The Struggle: Cultural

I am an ordained Wesleyan pastor a restart Wesleyan church in Medford, Oregon in Southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley, which is essentially the Napa Valley of Oregon. Rich volcanic soil combined with a dry, arid climate with hot summers and mild winters makes it the perfect environment to grow wine grapes. As a result, there are at minimum 50 vineyards and winery’s within a 10 mile radius of our church.

Additionally, our valley is 25 miles from the California/Oregon border. As of July 1, 2015 Oregon legalized recreational marijuana use. Again, the agricultural environment is ideal for marijuana grow farms. At last count, there were 25 licensed dispensaries in the Valley with many more applications waiting to be finalized.

Finally, the I-5 corridor runs directly through our city. Medford is the midway point for the drug and sex trafficking trade between Sacramento/San Francisco and Portland/Seattle. Meth is such a huge problem here that many locals choose to call the town “Methford” rather then by it’s own name.

I give you this information simply for context as a basis for the remainder of this thought.

There is a significant portion of our culture that regularly engages in illegal recreational drug activity. On a regular basis I have the opportunity to interact with various individuals who are under the influence of these illegal drugs. Never once have I thought that I should engage in illegal drug use in order to enhance my Christian witness. I suppose that I could, however, I recognize the dangers risks involved with that kind of activity and I see the damaging effects of that behavior and I make the choice not to engage.

On multiple occasions I’ve had the opportunity to engage with individuals who have fully embraced legal recreational drug activity. Those conversations have been interesting and engaging and valued by both parties. Despite the acceptance and wide-spread availability of these recreational drugs, I’ve never once thought that by partaking I could further my Christian witness. On the contrary, often times I’ve found myself very much relieved that I had maintained my faculties and was able to speak truth into the drug-enhanced discussion.

Wine-tasting events are an intricate part of the cultural language of the Valley. As is the art of craft-brewing. Many times after our Sunday services are over, I hear from various members of our congregation that they are going to a wine-tasting or craft-brewery event. I’ve attended events at vineyards and had some incredible kingdom-centered conversations with individuals who were drinking alcohol at the time. Yet I’ve never once thought my Christian witness would be enhanced or more effective if I would partake of the local wine or craft-brews.

Why? Because my Christian witness is defined by how I live my life. I’ve seen what the effects that illegal drugs has on families and I want no part of it. I can see how recreational drug use affects the faculties of those who use it regularly, and I’m not interested. I’ve watched how alchol weakens inhibitions and changes an individuals standard behavior, and I choose not to partake.

Being a Wesleyan doesn’t even come into the picture. What does come into the picture is that I believe that God has made me into a new creation. And as a new creation, I intentionally chose to live my life by a different standard than the world does. I don’t have a problem with people drinking or smoking or using illegal drugs, but that’s not for me. God did not save me from my sin so that I could moderately engage in whatever vice I feel like. That’s not the life I believe God called me to. I believe that God called me to be holy and in order to do that, I’ve got to be healthy, fit, and in control of my faculties in order to maintain that.

What are your thoughts?


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