Does Drinking Disqualify a Pastor?

Desiring God | 2/19/2019 | David Mathis
erinmmarionerinmmarion (Posted by) Level 3
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It was the summer of 2016 when the shockwaves passed through some evangelical circles. The preacher of one of the largest and fasting-growing multi-sites in the country had been removed from his post. After a prolonged process, the other leaders in his church had deemed him disqualified for ministry, citing, among other more general factors, 1 Timothy 3:3 and his entrenched overuse of alcohol.

It was surprising for many, not just because they didn’t see it coming with one well-known preacher, but because they never had heard of a pastor being disqualified for drinking. Sexual immorality and financial mismanagement — those tragic accounts have been all too common. But the overuse of alcohol?

Qualifications - Pastor-elder - Timothy - Drunkard - Generation

Of the fifteen qualifications for pastor-elder in 1 Timothy 3:1–7, “not a drunkard” may be the one the previous generation of evangelicals passed over most quickly. Not because that generation was deaf to the dangers of alcohol, but because, for so many, partaking at all was almost unthinkable. The legacy of Prohibition endured. In large swaths, drinking was frowned upon for all Christians, and especially pastors.

My, how the times have changed.

Course - Teetotaling - Stripe - Association - Region

Of course, teetotaling wasn’t assumed in every stripe of evangelical association, or in every region, but the vestiges of the nineteenth-century temperance movement continued to hold sway in many sectors. For my Southern and Baptist grandmother, for instance, it was imponderable that the same lips could touch a drink and still make a credible profession of faith.

Such a sharp reaction to the perils and excesses of alcohol (especially hard liquor) in previous generations doubtless created its own problems, but these are not typically the troubles we face today — at least not in the circles I run. The pendulum has swung indeed. Whereas evangelicals of a bygone era may have overreached related to the dangers of alcohol, we find...
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