SHERWOOD, Ark. (BP) — Baptists may say they love hearing God’s Word preached on Sunday mornings, but sometimes a sermon may raise more questions than answers, notes Arkansas pastor Joe Manning.
Manning, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Ark., is a self-proclaimed apologetics junkie who holds a doctorate in the field from Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind. Manning first recognized the need for a time of open conversational dialogue about God and the Bible when he was pastoring a church in Hawaii.
“One of the things that (I) heard from a lot of people, especially from students when I was teaching Bible classes, was that, ‘We never have a chance to ask pastors questions. We leave the services sometimes more confused than when we came,'” Manning said.
Manning noted that the comments led him to begin meeting with folks at Starbucks. They called the group “Theology Cafe.”
“They would come with their questions from the Sunday message. Or they may have heard something on the radio or on television and they may have a question about it,” Manning said. “We would sit and discuss this for a couple hours.”
Manning said that upon becoming pastor of Bethel Baptist, members of the church began a similar group in Jacksonville. The group eventually evolved last August from a Bible study and discussion into a 30-minute radio program called “Apologetic Cafe,” which airs at 7 p.m. each Tuesday on FaithTalk 99.5 FM.
Manning, along with members of Bethel Baptist and guests, now meet each Tuesday evening at Ropers Restaurant in the Gravel Ridge neighborhood of Sherwood to produce and stream “Apologetic Cafe.” The program’s structure consists of a Bible study led by Manning interspersed with questions and interactions with the other individuals in attendance.
“We have been able to connect with some folks,” Manning said. “A lot of emails I get asked, ‘Can you go for an hour? A half-hour isn’t long enough.'”
Ede King, a member of Bethel Baptist, noted, “We have a 30-minute slot now because it was all that was available and all we could afford when we started. But now we have been doing it for six months, and we have talked about going to an hour.”
“The Lord has blessed the church with enough money to finance that,” King said. “So if people are listening and they want to continue on with it, we will.”
King said that the program is now live, which was a little difficult to get used to.
“It’s a little unnerving at first, but then you pick the mic up and I’m looking at the pastor and he’s going, ‘What’s your question?’ And then I’m not talking to the mic anymore; I’m talking to him,” King said. “That’s the way we do it at church. He (Manning) leaves it open-form like that.”
Manning said, “I’d love to get some pastors to come in and do this and work with us in this. It’s not something that we are doing just as Bethel Baptist Church. We just want to get the word out.”
“I would love to have more of them (pastors) involved so that we could get different perspectives out there,” he said.
For more information about “Apologetic Cafe,” visit bbcjville.org or twitter.com/apologeticcafe.