You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is good for you. You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is beneficial."
1 Corinthians 10:23
I was recently asked this question:
"What was it, after you were saved, that made you quit bartending?"
This is a tough question, a very tough question. I will try my best... First off, yes, I bartended. Secondly, I am now a Baptist preacher. How in the world did that happen?
That is the question! And I do not believe simple answers will suffice to please the rule making Pharisees that often hang out in my conservative circles. So the answer is not, "Because drinking alcohol is a sin and that's that!" I don't believe that the wine Jesus made was similiar to Welch's non-alcoholic grape juice - - in fact is sure seems like the wine of the Bible had the same potential to cause drunkenness as the wine of today. (see Ephesians 5:18 - if you can't get drunk on it why does Paul warn the reader about it?)
I also DO believe drunkenness is sin and folly. Drunkeness debases, or obscures, the image of God in a person's life. We are made to be noble people, not brute beasts. As Proverbs 23:30-35 says, it can make you reel like a sailor on the high seas. I have seen grown men get in adolescent fights over small infractions rendering injury both to themselves and the person they we arguing with simply because they were inedbriated.
You probably are not surprised to hear that drunkeness is one of the main, if not "the main" factor involved in most car accidents, domestic abuse cases, gambling loses and naked romps. So, as a pastor you can't tell me that the abuse of alcohol is something that needs to be simply ignored or non-chalantly winked at, especially when I have done one too many funerals of teens who wrapped their cars around trees going 100 miles an hour.
But that is not the reason I don't bartend. I will make a very honest confession: A bar is a fun place to be. People dont judge you often in a bar - - they may take a swing at you, or spit beer on you, but they wont think lesser of you by how you dress or behave - - which sadly is often the case at church.
I think the reason people frequent bars is because they provide a form of fellowship without the moral expectations. But remember, there is no reason to keep anyone accountable when you have no convictions to live by or a Holy God to please. It is true, you will find alot of laughing and merriment happening; and for some people, it really is fun to feel like you are living in live a beer commercial. People like to look and feel cool (this is the most important value in American culture right now - - coolness). A bar can offer that feeling.
And I will also say that being a bartender is a very easy place to start conversations. So I think the deeper question behind this initial question is, "Why not use bartending to talk to people about Jesus? Just think of all the people a bartender can witness too?" I think this belief is self-defeating. Let me give you two reasons I feel this way:
(1) Bartending lends "silent support" to a very Destructive Culture: I call it the bad version of the 4H club: (a) Hook-up culture (b) Hedonistic Philosophy (see Philippians 3:18-19) (c) Habits that Destroy and cause Addictions (d) Hebetude. (dull witted, lack of convictions or care about the world around you).
Listen to Isaiah 56:9-12:
All you beasts of the field, come to devour--
all you beasts in the forest.
His watchmen are blind;
they are all without knowledge;
they are all silent dogs;
they cannot bark,
dreaming, lying down,
loving to slumber.
The dogs have a mighty appetite;
they never have enough.
But they are shepherds who have no understanding;
they have all turned to their own way,
each to his own gain, one and all.
“Come,” they say, “let me get wine;
let us fill ourselves with strong drink;
and tomorrow will be like this day,
great beyond measure.”
(2) Bartending preaches a Psuedo-Grace: Grace says "I am free to do as I please in Christ", but it does not say, "including those things I once knew were sinful and displeasing to God." You are not an adult because you can freely drink many adult beverages and get away with it; in the same way you aren't an adult because you watch adult movies, or go to an adult bookstore. The word adult at times should be substituted with the word "depraved." And much of the beer drinking that goes on in bars easily reaches the threshold of depraved.
Did you know there is a strange new movement in the church - especially when grace is a relatively new teaching - where people have Bible and Beer studies because they can, or because they want to feel like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien discussing their literature? I have found that many times, these studies are more about beer than bible. "Hey, C. S. Lewis drank at a pub when he was writing inklings." C. S. Lewis also saw beer simply as a beverage, not as something that makes you cool, cultured, sophisticated and gives you an opportunity to snub your nose toward fundementalism. (Fundemenatalism in this case refers to the practice that a true Christian will not drink, dance and go with girls that do).
Titus 2:11-13 says that "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," God wants us to be mature in the sense of "noble"; not adult in the sense of depraved. Have you ever gone over to someone's house and those who feel the grace to drink kind of sneak it, and form clusters of the elite tasters with sophisticated pallets? It is more adolescent snobbery than a genuine excercise in Christian liberty. I am not begrudging drinking, only the feeling you are somehow better or more cultured than those who don't drink.
In summary, I want to be known more as a follower of Christ than being a cool bartender sending mixed messages with mixed drinks. After I was saved I was asked to be in a wedding with 5 of my friends. We stayed at a hotel for the weekend and on the night before the wedding my friends wanted to go bar hopping. They asked me if I wanted to go, and I said I couldn't. And one friend, with a rather chagrined face, looked at me and said, "Why not man? What happened to you?"
My answer was simple: "I am not here to criticize you and your decision, but for me, I feel compelled by Christ to not live in that pick-up culture anymore. My heart is captive to the will of Christ." He didn't understand, and I think he thought I was crazy.
Maybe I am - - but I am free from having a substance control me, and people wondering if I really am a follower.
* answer given on family night December 4, 2016