The church member was surprised to see her church staffer dining alone in a local restaurant. When she headed towards his table to offer a courteous “hello,” she was even more surprised to see him make a quick attempt at hiding a glass of cold beer. Although her church did not have a highly detailed, written code of conduct that prohibited the pastor and staff from drinking beer, wine, or liquor, such was a longstanding, unquestioned expectation on the part of the membership of the staff. I share the predictable outcome of the incident below.
The travails of celebrity megapastors notwithstanding, it is still a deal-breaker in SBC life for clergy to drink alcohol casually, moderately, or in any other way.
Ed Stetzer doesn’t run in the same circles as I do, but I take his point in his article, Alcohol Abuse, Perry Noble, and the Church’s Response: What Now?
It appears that views of alcohol are changing among some evangelicals.
I get that and see it in folks around me who are my kid’s generation. A little beer or wine isn’t taboo to them as it has been to me, both pre- and post-entering the ministry.
Lest we err here, we should be clear to pastors, staff, seminarians, potential seminarians and church staff, planters, missions personnel and the like that use of alcohol in SBC life might be cool, relaxing, and modern but it will not advance one’s ministry and may likely end it.
North American Mission Board church planter code of conduct:
I will abstain from consumption of any alcoholic beverage.
From the International Mission Board Field Personnel Manual, as paraphrased by David Platt:
...the Field Personnel Manual requires all missionaries to abstain from alcohol following their appointment.
From the Southeastern seminary covenant (and I assume the other five seminaries have identical or similar covenants):
Either on or off campus and while classes are both in and out of session, I will not possess or use alcoholic beverages.
I think these are good, sound policies and I don’t see any SBC entity trying to loosen them. That would be like jumping into a fire and we’ve got enough problems as it is. I would not argue with Stetzer that we will be dealing with clergy and alcohol more and more as time passes.
…which brings me to a wry question asked of me by my brother, a moderate alcohol-consuming Methodist: “Now that you are retired do you plan to start drinking?”
“Well no bro, I don’t.”
The church staff member above was dealt with redemptively by the church but soon left the church. Some said that trying to have a secret glass of beer in a restaurant in his own community, a location where he would likely encounter some of the membership, was either monumentally foolish or a death wish.
Alcohol is a deal breaker in SBC life and should stay that way.