Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What You Won't be Told at That Leadership Seminar

Leadership is a favorite topic of people these days. I suppose we all want to think of ourselves as leaders and to feel in control. I follow a number of blogs, including that of Michael Hyatt. He often writes about leadership and I’ve noticed that some of the people who follow his blog write about leadership. There’s a lot to be said about leadership, but today I want to cover a topic on leadership that I don’t expect I’ll see on Michael Hyatt’s blog or that of most of the people who talk about leadership. To state it in the most simple terms, Leaders have no business drinking alcohol.

I’m sure you recall that Paul gave the qualifications pastors and deacons in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Of the pastors he said “not given to wine” and of deacons he said, “not given to much wine.” And you may be thinking, “I know what it says, but I don’t really think that means pastors aren’t supposed to drink at all and it certainly doesn’t mean that other leaders shouldn’t drink.” You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that. Eugene H. Peterson, in his paraphrase The Message, writes it as “not be overfond of wine.”

As Paul so often did, the qualifications he gives for pastors is grounded in the principles of the Word of God. Look at Proverbs 31:4, 5: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel—it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Though most people in leadership positions don’t think of themselves as kings and princes today, the principle that Paul applied to pastors remains true for all those in leadership. If you are in a position of leadership, decisions you make and guidance you give impacts the lives of other people. It is not for you to drink alcohol because your ability to make decisions will become impaired. You may forget what God would have you do and lead people in the wrong direction.

I’m sure that some will argue that it’s okay to drink as long as you aren’t drinking when you are performing your leadership work. I read about a Southern Baptist college that had problems with some of their students because the students are required to agree to abstain from alcohol, but some wanted to say that that didn’t apply while they were off campus, arguing that they weren’t really students then. Here’s the problem with that: no leader is able to completely separate his leadership from other areas of his life. He may be a leader at work and he doesn’t want alcohol to impair his decisions concerning his employees, so he doesn’t drink on the job, but he goes home at night and has a couple of beers. While he is sitting there in a haze, he starts thinking about which employee he should promote. There’s that guy who is a hard worker, but he isn’t all that much fun to be around. That’s the guy that ought to be promoted, but Mr. Leader starts thinking about that young woman with the short skirt. She’s a lot more fun. When the time comes to put someone’s name on the list, Mr. Leader remembers that he intended to promote her, though he may not remember how he came to that decision.

The Bible calls leaders to a higher standard. People often want to think that they are able to drink and not allow alcohol to influence their ability to lead. God doesn’t agree with them. If he did, he wouldn’t have spoken so strongly against leaders drinking. Do let me ask you this: do you want to be a leader? Do you want to lead people the way God wants you to lead people? If you do, lay off the alcohol. Don’t touch the stuff. Keep it away from you so that when you are called upon to make a decision there is no possibility that you are making that decision based on unclear thinking.


Jessica Nelson said...

Hi Timothy,
Your comment today inspired a blog post for me tomorrow. I didn't mention you or anything, just quoted part of your comment. You sound very busy and though I doubt you'd head over to my place, I just wanted to let you know in case you did see it. I didn't want to be sneaky or anything.
Thanks for giving me something to think about (and post) with your comment. :-)

Timothy Fish said...


That's about enough to make me nervous.