The word addiction is open to all kinds of theories, which is one reason some Christians try to avoid it. Slavery is more specific. But the word addiction is a useful point of contact that essentially says, “I like this, or at least I once liked it, but I certainly never planned to be owned by it.”
How do you approach addictions in your church? Here are eight questions for pastors to consider.
- Would those who are struggling or trapped in sin come to your church?
- Do leaders in your church know what to do if someone confesses addiction to them? Does everyone know what to do?
- Do you have enough of a relationship with local law enforcement to know what kind of addictions are in your area?
- Do you have someone in your church who has a special affection for those who struggle with addictions? If so, how do you encourage this person in ministry? Pastors frequently ask about starting an addiction group in their church. If you are interested in one, a group usually begins with one or two people who pray together for themselves and others.
- Is there a standard testimony in your church? Does it suggest a victorious life in which struggles are eventually behind us? This can inhibit openness. Or does the standard testimony in your church suggest that you have to hit bottom before you can really know Jesus? This can inadvertently become the prescribed way of coming to Christ. When possible, we hope for a growing cache of diverse stories.
- Do you have conversations with other pastors about their experiences and how they approach addictions in their church?
- What guidelines do you have for your care of those who are enslaved to pornography or drugs?
- Do you approach those who come forward and confess their addiction differently than those who are discovered and reported to you?
- What does your pastoral care to an addict look like? One common guideline is to move slowly through the person’s history. This helps you identify unique contributions to the addiction (parental neglect, shameful rejection, specific failure and their impact) and bring Christ to them all.
- How is the person and work of Jesus Christ meaningful in your care of addicts? Do you use everyday language and accessible images or do you fall back on theological jargon?