Question 9.  State your views on the use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, sex before marriage, divorce and forgiveness of those who have had problems.  How strict should we be in choosing small group leaders and Sunday school teachers regarding their personal lives?    Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are all potentially addictive and harmful substances.  I believe disciplined followers should avoid tobacco and illicit drugs altogether.  Personally, I see nothing good in either one of them.  The use of drugs generally enters new territory, since it is also illegal, and the Christ-follower should not be involved in illegal activity. 

Used responsibly and in moderation, alcohol is not forbidden.  In the use of alcohol, I do believe all disciples should be aware of how their behavior may potentially affect other believers, and be willing to forego their own desires for the sake of others. 

Sex before marriage is sin.  One of my concerns right now is that many young people – even Christian young people – are falling for the lie that very inappropriate touching and even oral sex are not truly “having sex,” and are therefore okay.  I believe this is something church leaders and parents must decisively define for our young people.  Many people are burying their heads in the sand, and we are already beginning to reap the consequences in damaged young lives.  We know these things are sin, and we need to teach it as such. 

Among believing singles, we more often see the couple who are serious about their relationship, but are drawn to each other sexually before marriage.  I hear them justify it because they are “almost married anyway,” and “this is the only person for me.”  Still, sex before marriage is a sin that damages their relationship.  Proverbs says, “Bread eaten in secret is pleasant…”  To engage in sex before marriage creates an excitement in doing something illicit that cannot then be recreated once the couple is married and sex is legitimate.   

In Malachi, God said, “I hate divorce.”  Jesus said that Moses permitted men to divorce their wives because of the hardness of their hearts.  But from the beginning, that was not what God planned for people.  He intended for a man and a woman to live together for life.  Divorce not only destroys the relationship between a husband and wife, but quite often destroys relationships throughout an entire family:  parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.  Particularly, it can affect the lives of children for years to come.  It also becomes a public display of contention as couples enter the court system. 

Now, for those who have struggled with any of these things, repentance and forgiveness is always available.  God will forgive, and so will we.  I believe He expects those who want to follow Him to turn from sinful practices, and live holy lives before Him, and submit to consistent accountability to fellow disciples. 

The personal life of any leader is a critical matter, and should be taken into consideration when placing them in positions of leadership.  But just because someone has failed at some point in their lives in any of these areas (and countless others not mentioned), doesn’t mean they are disqualified from leading a small group or a Sunday school class.  If that were the case, no one would qualify.  If they have experienced the forgiveness of God, have turned their life around, are following Christ, and submitting to accountability, then they are potential leaders for those positions.  Occasionally, however, it takes time to determine these things, and, in some cases, trust must be re-established.  Each case should be determined individually, with input from the staff and elders.