The new normal in churches today is that people are struggling with drug addiction in unprecedented numbers. Opioid abuse in all its forms is epidemic. The reality is that in the confines of any church, someone is suffering in silence, enslaved to some addictive substance or behavior.
Acknowledging that, it becomes imperative for the church to take a stand in the fight against substance abuse and addiction. But before we can help, we need to understand addiction and its power over people. What begins as experimentation can quickly become enslavement.
How do I know? Because I lived that life for nearly 20 years. It wasn’t until I recognized my addiction to alcohol as a sin that Jesus brought genuine healing to my life.
How does a church establish itself against such a secretive enemy? It’s not difficult. Start with prayer. Church leaders need to pray for the courage to recognize that the addiction problem is alive and well in the confines of their congregation. As much as we like to think our flocks are obedient, compliant and without blemish, sheep wander. And at times they wander into very dark, dangerous places.
Once the problem has been faced, it needs to be talked about openly. And the discussions need to be frank and honest. If you’re a pastor or church leader who has overcome addiction in your own life and you acknowledge the grace of Jesus Christ as being instrumental to your restoration, you need to talk about it. I believe the thing that allows my ministry work to thrive is that I’m vocal about where my addiction took me and how — only by Jesus’ grace — did I come out alive.
As much as we like to think our flocks are obedient, compliant and without blemish, sheep wander. And at times they wander into very dark, dangerous places.
Churches must be vocal in their desire to love on those who have been broken by substance abuse. Stigmas, judging and condemnation need to go out the window. Addicts need to be embraced as people who are made in the image of God. Their loved ones need to be taken in with the same care and compassion you would give someone who has lost their home, because loving an addict can make for a very isolated, discouraging life.
Pastors have to find the shepherds in their congregations. They’re out there. The turning point in my life took place when I shared my story one night in a Bible study. Then, my pastor told me I needed to be share my story on a larger stage. One Sunday he let me stand in the pulpit and speak openly about my struggle and how Jesus redeemed me. Since then, there’s been no turning back. I believe every church has someone with a similar story, praying for the chance to share.
Once those leaders are found, it’s all about outreach. Form a group. Eight years ago, the Holy Spirit guided me in the development of One Step Ministries. We provide support, counsel and other assistance to both addicts and their loved ones. We operate out of Apex Baptist Church and the response from both the church and the community at large has been positive and significant.
As sound, biblical outreach grows, so does community support. Through One Step, I work cooperatively with hospitals, treatment centers, law enforcement agencies and clinicians who appreciate the role Christian faith plays in offsetting the horrible destruction addiction brings to their respective communities.
As I counsel individuals who are struggling with whatever substance they’re struggling with, whether they are believers in Christ or not, I find that all of them light up to some degree when I tell them this — “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” That promise holds up when it’s presented with loving conviction from the church. Then it can be taken to heart, where true healing begins.