Thursday, August 18, 2011

Should a Pastor Drink Alcohol?

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The idea of a pastor bringing booze into the context of ministry is believed by some to better enable the pastor to reach more people for Christ.

Some, often referred to as the "Young, Restless and Reformed" clergy, argue that "most good theological discussion has historically been done in pubs and drinking places."

But is mixing booze with ministry necessary to reach people who are in need?

By drinking alcohol does a pastor become more relevant? Will he or she have a greater impact with those searching for answers in their life?

A recent survey found that 40% of evangelical leaders said they "socially drink alcohol".

Gary Benedict, president of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, weighs in on the subject, as does Jeff Farmer of the Open Bible denomination, Leith Anderson, president of the nearly 40 million member National Association of Evangelicals and mega church pastor John MacArthur.

Is the evangelical church stumbling in their rush to relevance?

While the Lifeway poll found that 40%, or 2 in 5 evangelical leaders drink alcohol, they also found that 90% of clergy believe a Christian drinking alcohol could cause other believers to stumble or to be confused.

At best it may be a matter of confusion. If 9 out of 10 Christian leaders believe it may cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble if leadership drinks alcohol, why do 2 in 5 do so?

Do they not care? Are they confused about their responsibility as clergy? Have they not read Paul's teaching in regard to causing someone to stumble?

Is it a spirit of rebellion? If so, against whom or what?

Much has been said and written about a new book by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Mich. in which Bell, a leader in the Emerging Church movement, says that ultimately God will not allow anyone to go to hell, because love will win out, thus revising accepted evangelical theology.

It seems the Emerging Church movement puts more importance on "relevance" than accuracy of biblical doctrine, responsibility and wisdom.

But what about beer and the Bible?

Gary Benedict of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination says, "Even though there is no prohibition on the moderate drinking of alcohol consumption in Scripture, due to the many implications as an example to family and those I serve, I like Paul's words,'it is better not to' ."

Jeff Farmer, head of the Open Bible denomination says, "While we understand one cannot defend [abstinence from alcohol] biblically, we have chosen to raise the standard for leadership in our movement."

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals said, "Alcohol and its effects have been a major challenge in American society. Just as society has dealt with it, as evidenced in the 18th and 21st amendments, so have evangelicals looked at how to appropriately instruct about alcohol."

He is typically saying nothing or "some of my friends are for it and some of my friends are against it and I'm with my friends."

The NAE was born out of, among other things, resistance to the abuse of alcohol.

However, mega church pastor and author John MacArthur is not ambivalent about the issue.

MacArthur recently wrote in his blog, "It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants---especially in church sponsored activities."

He says, "Beer-loving passion has become a prominent badge of identity" for many young pastors in the "Young, Restless and Reformed community."

MacArthur says, "Mixing booze with the ministry is often touted as a necessary means of penetrating western youth culture," while abstinence is "deemed 'sin' to be repented of."

He asks, "Does the church want to be known for these things?"

Putting it bluntly, MacArthur, who has ministered to hundreds of former alcohol addicts, called pub outreaches and the like "bad missional strategy" and a "bad testimony."

"It is wrong-headed, carnal and immature to imagine that bad-boy behavior makes a good missional strategy," he said.

MacArthur told pastors in regard to drinking alcohol, "It's not about stealing joy; it's about promoting pastoral wisdom and compassion for people. Church leaders must consider the consequences of what they approve and promote."

I agree.

What do you think?

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