Monday, July 16, 2012

BookPastor >> "The Search for God and Guinness"

This review was first published on 9 June 2012 here.


TITLE: The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World
AUTHOR: Stephen Mansfield
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2009, (276 pages).

Do you know....

  • That the water used for the world famous Guinness stout beer comes not from the Liffey River in Dublin, but from the mountains of Wicklow, south of Dublin?
  • That Arthur Guinness started the first Sunday School in Ireland?
  • That Guinness Stout is also a health beverage?
  • That workers at Guinness receive some of the best wages in the world, and benefits extend generously to their dependents as well?
  • That Guinness has strong Protestant roots and still thrives in a largely Roman Catholic land?
  • That Guinness is a household name in Ireland?
  • ....

He has written about the two most powerful persons in the world (George W Bush and Barack Obama), a top religious figure (Pope Benedict XVI), as well as the extraordinary men in history like Winston Churchill and George Whitefield. He has also written about healing from Church hurts. Now, Mansfield continues his journey through one of the most recognized icons in the beer industry: Guinness Stout.

Tracing the history of the beer, the Guinness family, with vivid descriptions of Irish society throughout the years, Mansfield gives us keen insights into the facts behind the beer, the family relationships, the faith foundations, and the future of the Guinness Way. The writer shares about the three reasons why he writes this book. Firstly, Mansfield's curiosity about this stout was piqued after hearing a sermon about it, that talks about the beer being God's answer to man's needs. Secondly, Mansfield talked about his weariness about covering politics, and doing some research on a beverage he enjoys is a good break from the norm. Thirdly, Mansfield found hope and inspiration from the Guinness family, in particular, Arthur Guinness, whose humble beginnings, fervent faith, and generous philanthropy have turned the Guinness name into one of the biggest benefactors of Irish society.

From a position of knowing literally nothing about the Guinness heritage, apart from enjoying the beer and the words on the label, Mansfield has researched, gathered resources, reflected, and tells the Guinness story from the eyes of faith. In Chapter One, Mansfield gives readers an inside look on the art and science of brewing beer. From the humble barley bean, malting it by wetting, mashing it long enough in water, drying it, roasting it, adding yeast to it, and finally creating the famous black drink with cream on top, Mansfield makes the process even more intriguing with stories about how this beer was discovered by accident by a woman named Nonna. Stories abound with how the Sumerians in Egypt are religious about beer, and how beer has saved mankind, how the Greeks transferred the knowledge from the Egyptians to the Romans, how Charlemagne elevated the profession of brewers during the Roman era, to the Monastic times, and of course how beer becomes safer than drinking water in early Irish society. Not only is beer a health tonic, an avenue for job creation, it is also linked to many theological giants like John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards.

Chapter Two describes the rise of Arthur Guinness, his family receiving 100 pounds from Dr Price, how he manages to lease St James location for up to 9000 years with a monthly fee of only 45 pounds, how his business acumen and shrewd business dealings enable the growth of a legacy, and how the generosity of Guinness, himself a Protestant, has won recognition from many Roman Catholics!

Chapter Three is a fascinating look at the generations after the Guinness founder., It describes how the beer legend has been passed down over 200 years, their Protestant heritage, the delicate family relationships and the passing of the Guinness family business to succeeding generations, and the tensions that come with fame and fortune. Mansfield relates how the son of Arthur Guinness, the second Arthur Guiness inherits the business at the age of 35, doubles the beer production, and continued the legacy even when his siblings stumbled in their personal lives. This second Arthur expands the business to foreign lands making it a world famous. More importantly, second Arthur is a man of deep faith, nurtured at Bethesda Chapel, and becomes one of the biggest givers not only to clergy within his family, but to many needy in Irish society. The third generation, Benjamin Lee Guinness helps to make great progress in the domestic business, adopting scientific and technological advances in production, in marketing, and management, making Guinness one of the largest breweries in the world. His son, Edward Cecil Guinness becomes the fourth generation, bringing technological innovations that have been copied by other breweries all around the world. In addition, he took Guinness public, and grew the company by more than 56%. Most memorable of all was Edward Cecil's 250 thousand pounds Guinness Trust, set up to benefit the poor.

Chapter Four deals with the Guinness way to use their wealth to bring about good in their society. It tells us that Guinness is not all beer. It is altruism at its best. The Guinness business helps to alleviate poverty for more than 200 years, its welfare for employees extended generously to many others, like medical, social, and employment benefits. Dublin and Ireland is never the same without Guinness. Imagine a company today that pays top dollar and top benefit over and above the competition.

Chapter Five centers on the faith of the Guinness family. Other than the brewing line and the banking line, there is a third line of Guinness called  the clergy line. Here, Mansfield treats the issue of dichotomy delicately. On the one hand, the Guinnesses believe that they can serve God in any profession, including beer. On the other hand, there is a legitimate reason to focus on clergy work as a way to serve God. Mansfield chooses to tell the story of John Grattan Guinness, one of the first Arthur's children. Realizing that brewery was not for him, John Grattan Guinness went for the army, got married, and produced a child called Henry Guinness.  Henry under the influence of their fervent parents went on to become a "firebrand of faith," as influential as people like Dwight L Moody and Charles Spurgeon. Other famous beneficiaries of Guinness include Thomas Barnardo, Hudson Taylor, and of course, Os Guinness. There is also a short section on how Henry Guinness addresses Charles Darwin's pinnacle statement on the origin of species.

Chapter Six talks about the contemporary Guinness, and how the family cope with changes, success, and growth. It tells of how the Guinnesses grapple with the tensions of alcohol ban in America in the early 20th Century, and how they balance the benefit of beer with the avoidance of excessive drinking. Between prohibition and laxed discipline, the Guinesses choose education through marketing and advertising.

Mansfield ends the book with a wonderful description of the Guinness Way, which is a statement of faith, of foresight, of focus, and faithful giving.
  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.

My Thoughts

Legendary draft with a distinct cream top
What is most remarkable about this book is that it highlights the altruism of Guinness without being preachy about it. The way the decisions are made also reveal the importance of the foundation of religious faith. It is this faith that enables the Guinnesses to look beyond simply meeting the needs of their family or their Protestant faith. Even non-family, their employees and their dependents benefit from the generosity of the Guinness. With foresight, the Guinnesses have passed down the family business for more than four generations. With faith, they have maintained the business with a firm faith in God, supported the clergy financially, invested in the Irish society at large through employment, welfare, and many other causes. I gain seven things from this book.

First, generosity begets generosity. It is wonderful to see that the founder was himself a recipient of a charitable amount of 100 pounds by Dr Price. From the benevolence of Dr Price, the Guinness family becomes a benefactor for many others.

Secondly, quality and excellence are witnessing devices. Note how the Guinness family continue to improvise, and innovate in their business methods, production technology, and marketing brilliance. Whatever we do, do it well, and the good work by themselves will bring honour and glory to God.

Thirdly, the Guinness demonstrates an astounding welfare literally unheard of in our times of cost cutting and frugal employee benefits. By giving, the Guinness company has created immense goodwill and loyalty from Irish society. It reminds me of the bountiful grace that we have received from God. Perhaps, the more we realize how much grace we do not deserve to give, the more we are able to give freely, fully, and generously.

Fourthly, improvement is a way of discipleship. Maintenance is never good stewardship. Every generation needs to take the business or any venture to the next level. Whatever the quantum or quality of change, each generation is expected to do their best for their generation.

Fifthly, I will look at the Guinness beer with new eyes of faith. Each time I see the label, or drink a pint, I will think back on the faith of Arthur Guinness, the benefits and altruism showered on Irish society, and the indelible story of grace and generosity that is not only worth telling and retelling, it is worth learning and applying it in our own worlds of influence.

Sixthly, one needs to be wise to learn to say no when necessary. Note how second Arthur refuses to indulge in the waywardness of his brother, Edward. In response to requests for money, second Arthur uses not from company funds, but often from his own pocket. Mismanagement of money among family members is a common occurrence. Most importantly, one learns to say no on the basis of their faith. Second Arthur lives out his dependence on God as follows, "Fortunately, Arthur was a self-examining evangelical and did not allow offenses to take root in his heart. Instead, he sought to offer all of his pursuits to God." (90)

Finally, there is a real tension between serving God in everything, and serving God in a traditional full-time capacity. This tension is best resolved through a sense of personal call. The Guinness family is known for three professional lines, namely, the Brewing line, the Banking line, and the Clergy line. In all of these, faith is a foundation.

This book is highly recommended. If you are a business leader or owner of companies seeking to serve God through your work. buy this book and share it with your colleagues. If you are a professor, pastor, or teacher, read this book and share it with your congregation and communities you are in. If you are someone looking to make a difference in life, this book will not disappoint you.

"You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you." (Edward Cecil Guinness)

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


No comments:

Latest Posts