Whether or not it is okay to consume alcohol is one of the most highly debated topics in the church today. Is drinking a sin? When is it okay, or not okay, to drink? Didn’t Jesus himself drink alcohol?
There are so many questions and misunderstandings surrounding this topic. So today I want to dig deeper into what the Bible says about drinking, and specifically if it is something we as worship leaders, who are called to a very high standard, can do.
“Drinking” may have different meanings to different people. For some, “drinking” might mean getting blacked out on a Friday night with their friends while for others it may mean the occasional glass of red wine with dinner.
Let me be clear from the start that I DO NOT condone drunkenness and use the word “drinking” to mean a responsible form of consumption [Ephesians 5:18]. So if you are looking for an article to justify your irresponsible behavior, you have come to the wrong place. But if you are looking for a prayed over, theologically sound and highly researched answer to your question, keep reading.
Is drinking alcohol a sin?
First and foremost, what does the Bible say about drinking? Alcohol (mostly wine and some beer) is found all throughout the Bible. Many times we even see some pretty well known people drinking alcohol. (Jesus in Matthew 11:19, Matthew 11:18, Luke 7:34, Melchizedek in Genesis 14:8 and many others)
But there is actually no verse in the Bible that says that drinking alcohol is a sin. Some scriptures even celebrate drinking.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 says:
“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”
Psalm 104:14-15 says:
“You cause the grass to grow . . . and wine to gladden the heart of man”
It’s almost as if God created wine as a gift! Which he literally did once when he became the world’s coolest ‘bartender’ for a wedding in Cana [John 2:1-11].
But like so many other things God has given us, we found a way to abuse it. Money is a gift, sex is a gift, but in our lack of self control, those things became means to a sinful lifestyle.
It doesn’t mean they are innately evil. We made them evil by disrespecting God’s original intentions.
Quick side note: if you are wondering if the wine they drank in the Bible really was alcoholic or if it was just some grape juice, read Ephesians 5:18 where Paul says:
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”
To put it bluntly, you can’t get drunk off grape juice, therefore it had to be real wine, containing alcohol. Moving on…
When is it okay to drink?
While the world continues to serve itself, our mission is to serve others. If drinking alcohol ever gets in the way of our ministry to love, serve, and point people to the cross, it isn’t worth it.
The question of whether or not it is okay to drink can ultimately only be answered by YOU. I don’t know your weaknesses, your church, your values, your family history, and I don’t think that convictions are the same for every person.
However, I do believe there are times where drinking alcohol can negatively impact the influence you have as a worship leader.
First and foremost, if you have a history of alcohol abuse or addiction, do not drink. ESPECIALLY if you are a worship leader, the devil is on the edge of his seat, just waiting for you to slip up. Even if you have been sober for a long time, you could only be a few bad decisions away from falling back into your old lifestyle.
Only you and God know what you can and cannot handle, so I highly encourage you, if you have any history of substance abuse, don’t let anyone bring that back into your life.
There are two other areas where I highly encourage you to consider refraining from alcohol in order to strengthen your impact on the Kingdom. Culture and environment. If drinking offends the culture, or if you are in the wrong environment, do not drink.
Know the Culture
If you have ever traveled overseas, then you know that not everything translates the same way. Giving a thumbs up in the Middle East or repping a backwards peace sign in England have COMPLETELY different meanings than in the United States.
Being ignorant of someone else’s culture is an automatic suspension on your influence.
If you attend a church where drinking is discouraged and unwelcome by the culture, then choosing to drink is a serious offense. You will lose the respect of your pastor, your team, your church, and lose the opportunity to minister effectively.
Know the Environment
A few years back in college, I was at a show with my friends [it wasn’t exactly a MercyMe concert, but it also wasn’t a show I thought twice about going to]. The DJ was amazing and my friends and I spent the whole night dancing in the front row.
I remember a photographer taking a few pictures of the crowd. Our pictures ended up on the DJ’s website [surely because of our stellar dance moves, LOL, not] as well as a few other social accounts.
Somehow, through this crazy telephone game of interpretation, those pictures were emailed to my worship directors with the understanding that I was partying and drinking. Now just so you know, I went to a tiny Christian college where drinking was SUPER against the rules..like..you could get kicked out.
We weren’t drinking, we weren’t doing drugs, but almost everyone else at that show was and it didn’t reflect well. That’s how I ended up in the scariest meeting of my life and endured a long lecture on how I need to better represent myself as a worship leader.
I learned very quickly that you never know when someone may be watching you. Especially if you are a leader.
People love to gossip! Yes even Christians. Some of the most hurtful words I have ever heard in my life came from people I trusted in the church.
For some reason, highlighting flaws and twisting the truth about another person, satisfies some deep need for personal validation. It is selfish, and it is a fertilizer that has grown weeds of lies in so many churches.
You can’t control what people will say about you, but as a leader, you can be cautious of the environment you are in and how your actions are perceived.
Let me be really practical here for a minute and lend some advice. Don’t drink in a place where you can easily bump into people from your church.
I know this is impossible to control, but just be mindful of the restaurant you are in, the party you are at, and the ways it could be translated by church members who don’t know you.
Again, this isn’t because drinking alcohol is a sin, it is because our job as worship leaders is to lead people into the presence of God. By minimizing the opportunity for people to breed gossip, you maximize your spiritual influence.
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30
Remember when you were young and thought that your worship leader was basically the Jimi Hendrix of Christian music? Well that’s how kids in your church see you right now. They would do anything to be more like you. If you are a worship leader, drinking in front of them ruins your opportunity to mentor them and POINT THEM TO JESUS.
I know you are probably thinking this is a really extreme example to bring up, but you’d be surprised how many church leaders and youth pastors have screwed up by wanting to be a friend rather than a father.
Being cautious of the places you drink and the people you drink around doesn’t make it sneaky or wrong, it just means you are being wise.
What if I do drink?
Whether you choose to drink or not drink is ultimately between you and God. You can decide for yourself but you can’t decide for someone else or judge another person’s choice.
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” Romans 14:13
I encourage you to stay focused on your calling as a child of God and as a leader in the church [Matthew 28:19-20]. Although this topic is extremely relevant, it should never be more important or more popular than talking about Jesus. Always let Him be the center of every decision you make and the final say for every conviction you feel.
We want to hear from YOU!
What do you believe or what have you experienced regarding alcohol within the church?
Please know that we welcome and encourage different thoughts and opinions and understand that this topic, being as sensitive and debated as it is, could cause spirit of offense or pain for some people. I encourage you, if your comment isn’t ultimately for the benefit of others, we request that you think twice before posting. Thank you!
You may also be interested in these posts as well:
- 3 Ways the Enemy Attacks Worship Leaders: And What You Can Do About It
- We Answer Your Worship Leading Questions! [Video]
- Musicians – Why Satan Loves When We Practice
- Why Not Doing This One Simple Thing Could Be Killing Your Team