Should Pastors Abstain from Drinking Alcohol?

I grew up in the south and in a denomination where drinking alcohol was frowned upon for the average church attender and definitely considered taboo for pastors. I served in the central valley of California where I could drive to several wineries within five minutes and where the church didn’t frown upon social drinking. I served in another part of the country when at my first board meeting the elder host literally provided an open bar. I was offered a choice of about a half dozen alcoholic beverages that night. So, who’s right? Should pastors abstain from drinking alcohol or should pastors not even think about it?

I’ve noticed that in the past few years several leaders in the emerging church movement seem to portray through their teaching, blogs, and twitter profiles an, “I drink and that makes me really cool,” attitude. I heard one well-known teacher play off the popularity of the WWJD craze by changing ‘What Would Jesus Do’ to ‘What Would Jesus Drink.’ He then spent several minutes talking about how much he enjoyed alcohol.

On the other hand, I know a guy who won’t even go into a restaurant if it serves alcohol.

I’ve never preached a message against alcohol and I don’t believe the bible prohibits drinking in moderation. After all, Jesus turned water into wine and Paul encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach.

I even occasionally went to a bar with my improv class friends to hang out after class. I ordered a beer of the non-alcoholic root variety.

However, I’ve chosen to refrain from even social drinking for these reasons.

  1. I want to maximize my health and keep my brain humming at maximum efficiency. A recent meta-study has shown a linkage of even moderate alcohol drinking to a heightened risk of some cancers. And, I hope to keep my ‘senior moments’ down to a minimum as I get older. Alcohol has shown to have negative effects on the brain.
  2. I don’t want to play Russian roulette. A quarter of people who drink are considered problem drinkers and almost 10% are considered alcoholics. I don’t want to risk becoming one of those statistics.
  3. I want to practice the principle of deference as best I can. Based on Paul’s admonition in Romans 14.21, I would not want a behavior such as drinking to potentially cause a weaker brother to stumble.
    • It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. (NLT)
  4. As a leader, I’ve chosen a higher standard for my leadership life. Proverbs 31.4 has influenced my thinking.
    • Kings and leaders should not get drunk or even want to drink. (CEV)

I recognize that pastors and church people hold multiple views on this subject.

  •  If you are a pastor, do you think a pastor should refrain or not?
  •  If you are not a pastor, what do you think about pastors who do drink socially?

Here’s another thoughtful post on this subject.

Related posts:

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Randy Myers

    I also have chosen to abstain. Here’s the article I wrote on the subject: https://randymyersblog.com/2016/11/30/alcohol-and-the-holidays/

    • Randy, your article is fantastic! thanks for the link. I will add it to my post.

  • Whether or not to drink is a dicey subject, that’s for sure. I’m always torn on the issue.

    I was raised in a home where it was okay to drink alcohol on a regular occasion. Yet I never saw my dad get drunk. He’d have a beer here or there and that was it. This example showed me that you can drink without getting drunk (which is what the Bible commands us to do if we were to drink).

    The teaching I’ve heard in the church has typically been total abstinence from drinking any alcohol and the reasons always seemed to be weak. Whether it’s the side that said “One drink can lead you to become an alcoholic” to “the water in Biblical times was so bad people couldn’t drink it and the wine wasn’t fermented (or weaker than what we have today)” never seemed to be based on Biblical truth.

    So, that’s a long way to say I don’t think drinking is bad. Jesus drank wine, the disciples drank wine, and so did many other church leaders. If a pastor can control his inhibitions to drink and do so in a responsible manner, I believe it’s okay.