Editor’s Note: The Christian Index received this unsolicited commentary on the apparent growing use of alcohol among some younger Baptist pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention. The article was borne out of the announcement of Perry Noble’s termination as pastor of NewSpring Church based in Anderson, SC, which reportedly has 30,000 members in 17 different locations and is a Southern Baptist church.
I woke up Monday morning expecting to have a great day off, but the day soon hit a sour note. I came across an article shared on social media entitled “Alcohol Abuse, Perry Noble, and the Church Response – What Now?” I read the article and discovered that Pastor Perry Noble had been removed as pastor from NewSpring Church at least in part due to “unfortunate choices” which apparently included abuse of alcohol. I say “apparently” because the article does not spell it out but does say “board members had confronted Noble on numerous occasions regarding his use of alcohol.”
I do not know Perry Noble. I do not write to cast judgment upon him. I pray God will heal and remove any struggle he has with alcohol and I pray that he will have a God-honoring ministry for the rest of his life.
I write because I am terribly concerned with the approach to alcohol by my generation of pastors, and more, the approach to alcohol by the next generation of pastors. There appears to be a growing trend of young pastors embracing the use of alcohol. During a meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention there was a question asked of Al Mohler concerning the use of alcohol. He masterfully answered the question, informing everyone in the room that in order to be a part of the faculty or a student at Southern one must agree to abstain from alcohol. But during that same meeting a pastor many younger pastors admire quipped that he enjoyed a beer occasionally. Smiles all around.
I know all the arguments: having one drink is not a sin, having a drink will not send you to Hell, Jesus drank wine, the disciples drank wine, on and on it goes. I have heard them all. But I am convinced if one does a study of the Bible from beginning to end, he will find an overwhelmingly negative view of the use of alcohol.
Consider Proverb 23:29 -31: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. So do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper.”
I know those verses to be true. Until I was 14 years old I had an alcoholic father. Though a very intelligent and talented person my father chose to drink alcohol. I have few memories of him when he was not intoxicated. I have lots of memories of him intoxicated.
My father’s choice to drink alcohol led to divorce. Alcoholism led to unemployment for a man who was highly sought after in the thriving furniture industry in north Mississippi. Ultimately, indeed alcohol bit like a serpent when my father died on April 30, 1986 at the age of 40. He left three sons without a father. I know the sorrows of alcohol abuse.
There are lots of others who know the sorrows of alcohol as well. MADD.org reports:
“Adults drank too much and drove about 121 million times per year – over 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving a day.”
“In 2014, 9,967 people died in drunk driving crashes – one every 53 minutes – and 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes.”
“In 2013, a total of 1,149 children 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,149 fatalities, 200 (17%) occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Out of those 200 deaths, 121 (61%) were occupants of vehicles with drivers who had BACs of .08 or higher, and another 29 children (15%) were pedestrians or pedal cyclists struck by drivers with BACs of .08 or higher.”
I could go on and on with negative stats concerning alcohol, but there is no need. There is no doubt, alcohol stings like a viper.
I am not ashamed that I encourage people to totally abstain from alcohol. Yes, I get some arguments and I get some questions and resistance. But I ask a few questions and I will ask you to consider them as well.
- When does drunkenness start? Drunkenness is sinful. Someone says “,I wasn’t drunk, I was a little buzzed.” Well, wouldn’t we have to say when someone’s state is altered it is drunkenness? If one never drinks alcohol, he never has to worry about becoming drunk or when being drunken starts.
- Is it worth it? If drinking escalates and drinking alcohol costs your ministry, is it worth it? If your child sees you drinking and grows up with the view it is “OK to have a beer,” but he or she goes on to be an alcoholic, is it worth it? If your child drinks at the legal age but has just a hair too much, but just enough to cause an accident and it kills him or her, is your occasional beer worth it? If one of your congregants sees you or hears of you having a beer and is turned off from the Gospel or begins drinking assuming if you do it, it must be ok and it leads him or her to alcoholism, is it worth it?
- Should we be ingesting anything God says bites like a serpent and stings like a viper?
- Is Jesus not enough? So many say, “I have a drink to help me relax; I need a drink to help me relax.” What happened to presenting our requests to God and allowing the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus? Now that is relaxing!
- If you are not drinking for an altered state, why drink alcohol? There is not a beer on earth (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter) that tastes better than sweet tea or your favorite soda.
Again, I do not write this to judge or criticize any pastor or believer. I write from experience and I write from concern. I encourage you to avoid the use and promotion of alcohol and I am convinced you will never regret not drinking alcohol. In fact I have never met anyone who said I wish I had drunk more. But I have met plenty who said they wished they had never tasted the stuff. You will never regret not drinking alcohol, but if you do drink alcohol, it is almost a certainty; you will have regrets about it.