Many of you know where I stand in terms of alcohol. When I was young in faith, Christianity and alcohol didn’t mix together. I was taught that way from early on and I have never seen anyone enjoying alcohol with maturity and responsibility the way Christ would have done. I only saw people abusing alcohol who drank to get drunk. The ability to drink a lot and not get drunk was seen as male prowess. This is the culture that I grew up in.
When we began New Life in 1997, my stance in regards to alcohol was the same because I saw men at New Life during that time not knowing how to enjoy alcohol responsibly. Alcohol consumption did more harm than good. So, it was assumed that alcohol was not permitted not just in New Life events and functions but during New Life members’ wedding receptions.
Then, things started to change about ten years ago. I began to notice people serving alcohol during their wedding receptions and freely drinking even in front of me, their pastor! And I am referring to people who were in their mid-twenties doing this. I remember thinking to myself a few times during those years, “How dare these kids are to drink in front of me? I am going to bring the wrath of God upon them!” : )
However, my thoughts about alcohol slowly began to change as I continued to observe New Life members. Not everyone who was drinking during wedding receptions did it maturely and responsibly, but for the most part, I saw many enjoying it and celebrating the occasion with proper self-control. Since then, I haven’t said anything about people serving alcohol during their wedding receptions except once when some people got out of control, became drunk and had to be driven to their home.
On the other hand, our KSC has different policies in regards to alcohol especially consuming it publicly. If you are a shepherd, then you make the covenant not to drink publicly. If you do, then you step down either temporarily or permanently. It has much to do with their culture but not entirely.
Due to our relationship with the KSC and the agreement that we made with them in the earlier years, I also serve as a staff in the KSC since the KSC is the major congregation and New Life, the ESC, is the minor congregation. So, I go to their staff meeting every Wednesday morning for 2-3 hours. Just a few weeks ago, the staff had a serious conversation about what we are going to do in regards to alcohol. Our KSC members see New Life members very freely drinking during wedding receptions or in restaurants and they are very uneasy about it and don’t know what to make of it. Furthermore, they are concerned about their own middle school and high school children who are mostly led by New Life members as their village leaders seeing us drinking freely publicly. They prefer and desire their children not seeing their spiritual leaders casually drinking in public for very obvious reasons.
Due to my own convictions about drinking, I shared very respectfully with the KSC staff defending New Life’s stance, unwritten policy and practice in regards to consuming alcohol in public. I stated very clearly that the Bible is not against drinking in moderation, that Jesus turned water into very good wine and possibly drank it too, and that people should definitely abstain from alcohol if doing it will cause others to stumble for that is what love does, which I have been teaching New Life to do all these years.
But then, Pastor Lee suggested to me this: “Nevertheless, since alcohol causes more harm than good in our society, and since there are children and youth parents in the KSC who are concerned about their children watching their spiritual leaders from New Life drinking freely in public especially during wedding receptions, can you at least tell those couples who want to get married by you that you will not be able to officiate their weddings if they plan to serve alcohol during their receptions?”
At first, I didn’t like hearing it. New Life’s practice, as is, is very biblical. And when it comes to drinking, New Life’s approach is more mature than the KSC. However, what’s even more mature than New Life’s practice is limiting or letting go of our freedom for the sake of building up others.
“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Cor. 8:13)
“If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” (Rom. 14:15)
Furthermore, I have been preaching about the importance of submitting to our spiritual leaders God has placed over us, and for me, that’s Pastor Lee from the KSC. He is not asking me to do something that is against my life and death type of biblical conviction. Drinking is not one of those important issues that we need to put our lives on the line to defend it. But submitting to our spiritual leaders is. That’s what we have learned from Saul and David. And God has been convicting me to submit to Pastor Lee on this issue of drinking publicly.
Therefore, let me state a few policies of our church in regards to alcohol. First, New Life members’ drunkenness is not acceptable or tolerated. He/she will be approached when that happens. Second, we do not serve or drink any alcohol during the official New Life events or functions and that include house church meetings or ministry team meetings. Third, we shall be wise about putting pictures on social media. Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Putting pictures that have alcohol in them with words that say, “New Life,” “Church,” or “Christ” may not be so wise or beneficial in most cases.
And fourth, I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO OFFICIATE YOUR WEDDING IF YOU INSIST IN SERVING ALCOHOL. I am very sorry to say this to many of you who are planning to get married here in the future who were planning to have alcohol during your reception. Again, for me, it’s not an issue about serving alcohol. It’s much deeper than that. God has convicted me about the issue of submitting to my spiritual leader. I don’t want to be just a teacher of God’s word. Instead, I want to be a doer of God’s word.
As a side note, if you don’t serve alcohol during your wedding receptions, you will end up saving a lot of money. You can use that to splurge on your honeymoon! J
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