confessions of a drunken pastor

I will confess that there have been plenty of times that I have not been in my right mind. As I pen these words, I am ashamed. I’ve been drunk, thoroughly intoxicated.

In 1 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul outlines for young Pastor Timothy the qualities he should seek in the people he appoints as pastors and deacons. People have problems. And when people become church leaders, unfortunately, they bring their problems with them.

One of the issues to keep an eye on is to make sure that a leader who has influence over the church is not under the influence of alcohol. So, for the pastor, Paul says, “not a drunkard (1 Tim. 3:3).” For the deacons, they should not be “addicted to much wine (1 Tim. 3:8).”

But that’s not my problem. I don’t drink alcohol. There is no drink for my drunkenness. I am not under the influence of any substance.

My problem is mentioned earlier in Paul’s list of leadership qualities. It precedes his mention of intoxicating drink. My problem he points out with the words “sober-minded.”

My mind can get drunk without a single drop to drink.

Sober-minded has nothing to do with what you drink. Sober-minded is about how you think. To be sober-minded is to be focused, not fuzzy. It means to be able to see the situation clearly. To be sober-minded is to be in control of your thoughts. It is to not be under the influence of thoughts that keep you from making decisions based on God’s revelation, taking responsibility, and dispensing Biblical truth in reality.

And whether we lose sobriety by alcohol, drugs, or misguided thoughts the dangerous loss of self-control breeds similar results. Mistakes are made. People are hurt. The testimony of Christ is tarnished.

I admit that I lose mental sobriety, and I’m not alone.

I am not the only pastor who has mentally stammered throughout the day, drunk on discouragement. His boldness dulled by defeating voices echoing throughout his thoughts. How many of us have been drunk on a cocktail of “they said” rather than sober-minded on what God says?

I confess that I have had too much of social media and that I have been drunk on the delusion that I must gain followers to gain influence. I forgot that my call is to share the gospel, not to see who shares my posts. I have been a glutton on social media. I was so deep in the rabbit hole that my head was spinning. I was thirsty for the approval of man but negligent of the approval of God.

Am I the only pastor with a mental refrigerator filled with fear and frustration? I doubt it. I’m sure there were a lot of us in 2020 who kept our minds fully stocked with defeating, discouraging thoughts. How many days did I call for another round of doubt? How many decisions did we make based on “dadgummit” rather than submitting to the control of the Holy Spirit?

Where is the rehab for my drunken thoughts?

When I read 1 Timothy 3, it makes me wonder how any of us can be all of this? Pastors are not perfect. Pastors are people too.

If there is any hope for mental drunks like us I think it comes in Paul’s preceding testimony. In 1 Timothy 1, Paul describes himself as a blasphemer, an insolent opponent of God. He says that he is the chief of sinners. Despite himself, God chose to use him so that “Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (1 Tim 1:16).”

I cite that verse not to excuse my lack of mental sobriety but to remind myself (and all mentally drunk pastors) that we don’t have to go on like this by the grace of God. The Lord is patient with people. His patience includes pastors.

God calls for pastors to put away defeat, discouragement, pride, delusions of power, anger, and all other mental intoxicants by His grace and mercy. In the same way, the gospel calls for the alcoholic to leave the liquor at the store, so does 1 Timothy 3 call for pastors and church leaders to put away their drunken thoughts.

When you smell it, in Jesus’ name, walk away.

When the bartender asks if you want another shot of useless comparisons mixed with “never enough,” it’s time to turn off the tap.

Instead of having an open bottle of social media within arm’s reach, maybe it’s time to have less open on our phones and be more mentally available to our Bibles.

The grace of God is good and sobering.

My name is Brian Branam and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. But I must confess, I get mentally drunk on me. I can’t get enough of what people say, both good and bad. I keep discouragement on tap. I am addicted to affirmation.

I need help. How about you?


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