Last week I read an article that both broke my heart and made me grateful. The statistics were released revealing the number of overdose deaths due to heroin in 2014. One thousand people lost their lives and their battle with addiction. That is a 33% rise in opioid-related deaths in two years. Although those statistics are startling the number of deaths due to heroin use is probably higher, as many times drug overdoses are not reportedly properly. I was grieved because of the lives lost. I was also thankful because there are people who are part of Restoration Road that are not one of those statistics. The reason they are alive and well today is because of the Gospel and the grace they received from a Gospel centered church.
Someone asked me last week “How do you create space in the local church for those who battle addiction”? I do not claim to be an expert on this subject but we have seen God do some awesome things in the life of those who battle addiction at Restoration Road Church. We are a young church but we aspire to be a community that shows grace to all, and sees God glorified through the liberation of many from the grips of addiction.
Here are some ways the Gospel has shaped us into a community that makes space for those who battle addiction. We are so grateful that God has made many who battle addiction our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Gospel teaches us to come as we are
Many people wrongly believe and teach that you have to clean up your act before you come to Jesus. The reality is we are only made clean by coming to Jesus. Unfortunately, many have mentally labeled those who battle addiction as unclean. Are those who have done or do drugs sinfully dirtier than all of us? Let him who is with out sin make that claim? The Gospel is not believe in Jesus and stop doing heroin and you will be saved! It is believe in Christ and God will transform your heart so you will no longer find your ultimate rest in heroin but in God.
The fist step to creating a culture where those who battle addiction feel welcomed and loved is having a “come as you are” mentality and heart. This should be the culture of every Gospel centered church.
The Gospel takes away the shame of the past
It is common for people to feel ashamed of their past. The truth be told, we all should be ashamed of our past if it was not for the Gospel, which relinquishes shame and guilt. Those who suffer from addiction often are ashamed to share there past. The Gospel causes us to not to judge people according to their past but to revel in the work of the cross that erases the guilt of our pasts.
We should be seeing God’s grace in the fact that a person is seeking God through attending church or showing interest in the things of God.
The Gospel gives hope for a future of sobriety
The ultimate way to see overdose deaths decline and a life of sobriety lived is a relationship with God and His people. People change one day at a time through a grace infused commitment to God and His people. This commitment is reciprocated by the Church in a ferocious devotion to everyone of it members.
I have personally seen friends who have formally been addicts live sober through there dedication to God and His Gospel. This is why all local churches need to create space for everyone to grow in a community fixed on grace.
The Gospel compels us to pray for allies in this war against addiction
Many pastors and those who are part of a church never have struggled with addiction. We need God to sovereignly send people who have a heart for addicts and maybe even have overcome addiction themselves to our local churches.
Pray that God would send former addicts who get the Gospel and want to share it, Men and Women who may run a program for sobriety or own a sober home, and other people who have connections to detoxes and half ways houses. These connections and people are vital to the mission. When people are in need of medical care and emotional care that the church sometimes cannot offer, it is important to have people and a place to refer them to.
My prayer and hope is that the local church makes the cause of overcoming addiction their own. Let’s create space in the local church for those who battle addiction to find sobriety and life in the Gospel.