Perry Noble, founding pastor at NewSpring Church in South Carolina, was dismissed eleven days ago because of alcohol abuse. Perry was one of many pastors who defended social drinking among Christians. While not a major emphasis of his ministry, it was there. NewSpring elders reported the sin publicly, as 1 Timothy 5:20 says, so that the rest may fear. Reports came yesterday that Pastor Perry was checking into a facility for help. I love and pray for Pastor Perry. He has been the most visible Pastor in my home state of South Carolina. Some of my family members attend the church. These things provoked me to write because I think that many pastors may not realize the danger of ignoring or defending alcohol use in an effort to distance themselves from legalism and be true to Scripture.
No pastor should defend the use of beverage alcohol even if the Bible does not strictly prohibit it. Moderate drinking leads to drunkenness more than 50% of the time. Some Christians avoid this reality in an effort to distance themselves from legalism or a lack of liberty in this matter. However, the data overwhelmingly affirms this statement. According to the 2014 National Institute of Health (NIH) study on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 56.9% of the 18 & over population drank beverage alcohol in the last month. Out of those who drank, 45% of them reported binge drinking and another 12% reported heavy drinking. Why would a pastor herald the virtue of a beverage that causes so much sin while drinking it?
Every pastor should warn people against alcohol use. Social drinking places people in great danger of crime and sexual assault, especially vulnerable single women. Alcohol use loosens a person’s morality. Probably the most painful survey that I have ever read was conducted by the Association of American Universities with more than 150,000 responses. The results were released on September 21, 2015, concerning sexual abuse on 27 college campuses in America. The average for the 27 campuses was 23% of the female undergraduates said that they had been victims of sexual assault during the year that the survey was conducted. These universities included Yale (28%), Florida (20%), Ohio State (24%), Michigan (30%), Penn (27%), Harvard (26%), Virginia (24%), Oregon (24%), Columbia (23%), North Carolina (24%), and the University of Texas (19%). Can you image that nearly one in four of every young woman undergrad at our colleges was sexually abused during that single year? Our most prestigious college campuses are places of unreported unconscionable abuse. Virtually all of these assaults occurred, according to the respondents, when they were incapacitated or unable to consent because of alcohol use. Other studies hover around 50% of all of the college age women in America have suffered sexual abuse. Therefore, if a pastor defends social gatherings and parties that encourage social drinking then the likelihood of sexual assault of the young ladies who believe their pastor has sky rocketed. How could a pastor do that with a clear conscience? Pastors should warn their people of the great danger of alcohol use in the social setting.
Pastors should make alcohol an issue. Alcohol is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death. Alcohol contributes to more than 200 diseases. Countless families have been destroyed by alcohol use. Careers have been lost all over the ability to drink one drink of a beverage with dinner. There are studies that indicate that moderate alcohol use can be beneficial to one’s health. However, the NIH concedes that moderate alcohol consumption does not benefit everyone and the amount varies to determine what is moderate and helpful. This sounds like a drug that needs a doctor’s guidance.
Pastors can and should be the leading voices against alcohol use because of these tragic consequences. Before God, I could never condone alcohol use because of these realities.