Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
Hello, I date a minister and he smokes pot and drinks beer on daily basis and on Sundays he's in the pulpit, calling people to the altar, teaching Sunday School, members pouring out to him their problems, praying and singing. One day he actually smoked a joint before he went to a church meeting with his eyes all red and smelling like weed. He buys his pot on the down low and wants me to stop and buy his beer. I am so lost with his behavior. He wants to get married, but I feel uneasy with him at this time.
My immediate reaction is, "You've got to be kidding! He's disqualified himself in multiple areas to be the leader and shepherd of one of God's flocks. He should not be the pastor of any church. I will finish my answer with the same conclusion; however, his behavior and your concerns are stimulating and worth examining.
I read your letter to one of my daughters and she turned the tables on me and asked, "Does his behavior affect his job performance? That is one question."
"Uh, I hadn't thought about that," I replied.
This question has both a spiritual and a logical answer.
We must consider Paul's words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:1-6:
"If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church?" (MSG)
Paul's words to Timothy are quite clear. The responsibility to lead a church is both a high and holy calling. Those who enter into such a calling must be serious about God's Word and His people. He is, after all, a model to His congregation.
In my opinion, your pastor has disqualified himself from pastoring on a number of counts. So let's first look at his motives for self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and then look at whether or not he can lead a church.
But my daughter did have an interesting point. What was his motivation to drink or smoke pot? She said, "Maybe this is how he handled his anxiety before he preached and does his pastoral work. He needed help. After all, Dad, you had an anxiety disorder and you struggled with depression."
My daughter was right. I had struggled with panic disorder and bipolar depression since I was a teenager. My panic disorder was so severe in mu adolescence and young adulthood that I suffered from serious ulcerative colitis and bleeding ulcers, along with a whole host of medical problems. My staff and my prayer partners prayed for relief for years. I fasted, sought the Lord constantly and still I languished. I was an emotional wreck until my doctor suggested that I try the drug. Within the month my depression began lifting and my anxiety began decreasing. I would never smoke pot or drink a beer to make myself feel better (my personal convictions); but, I have no qualms about following my doctor's orders.
In fact, I have two wedding rings. Hidden away in the back of a dresser drawer is the wedding ring Julie placed on my finger at our wedding. But now, on the ring finger of my left hand is a different the one. My outlook and attitude changed so much during the next year that Julie gave me a new wedding ring. "Let's put the old ring in the drawer," she said, "and this new Roger ring on your finger." Frankly, the new Roger ring has been on my finger for thirty-five years--and I am still benefiting from the help of a Christian doctor and counselor. The change in my life was incredible. I preached at the same church for 38 years.
Of course, this comparative analysis between Celexa and smoking weed is faulty in several areas. Celexa is a legal, closely supervised drug. Weed is illegal in most every state in our nation and has unpredictable and often mental-impairing results.
Celexa is an SSRI which is the name for Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. I didn't produce enough Serotonin to survive daily life. In my teenage years, I was even afraid to leave the house. When Serotonin, the "feel good" chemical, was released into my neurological synapses it did not have time to do its work before being reabsorbed into my system. So, I battled with depression and anxiety. Serotonin alleviated my problem. The complexities of what I just described are incredible. But, you get the idea.
On the other hand, numerous long-term research projects are demonstrating that the cost of using cannabis to feel good is an altered view of reality and long-term brain shrinkage.
Nevertheless, there is much more to this story. I receive many emails from people suffering extensive, debilitating pain who want to know if it is OK to smoke marijuana to help them find relief from pain and physical suffering.
My opinion is that using marijuana for medicinal purposes, prescribed by a doctor (often for cancer patients) and to cope with serious medical symptoms such as lack of appetite and dramatic weight loss due to nausea from chemotherapy is appropriate under a physician’s supervision.
Marijuana is an organic plant—just like aspirin.
Let's talk about aspirin. The bark of the willow tree, of which salicylic acid is the active ingredient, has been known to help alleviate headaches, pains and fevers since antiquity. The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who lived sometime between 460 BC and 377 BC, left historical records describing the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to help the above symptoms.
Aspirin is a God-given plant that produces both positive and negative chemical affects in the human body. In the same way, we might say that marijuana is also a God-given plant which produces both positive and negative chemical affects in the human body.
The key here is how each plant is used. Used improperly, aspirin can devastate the stomach lining and enhance bleeding. Used improperly, marijuana may cause one to lose self control when it is needed most and to damage the brain.
All that being said, in my opinion, your pastor has disqualified himself. How?
For example, drinking beer is not a sin; however, according to the Bible, getting drunk is. When you get drunk you use control of your ability to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, "Don’t get drunk on wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.
As best as I can tell, there is little difference in God's mind between being drunk on wine and being drunk on marijuana.
He disqualifies himself because of his "occult" behavior. The word occult means "hidden."
Secretly meeting his dealer to get his stash is occult by its very nature. His presentation of himself before the congregation while hiding his true character is occult and fraudulent. The fact that he must ask you to buy his alcohol is his attempt to keep from being accidentally "found out" by a church member who happens to be in the same store at the same time as he.
According to the Bible, when he is drunk on marijuana he is opening his life to occultist, Satanic, activity. The Greek word for "witchcraft" is "pharmarkia" which is our word for "drugs".
Of course, by definition his pastoring is dysfunctional. Dysfunctionality will eventually rear its ugly head--especially under times of extreme pressure.
God's intention is for all of His children to grow up to maturity in Christ. My opinion is that it is hard to grow to maturity and to lead the congregation to grow maturity when spending most every day on an artificial "high".
At some point, the church leadership needs to be involved. Read Paul's words in Galatians 6:1-2:
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (NIV)
Finally, regarding marriage, if you want to live with a man who's artificially "high" most of the time, a man whom you don't respect, then go ahead and marry him. But I warn you, it is ill-advised.
Otherwise, lose the loser and go find a Christian man of whom you can be proud. Pray for this man.
Let me know how it all turns out.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.