Shortly after moving to Ireland I was looking through my Twitter feed and saw a blog post posing a question about whether pastors should drink alcohol. (I don’t remember who wrote it.)
A bit of background…when I first started in full-time ministry, I was in a denomination that required pastors to sign a certificate pledging not to drink alcohol. (I later discovered that not every one followed that rule as strictly as I did…there’s that responsibility strength rearing its head again.)
Add to that, the first church that I was on staff at used to have pamphlets on a literature table which stated that the type of wine Jesus drank was non-alcoholic. Because of course, grapes do not ferment in the Middle East because of the climate.
Anyways, I clicked the link to see what this person thought about the topic of pastors drinking alcohol.
As I began to read the post, I didn’t see the argument I expected. The author’s issue wasn’t so much about whether alcohol was good or bad. But rather with the role of the pastor in the local church.
He set the scene by having you imagine you’re home at night having a couple of glasses of wine with your wife. You get a call from the youth leader saying that the van broke down and the youth group is stranded. Or say a couple from the congregation calls in the middle of having an argument and need help. There was another example like this or perhaps two.
As you might gather, his conclusion was pastors should not drink because there may be a crisis at any moment for which they are needed.
While I recognise that that is a common model of church leadership, it is not a healthy one.
If the van breaks down and the youth group is stranded…isn’t that an opportunity for people in the church to get together and serve.
If a couple is in crisis, are they also in some type of home fellowship? Shouldn’t the people in that group be the first line of support for them?
There were times in Ithaca when I’d hear of a crisis a couple weeks after it happened because the person called someone in their small group, who rallied a bunch of people and they stepped in and took care of it.
I think that is a much healthier view of how the church is supposed to work.
Everyone of us is broken and consistently need God’s healing and grace. For pastors and church leaders, often one of those areas of brokenness is the need to be needed…or the need to be at the centre of everything that goes on in the church.
And yet, think of how much we limit the impact of the church when all ministry goes through the pastor. And the vast majority of the church never has the opportunity to step up and serve beyond Sunday morning.
So I guess if you’re a church leader who needs to stay sharp because your phone could ring at any moment and you may need to step in and save the day…perhaps a nice glass of Malbec would be good right about now.