Reflections from a Bartender’s Son

December 10, 2008 — 13 Comments

Should Christians drink alcohol?

I just read an interesting article on the subject by my friend Chuck Sackett entitled,  Reflections from a bartender’s son.

As a non-drinking young minister of a church that leads a weekly Bible study at a local bar and as the author of an upcoming book that studies the fact that Christ ate with sinners, I read this article with great interest.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue recently.

In the article Chuck notes:

I’ve recently become deeply concerned over what appears to be a trend toward drinking among young church leaders.1 I hear about young leaders who have repented of the “sin of abstinence”2 and headed off to the pub. I’m concerned for the church, their congregations, and their families.3

I’m told one of the most frequently asked questions in interviews is, “Is it OK to have a beer?” As some young leaders seek potential staff members, they ask, “How do you feel about going to the pub?” The right answer used to be the wrong answer.

Read Chuck’s article and let me know what you think. 

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13 responses to Reflections from a Bartender’s Son

  1. 

    This is a tough issue, Arron. Tougher than most people realize.

    The tension that the Church wrestles with from the Acts community all the way through the present day is the tension between legalism and permissiveness. The church in Corinth struggled with using their freedom in Christ to indulge the sinful nature, while believers in Galatia struggled to break free of the chains of legalism. Jews gravitated toward the security of the law, while Gentiles strayed toward abusing their freedom.

    I believe one way this tension plays out in the Church today between conservative evangelicals who condemn all drinking as a sin vs. liberal-minded believers who sometimes abuse the freedom to “indulge the sinful nature.”

    I found Chuck’s article to be extremely thought-provoking. However, I did wonder about his ominous statement: “I’m afraid of drinking and so I want everyone else to be afraid.”

    These fears are understandable, as the personal and collective damage that alcohol abuse can cause is indeed very great and should not at all be taken lightly. However, I disagree with the statement in that it is not the act of “drinking” we should fear. It is rather the attitude BEHIND the drinking that should be scrutinized, held accountable and submitted to the guidance of the Word and the Holy Spirit.

    This attitude must be surrendered to God, following the example of Christ and shaped by the Spirit. Anytime we tend toward a legalistic “No for no’s sake” and a self-indulgent “YES,” we lose sight of the kingdom.

    One of the best times of fellowship I’ve ever had was just me and a few close friends laying under the night sky, enjoying a bottle of wine and discussing faith and life and relationships. But I’ve also witnessed a church community divided between two camps–one who found it acceptable to drink and the other who did not. There is clearly a delicate, fine line that we need to walk. We need to always be vigilant and never grow lax in our opinion on these issues.

    I really believe that anytime we cling to either our legalism or self-indulgence on ANY issue MORE than we cling to this command to love people and love God and walk in the true freedom of Christ, we forget about the gravity of grace and we become poor ministers of reconciliation.

    Thanks for sharing this article. It certainly gave me a lot to think about.

  2. 

    Chuck’s article was great; balanced and thoughtful. I would expect nothing less from a Lincoln alumnus & professor : )
    I’ve won at least two people to Christ and planted many seeds by diffusing the issue, and expressing my willingness to be transparent about my thoughts and practices.
    I left some other comments on your facebook page.

  3. 

    Wow. Great article and I also enjoyed Melissa’s comment above.

    I checked box 3 on your poll, however it’s definitely not that simple.

    I remember writing a lengthly term paper on this issue for Greg Hartley my Freshman year of college and still couldn’t come out with any black or white answers. There are just so many variables to consider. However, what CAN be determined is that A LOT more problems arise from alcohol, then solutions. Families are torn apart, relationships destroyed, and integrity is sometimes hurt… (P.S. This is coming from someone who DOES drink alcohol on occasion!)

    Bottom line is, you have to stay kingdom minded. If it’s a soul struggle for ya, you probably should just stay away from the stuff and save yourself the issues. =)

  4. 

    My Personal Opinion, for what it might be worth. Why as a Christian i do not drink.

    1) I do not want to have to explain to the Non-Christian why it is ok for me (Christian) to drink in their presence, under the assumption drinking was ok.

    2) I do not want to have to explain to the “weaker brother” why Christians are allowed to drink (assuming drinking is ok) and give him a huge possibility in stumbling to become a drunkard

    3) I do not want to have to explain to my other brothers in Christ why i think it is ok to drink and lose my above reproachfulness or respect from them.

    Just food for thought. Lets remember Paul was willing to be a lifetime vegetarian if it meant keeping his brothers from sinning (1st Cor 8:13)

  5. 

    I voted that it’s okay for Christians to drink if they don’t get drunk. However, I would strongly advise against it. I do not drink, but I have seen many people struggle with addictions to alcohol and drugs. It’s more common, powerful, and dangerous than many people may think. People can lose their spouses, their children, their jobs, and their freedom. However, it is not prohibited in the Bible; it is something that comes with strong cautions.

  6. 

    I guess a more complete statement of my vote (I pushed the “never” button), is that it’s not OK for me to drink or endorse drinking. I would not break fellowship with someone who does, but I would be concerned for them (the same way I would if they were gluttonous, prideful, immoddest in dress, etc.). While everything we don’t practice personally shouldn’t be called a “slippery slope”, I think that drinking can be.

  7. 

    “immodest” (sorry for the poor spell-checking!)

  8. 

    Sorry, I accidently hit submit comment….

    In my own study of the word I found that the act of consuming alcohol in and of itself is nowhere stated as wrong. The problem is that consuming alcohol is never (or at least very rarely) “in and of itself”.

    Obviously drunkenness is a sin. The Bible leaves absolutely no room for debate on that. The Greek word for drunk, also translated “intoxicated”, gives no indication of levels or amounts. Either intoxication is present (you are affected at all) or it is not, no in between.

    But other things are involved. Specifically, other people are involved.

    One of the most debated Scriptures on the issue (Romans 14) focuses not on the issue of drinking, but the importance of people. Often times we like to justify what we do, so we look for Scriptures that we can repeat and say “See, God said it’s ok.” But we miss the point of the very passage we’re using.

    Romans 14 is telling us NOT to strive after our “rights”, but rather to strive after our brother’s salvation. The point of the passage is that we need to be willing to carry our cross for our brothers, no matter the cost to us (save, of course, the cost of losing God).

    It doesn’t matter how lame our cross makes this life for us, if there’s even the slightest possibility that your brother might fall then how can one even BEGIN to consider a thing? Do we dare downplay how important other people are to Christ? Is another’s soul less important that the temporary pleasures of the flesh? Shall we put our cross down for the sake of picking up a beer?

    I think there’s a real danger in thereby concluding that all alcohol consumption is a sin. If the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin and righteousness, then I would think that a Christian would be affected by the Spirit when they are told God said something that He didn’t actually say. Somehow, some part of them would be prompted by Him to question it, though they might not understand.

    They could wrongly interpret His voice and go the other way, drinking in a sinful manner and justifying it by saying that the Bible doesn’t teach “no alcohol.” Even then a Christian will surely be convicted, but they may be confused and ignore (or fight) the correct conviction for the sake of denying the false conviction. The reality would be that they SHOULD hold the true conviction and not uphold the false one.

    One other thing to consider, since going out to bars is directly related, is the interesting example in the Bible in relation to working with people. Never once have I found in the New Testament a story in which Christ or any Christian went into a place that was set aside for the purpose of sin. Now there may be an example, but I have not found it. And this doesn’t necessarily make it wrong to do so. But when people want to argue that witnessing is an excuse to barhop, they should consider the Biblical example. And I seriously doubt that a person’s salvation has ever depended on whether someone came into a bar to witness to them or not.

    And as far as a bar being a place set aside for sin, one would have a hard time proving that bars are not meant to be a place to get drunk. A person could easily go to a place that’s like a bar but without the alcohol. But there’s something very different about a bar, though all other things are identical. There’s a reason why people go to a bar instead of going to a dry hangout.

    So to sum up my longwinded response:

    It’s not Biblical to teach that alcohol CONSUMPTION in and of itself is a sin. Doing so will further confuse the issue, and possibly worsen the problem.

    Getting drunk is a sin; no play on words will trick God into changing His mind.

    We should never even consider a thing if another may fall, unless God’s Word specifically tells us we must do the thing. It doesn’t matter how small the chances are that someone else might fall, and it doesn’t matter how lame it is for you. Your cross will never compare to the one Christ bore on your behalf. Love your brother for whom Christ died!

    And we might also take 1 Cor. 10:12 to heart- “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

  9. 

    This is a hard topic. Personally, I don’t drink b/c I don’t like the taste of alcohol. However, I live in Eastern Europe and drinking is more common here. At church, red wine is passed when we take communion. There are churches here, which I have worked with, who forbid their members to drink alcohol. It is b/c the people in that culture tend to over do it and drink until they are drunk. But, in general, it is acceptable for Christians here to drink a glass of wine or a beer when they eat dinner. All of the Christians I have been around know when to stop.

    On the other hand, I know there are a lot of alcoholics here. Alcohol is sold everywhere. So, part of me is thinking how sad that is, but another part of me thinks that it’s just like a lot of other things. Many good things are abused and made into something bad. Where I live, and in many countries, there are sex shops all over the place. Pornography is everywhere. These are ways of abusing something that God made to be good and enjoyable.

    Scripture speaks of celebrations where people drank the best wines. It also warns of the dangers of drinking too much. So, I think it’s one of those things that God gives us to enjoy but expects us to be responsible in how we use it. And definitely use discernment if there is a cultural issue or it will hurt your witness to someone.

  10. 

    Hi Aaron,
    Good Blogging! Concerning your survey, I marked the “other”. I guess there has to be a reason why God did not come right out and tell Christians not to drink but I don’t know why that reason is. May He has left this up to us so that we can struggle with this and thus, we can also grow in this area. Alcohol causes so many problems and it is so destructive and brings so much pain and saddness to so many people! I wonder why this is even a controversial issue for Christians? It scares me that so many Christians try really hard to show that there is nothing wrong with alcohol, for them! We do live in a “me first” society! It’s sad! I don’t want to sound condemning yet I have a real problem with Christian leaders who are setting a poor example.

    Chuck Sackett had an excellent article in the Christian Standard! He clearly stated his case and reasons why he does not drink and yet he never came across in a condemning way. I’m sure that this whole controversy will continue! I do think that if it became personal for someone, with a death or abuse or ruined family cause by alcohol, their opinions would change dramatically.
    Duane Hull, Kalispell, MT.

  11. 

    Thank You for talking about something that is very difficult for many people. Acceptance is a goal of all people and being accepted is very allusive. Knowing God’s love is enough is much easier said than understood. I Pray you will keep fighting to help good(“only God is good”) people keep trying to do good. My favorite Proverb states “never tire of doing good”. Each day is filled with good and bad, I hope we all can understand that most people are doing there best and many need to know that there is a safe place that we can discuss lifes difficulties. Alcohol is very dangerous but it is a issue that we cannot ignore, as in all things there are people that can handle it and there are people that can not. But God’s Love conquers all.

  12. 

    I was sent a link to this blog by a good friend who went to and taught at Lincoln Christian College and Seminary and has a great deal of respect for Mr. Sackett. She was curious about my thoughts on his article, the blog, and the responses.

    Let me tell you a little about myself. Though it will make this a bit long, I think it is important to be upfront with where I’m coming from with my response.

    Last January, my roommate and I took up home brewing beer as a hobby. In May, I started working for a very new microbrewery. I am in charge of bottling operations when we are bottling the beer. My other responsibility is that on days we aren’t bottling, I go around town and clean the faucets and beer lines for the brands sold by our distributor. Of course, this means that on those days, I am in several bars and restaurants.

    I have been a Christian all my life, “asking Jesus into my heart” and being baptized when I was six. I graduated from Manhattan Christian College with a Bible degree a few years ago. I’ve been a Discipleship Group leader and a youth group sponsor for many years. I am looking forward to leading a Small Group at church starting in January.

    Anyone who knows me knows that since graduating from college, I had a very difficult time finding a job I liked. I tried several things and nothing fit and was very discontented and sometimes almost depressed about it. In light of that, getting hired at Tallgrass was so easy and I like it so much that I am convinced that it is where God wants me to be right now. You know, the whole opening and closing doors thing.

    Here’s the deal. Sackett is right. There can be danger in drinking alcohol. Much has been said of the problems overindulgence can cause, so I don’t think it is necessary for me to reiterate it. However, I do think he left out something important.

    It is important to note that scripture calls wine a gift from God. A very quick google search led me to this blog:
    http://fundyreformed.wordpress.com/2006/03/20/wine-gladden-heart/
    The writer makes this point excellently, so there is no need for me to retype everything.

    I think it is fundamentally wrong to take a gift from God and just cast it aside, simply because abuse can cause problems. We humans have a knack for taking good things God has given us and abusing them, using them sinfully. But that doesn’t mean that we avoid them. People become gluttons and abuse food, eat too much, and wreck their bodies but we would all laugh at you if you said we should give up food because someone has abused the good gift of good food. I could go on and on.

    As Martin Luther said, “Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

    To address some of the questions Sackett asks at the end of his article:

    I drink because I truly enjoy the flavor of beer. I don’t like the watered down junk like Miller Lite, but I enjoy the interplay of the malts and hops, as well as the flavors that the yeast can add during fermentation. I love to find different and interesting beers and try them out. To me, a good, well crafted beer is like fine food. I also do truly believe that enjoying a good beer is a fine way to celebrate the goodness of God. I think that just like an artist’s creativity is a reflection of God’s creativity, so is a brewer’s.

    My job does allow me to talk to lost people, people who may not see any other Jesus. I actually do get to sometimes have theological discussions of varying degrees with people at work. In addition, I believe that I may be a sort of buffer to the thought among some lost people that “religious people are just a bunch of pious, holier than thou, crazy wackos.” Today while cleaning lines at a bar, I mentioned that I went to church to the manager. Maybe, after having talked to me a bit over the past few weeks as I’ve been in there, he will put things together and decide I’m not some religious loon. Maybe that means that he’ll ask me a question some day, or that he’ll be a little more open when a neighbor invites him to church.

    Getting together with a group of guys (or group of friends) to enjoy a beer together does enhance community. This is no different than if we had gotten together to enjoy a cup of coffee together or a burrito together or a game of kickball together. It is a chance to grow together, get to know each other better, and build community.

    Typing the last two paragraphs has made me think of a neighbor friend. I have been inviting friends to come to my house weekly for “Happy Hour.” The point of which is to get together and enjoy good people and good beer. Most of the people who attend are Christians and regular churchgoers. But my neighbor wasn’t. However, a few weeks ago, she started regularly attending church. I honestly believe that part of that was her seeing that we weren’t crazy fundamental Christians who were going to judge every part of her life. Having the beer together is why she came initially.

    I am careful to avoid drunkenness. I am close to my friends who can and do keep me accountable to this.

    Because I am aware of the potential consequences of alcohol, I am very careful to enjoy it responsibly. I hope people in my small group emulate this. I hope to be an example to them in how we can enjoy God’s gifts without abusing them. I hope questions and conversations can lead to “teachable moments” with them.

    I used these opportunities when I was a youth sponsor. Occasionally, kids were at my house and saw the beer in my fridge, next to the Mt. Dew and Diet Pepsi. I jokingly told them they couldn’t having anything from a bottle, but to help themselves to the cans. (Remember, I don’t drink cheap beer.) I used that as an opportunity to explain that I believed that there was nothing wrong with drinking, as long as it was within the bounds of the Bible, which meant not getting drunk, and for them “following the law of the land” and waiting until they were of age.

    The question of the “weaker brother” always comes up. Here’s my thought on that: It would be silly for me to try to avoid everything that anyone possibly might ever stumble on. However, when in the presence of that person, I can have love and respect for them by not partaking in the thing they have trouble with. I can also love and respect someone by avoiding something that they simply don’t like. That can be anything from not bringing a dozen Krispy Kremes to someone’s house if they are trying to lose weight to avoiding alcohol when around someone who struggles with it.

    This is played out in my life like this: I have a friend who is an alcoholic. We don’t spend a lot of time together, but when he is at my house, then the only drinks I’m providing are Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Mt. Dew. The beer is put away. Same for my above-mentioned friend. Her parents don’t like alcohol, I think her dad’s folks struggled with alcoholism. So, when they are visiting and we’re together, I don’t drink. Simply because I respect them and loving them is more important than having a beer.

    This is getting very long and I need to get to bed, so I am going to stop here for now. The subject can go many different ways, so feel free to post thoughts/questions/etc (lol, since it isn’t my blog!) and I’ll be happy to address it. Or feel free to email me daviddanielcook@yahoo.com or look me up on Facebook, I’m Dave Cook and in the Topeka, KS network (though let me know how you found me).

    Sackett cites The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll in the notes following the article. That is a very good book, and I especially suggest the chapter called, “The Sin of Light Beer” for more historical (especially among Christians) background on the issue.

  13. 

    Good to find you here Arron! My prayer is for a good life for you and your family in Colorado, whatever that might be.

    Wow! Quite a topic, and the comments take on deeper meaning when I think I know who some of them are through the network of friends I have. I marked other and I think it’s because I’m in an environment right now where drinking is believed to be present among some staff and elders. For me, I would guess I stand in the camp of my other being an absolute no for any leadership (whether by title or simply by recognition). There is no assumption made or implied that anyone who drinks is spiritually immature and not a leader, just a clear thought in my mind that the negatives far, far, far outweight the positives. As for non leaders, I think it’s a decision that must be made with much consideration and if it is not made in such a way, it might be the wrong choice.

    Some have mentioned the positives of “drinking-as-a-witness” type of view on this and even listed the results of their labor. I can speak first handed when I say that I have seen some highly negative results of one participating in this type of “evangelism” or “fellowship.” I know a long time alcoholic who knows of two different senior ministers in churches who do this and he points to them as an endorsement to participate.

    It’s quite an issue and I must agree with the author in the fact that he fears for the church when leaders get caught up in this dangerous game of “how far can I go under the umbrella of evangelism”?

    As a youth minister, there are several things I do not participate in simply for the fact that I want to be able to answer certain questions from my students with a resounding no. Because of their (most of them anyway) spiritual immaturity, they can take an inch of participation and make it a mile long proclamation that endorses certain activities (drinking, smoking, laguage, entertainment choices, etc.). Drinking, for me, as a leader in the church, is clearly not something I need to be a part of. The one time it might be beneficial is far outnumbered by the probably thousands of times it might be negative.

    My prayer is for all of us to seek God’s unfiltered, truth in this matter and live by that reckless trust we all need to have in him.

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