Arthur Guinness operated a brewery for the glory of God. You could say he was part of the Monday Church of his generation.
On Sunday Christ followers gather for worship, fellowship, and equipping. On Monday they go all over the city to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is what we call the Monday Church.
The Monday Church is the fruit of the Reformers and their spiritual offspring. Christians engaged the Cultural Commission to bring change and transformation to their societies. The legacy of the Reformation included the virtues of hard work, excellence, and thrift. When people work hard and save they end up creating wealth. That wealth was not for personal consumption, but to benefit mankind. Personal and corporate wealth was to be used for redemptive purposes.
Guinness was impacted by John Wesley
Following the Reformation came the First Great Awakening (1734-1740), led by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in the American Colonies and John Wesley (1703- 1791) in England. In the New World this movement laid the groundwork for the founding of the United States. In England, the Wesley Revivals transformed the nation and ended slavery. The many people impacted by Wesley included Irishman Arthur Guinness (1725-1803), founder of Guinness Brewery.
Guinness was intrigued by a simple slogan John Wesley wrote to capture virtues of the Protestant work ethic: “Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.” The gospel had social, economic, and political application. Evangelicals were awakened to socially responsibility. This conscience was to be applied by both individual Christians and the companies they created. This is seen in the story of the Guinness family.
Historian Stephen Mansfield documents the Guinness story in The Search for God and Guinness: A biography of the Beer that Changed the World.
For Arthur Guinness, our calling had two sides, the call of the cross to salvation and the call to work as part of a godly commitment to engage culture. Guinness understood that work was worship. Mansfield writes that the nonconformist faith produced by the Wesley Revival was the “kind of faith that inspires men to make their work in this world an offering to God, to understand craft and discipline, love of labor and skills transferred from father to son as sacred things.”
Today, work is seen as what we do to make money to buy things. The Reformation transformed work from a job to a calling. The Reformers converted “workbenches into altars.”
Arthur Guinness and his brewery became part of this tradition. They labored hard, worked with excellence. They worked to the glory of God. Mansfield notes how the Guinness company culture built on these principles of the Reformation:
Men took pride in their skills and felt their area of responsibility nearly a sacred trust. They spoke of the minutest detail of a process related to brewing as though it was of utmost importance, as though each was a critical part of a vitally significant whole. … they saw their work as an extension of their character, a statement of what kind of men they were. A man’s profession was where he demonstrated to the world who he was ….
This attitude of the sacredness of work propelled the Guinness brand to become what is widely regarded today as the world’s best and most famous beer.
In other words, this view and practice of work generates wealth. But wealth is to be used in socially responsible ways for the greater community to the glory of God. It is not the creation of wealth, but the compassionate use of the wealth, that establishes a godly heritage.
Today a culture of greed marks capitalist societies, whether labelled “capitalist” or “socialist.” In contrast, the gospel of Christ creates a culture of generosity lived out both personally and corporately. The Guinness Brewing Company, through their pursuit of excellence, gave the world the gift of one of the best beers in the world. The wealth that was generated was used to benefit both Guinness employees and the larger community.
This culture of generosity was manifested by the company in many dimensions.
- Wages 10-20 percent higher than the Irish average
- Medical and dental care for employees and their families, to retirees and widows of employees
- Retirement plans funded entirely by the company without employee contributions
- Savings banks to encourage the virtue of thrift among the employees
- A savings fund from which employees could borrow to purchase housing
- Educational opportunities, concerts, and lectures to encourage moral and intellectual development for employees and families
- Scholarships for employees to attend technical school and, for those qualified, even university
- Lending libraries and music societies that encouraged employees to think beyond the details of their work
- An annual paid “Excursion Day” for employees to take families on countryside respite
- Two pints of dark stout a day
The Guinness company funded employee pensions with zero employee contributions!
When World War I broke out, the Guinness Brewery promised to hold the job of any employee who enlisted. In addition, the company paid the employee half his normal salary while in the service, so he could complement his small service salary and have enough to care for his family!
Guinness treated their employees as fellow human beings, not simply instruments of production. For many generations, Guinness Brewery was known as the best employer in Ireland. As a “Monday Christian,” Arthur Guinness created a culture of generosity that shaped the social responsibility of the company for generations.
Guinness was also generous–socially responsible–to the community. The company
- Sponsored guilds—associations for the care of animals and the establishment of gardens, and athletic unions to encourage the improvement of health and fitness.
- Championed the rights of Roman Catholics (even though he himself was a non-conformist Protestant).
- Ministered medical care to poor people by serving on the board of Meath Hospital
- Fought for the abolition of dueling.
- Patronized charities that promoted Gaelic art and culture
- Founded the first Sunday schools in all of Ireland
- Founded the Guinness Trust to provide housing for the “laboring poor”
- Hired Dr. John Lumsden to do public health surveys in communities where Guinness factories were located and developed policies and programs to increase public health.
These and many other commendable actions are part of the heritage of evangelical social responsibility in the life of Arthur Guinness, his family, and the world-famous Guinness Brewery. Here is an example of the Monday Church at work.
– Darrow Miller