Saturday, June 11, 2011

Alcohol and Membership in the Wesleyan Church

The Wesleyan Church membership requirements for Covenant Members includes an expectation of abstaining from all alcoholic beverages, tobacco and drug use (other than prescribed medicines). Many debates have been held over this issue, and the debate continues in our generation.

First, it must be pointed out that we are not talking about how to be saved, we are talking about how to govern a body of believers, and keep godly order in the church. We need a system for leadership that promotes godliness and all of the fruits of the Spirit. One of those fruits is “self control”.

Alcohol causes unnecessary battles in the area of self-control on two levels: 1) The self-control over addiction; 2) the self-control given up when intoxicated.

Why does the Wesleyan Church have membership requirements? To call our membership to live above reproach; to live a witness to the world that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; and to call our people to holiness. Members and leaders are rightly called to a higher standard than those who simply attend. This is not to Lord anything over them as if we are better than anyone else, but to serve them by denying ourselves and living in a way that will not cause any of our brothers and sisters to stumble.

No, it is not a sin to drink. It is a sin to get drunk. It is a sin to cause our brother to stumble. It is a sin to give up self control.

It is challenge enough to control the things that we must do, like eat without gluttony, work in the worldly surroundings of American commerce without joining in dishonest practices to get ahead, and carry on conversations with our lost friends and family without joining in on gossip, slander, coarse joking, unwholesome talk and malicious anger at others for whom Jesus died. These things we face every day because we have to if we are going to be "in the world yet not of the world."

With all the unavoidable battles thrown at us from the enemy, why intentionally bring a battle into your life, your family’s lives, and the life of the church that we don’t have to face? No one HAS to drink alcohol.

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. - 1 Cor. 10:23

So for generations, the Wesleyan Church has revisited this same discussion as to why we have a membership requirement like this that is not directly spelled out in scripture. I would answer with the final thought of 1 Cor. 10:23: We are doing it, and teaching all members to do it, for the good of others. It works. I welcome your input.