Smoking can be a bad habit. Nicotine is proven addictive, proposes a real health risk over time, and can be very hard to quit once a significant habit has begun.
But is smoking a sin? Does it damage a witness? Is all matters of smoking wrong whether it be cigarettes, cigars or pipes? How should we address those that may smoke publicly outside in our church parking lots? Has the church at large been too legalistic in this area?
This was the subject that I and some friends were discussing this past week. Let me share with you a hypothetical scenario to illustrate this issue. A few 18+ year old young men and women (who are part of a local church) were found smoking in the parking lot of the church. A "greeter" from the church went to them and asked them to stop smoking or possibly leave the parking lot. Take this to a more broad picture of anyone smoking outside on church property (member or visitor) and how that would look "image wise" for any church.
What say you?
I realize that this is a relatively small issue with all that is going on in the world around us. But as you know, the devil is in the details and it is these little things that can divide Christian fellowship quicker than anything.
Here is a common concern of smoking to help ignite your thoughts:
Because smoking is often perceived as a sin (at worst) or a casual pastime (at best), should we be concerned with the impression that it might leave upon those who come to our church or who are new visitors to the church, if they were to see people smoking in the parking lot of our church? Or should it even matter?Here are some initial thoughts in response to the above:
Is this 1957 we’re talking about here? Were they wearing leisure suits too? :-).
Can you imagine... some people actually smoking in the hallowed area of the parking lot of a church? Oh my... Did they inhale? Sounds like an immediate Matthew 18:15-20 situation to me. Can you imagine such a thing? Sinners, real life sinners that lite up are in our church parking lot enjoying "a drag" before or after the service. They’re definitely going to hell — no question about it — smokers all end up there. No smoker could possibly be elect — no way. And if they profess to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, they’re definitely carnal,... backslidden at best.
Can you believe it, there are smokers who even twist the words of praise songs to support their "evil practice" by singing: “it only takes a spark, to get my cig a going...” They just can’t be trusted; we should get rid of them all. You can almost imagine the headline on the church kiosk next week would say:
NO SMOKERS ALLOWED ON OUR CHURCH PARKING LOT
TAKE YOUR "BUTTS" SOMEWHERE ELSE...
Time to Wake Up and Smell the Ministry
This is not an issue.
Smoking is not a sin (btw, I don’t smoke cigarettes). John MacArthur really put this in perspective when he once humorously said, “Smoking is not a sin; but if you like putting dried leaves in your mouth and setting them on fire that’s your business.” :-).
Precisely! Scripture nowhere prohibits smoking anywhere; it is a preference issue at best.
Does it smack of legalism to actually say things like: “is this the first impression you want to make on people coming to the church...” People that come to our churches come with serious problems and needs—and smoking in the parking lot is not one of them. Spurgeon smoked cigars (so do I on occasion) - would it have been better if they were smoking cigars? How about pipes? Pipes are good too — they smell really good especially on a cool autumn evening (I smoke a pipe on occasion too). Football season is here and it’s a great time to bring your favorite cigar or pipe to a ball game and have at it.
I think here’s a great first impression to make on people coming to our churches:
that everyone would be warmly welcomed whether they are smoking or not in the parking lot and never asked to leave because a “greeter” sees someone enjoying a Camel before or after the service.
BTW, that person in the parking lot who confronted the young people smoking should never be allowed to serve as a greeter. Put that man in charge of something really important like... straightening all the hymnals in the backs of the pews before the service begins :-). It will better serve the Lord and His people to keep him as far away from those coming to the church as possible—especially the visitors.
From Tobacco Road...
Let me know your thoughts...