Note: I originally picked up this book in order to gain some talking points to connect with a family member, but I quickly became fascinated with the story. Therefore, while I highly recommend the book, this article in no way endorses the Guinness products or the consumption of alcohol. Both are a personal choice.


During our recent sabbatical, I had the time to “encounter” a total of nineteen books on a wide variety of topics, ranging from historical and biographical to scientific and philosophical. I say “encountered” because some were physical paper and ink books and some were audio books. One of the more interesting works I dove into for personal reasons was In Search of God and Guinness: A biography of the beer that changed the world by Stephen Mansfield. The book outlines the two century history of the Guinness family and the altruistic motivations behind many of the business decisions they made and still make today. In fact, many of the Guinness family were directly involved in ministry. Interesting note: author and social critic Os Guinness is the great-great-great grandson of the founder, Arthur Guinness.

Mansfield ends the work by compiling what he calls “The Guinness Way”, five defining guidelines for doing life and business as seen from the Guinness family’s lives and history. As I read this list, I can easily see many applications of these principles for our churches and ministries. Here is the list in a nutshell:

1.  Discern the ways of God for Life and Business:

One of the Guinness heirs once quoted the wisdom of Prince Albert: “Gentlemen, find out the will of God for your day and generation, and then, as quickly as possible, get in line.” These wise words were echoed by Henry Blackaby when he said to find out where God is working and go there! While this discernment takes time, it is invaluable. The tendency today is often to run ahead in busyness and activity and to hope that God will someday catch up. This thinking is backwards and dangerous.

2.  Think in terms of generations yet to come.

In a world of instant and immediate, we have lost the importance of legacy. It was not unusual for a Guinness heir to work his way up through the company in a series of apprenticeships, with some investing more time apprenticing than they ever spent actually leading. Each generation was expected to launch the next on a pathway to success. This is a biblical concept we see in Scripture in the lives of Joshua, Timothy, and many others, but sadly it is one we have lost in our world today. In the quest for new and innovative we have lost contact with the tested wisdom and the testimony of an anchored faith, and we often move toward a quick fix or a warm body to fill a role.

3.  Whatever else you do, do at least one thing very well.

For the Guinness family, that one thing was making beer, but the making of beer was what grounded the rest of what they did in terms of ministry, social justice, and philanthropy. In fact, the making of beer was an attempt to deal with the social problems caused by drinking hard liquor. Arthur Guinness wanted to give the people a “healthy” alternative, and he set out to brew the best beer possible. Had they lost sight of that “one thing”, the whole enterprise would have suddenly been on very shaky ground. So ask yourself, “What is that one thing I do very well and how can I do it even better in the future?” This is the heart of lifetime learning. Does that “one thing” change over time? Maybe, but my guess is that it does not change as often as we think it does.

4.  Master the facts before you act.

A Guinness manager once wrote, “We follow the traditional policy of considering long and acting quickly.” If something is done carefully and thoughtfully, there is little need for hindsight, 20-20 or not. Noah waited 120 years, Moses waited 40 years, Jesus waited 30 years. We have a hard time waiting past yesterday. Why has prayer, study, and reflection fallen from favor? They all take time – time we think we cannot spare in our urgency to move forward. But I remember a shop teacher telling me, as I struggled to extract a screw stripped in haste, “It is better to take the time and do it right than to have to do it over.”

5.  Invest in those you would have invest in you.

In an age of independence and self-sufficiency, it is often considered odd to think in terms of community connections and responsibilities. But how is the Body of Christ to function? We invest in each other. I use that term intentionally. One of the sweetest relationships I currently invest in is with a retired pastor. It started as an accountability relationship as I walked with him through a struggle. Over time, it has become a relationship of mutual mentoring, coaching, and encouragement, one in which we invest in each other, and one I hope will last for many years. It is also a type of relationship I would like to see repeated in the lives of our younger and older pastors.

The Guinness way has stood the test of time as the company and many of their heirs have gone on to greatly impact their world. The list of accomplishments and ministries is too long to outline here, but it is clear there is a legacy at play.  As you reflect on this, ask yourself how much Christ’s way has been passed on to you and how you have passed it on to others. This is the injunction found in 2 Timothy 2:2:

“…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

What would God have you do today to move His way forward? Who are the generations you can pour into? What is one area you can grow in? In what areas of life and ministry do you need to slow down to let God catch up? Who are you inviting to invest in you while you invest in them?

Thanks for listening to these ramblings. If you have any questions of comments, feel free to send them my way.

In Christ,

Kelley Johnson, NCD Pastoral Care