouraging/challenging! I will share on my fb page:) (I came across this blog through a friend’s fb post~)

    • saia5053

      Hello Sarah. Glad to hear you the post has encouraged and challenged you. Thank you for sharing this post with your friends. Would love you to have you on my subscriber list for more of my blog posts. You can simply type in your email on the top right of the homepage screen.

  • Samson

    Somebody needs an editor. But, besides that, this was a good read.

  • Greg Jao

    Howard Guiness took a leave of absence between his residency and medical practice to introduce North Americans to the work of British InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The legacy continued into the 1930s.

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Wow, didn’t know about that Greg. Thanks for sharing. The Guinness family is continuing to make a godly impact in today’s degenerating culture. Thanks for joining the conversation. Looking forward to connecting with you more.

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    What a fascinating story! Thank you for sharing. I am also very impressed with the employee benefits – very generous.

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      The story of Arthur Guinness reminds me of the epitome of marketplace spirituality and leadership. His motivations for creating a so called “good-to-great” organization was not merely for the bottom line, but for the glory of God inspired by a deep care and love for His people.

  • Dan Erickson

    Great post, Paul. This is the kind of stuff that fascinates readers. Dark beers are my favorites, too; Black Butte, Moose Drool, and Irish Death. But only occasionally.

  • http://www.robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

    Very interesting. I’ve toured the Guinness facility in Dublin, and it was very cool. I don’t personally care for the stuff, but I might have to give it another try now.

    If I’m not mistaken, Christian author Os Guinness is also a descendant of Arthur Guinness.

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Yes, you’re right Rob. I have followed Os Guinness’ ministry and amazed by how one man’s commitment to Christ has had centuries of influence within his family line. Just amazing!

    • Donna Slaboda

      Apologist/Theologian Os Guinness is one of the Guinness heirs and a part of L’bri Fellowship… that is what he shared when I heard him speak.

  • http://www.chandlercrawford.com/ Chandler Crawford

    Great article, Paul. I’ve always enjoyed Guinness, but now I’ve found a new love for it!

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Yup, the black stuff is good for a reason. Amazing how Arthur Guinness leveraged his gifts to make a real difference in the world.

  • http://www.shawnandrews.net Shawn Andrews

    I had no idea this was the legacy of this company. Thanks for this great article.

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Pleasure Shawn, it’s remarkable for Arthur Guinness has done for his time.

  • http://www.mikekim.tv/ Mike Kim

    Awesome article, Paul. Guinness is my favorite but I never knew this about them. Thanks for taking the time to unpack this. If you liked beer, I’d buy you a cold one. :)

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Glad to hear that Mike. The story behind this epic drink is even better. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Elijah Elkins

    Love this post! Thanks so much.

    I work with Third Path Initiative seeking to train the next generation of Business as Mission (BAM) leaders. Third Path equips young professionals to have a Kingdom impact throughprofitable business in the global marketplace. http://thirdpathinitiative.com/

    Your post is very encouraging!