A pastor recently asked me if I thought it was worthwhile for churches to try to run their own “recovery” ministries when they could just refer people to recovery groups, therapists, or parachurch organizations like Regeneration.
Without hesitation, I answered with an emphatic, “Yes!”
When it comes to life-dominating sins or addictions, thank God for humble church leaders who point their people to others who have the gifting, experience, and specific training to address these issues well. But even so, it’s a mistake for those in recovery to think they don’t need a local church or for a local church to think they can’t help.
God has given His Church powerful tools necessary for “recovery.”
Here are five:
Admission of Guilt:
When a man or woman shares at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar group, they begin with a humble admission: “Hi, I’m [Name] and I’m an alcoholic.”
In the same way, the Christian church is not a group of people who believe they are self-sufficient, smart, holy, and have it all together. Just the opposite. Walking into a Sunday morning worship service is, in essence, a way of publicly declaring, “Hi, I’m [Name]. On my own, I am bound by sin and death, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t break free or heal myself. I need Jesus and all of you or I’m lost without hope forever.”
(Wouldn’t that be a great way to start a Sunday service?)
Christianity is a faith that understands the connection between sin and darkness, and conversely, between holiness and light. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6, 7).
This means telling the truth about the specific wrongs we’ve done. In a word: confession.
Knowing we are beloved by God and secure in the new identity He’s given us in Christ, we humbly confess to each other the sins we’ve committed, we seek forgiveness, and we take steps to restore those we’ve hurt with our sin.
At the heart of any addiction or life-dominating sin, there is a lie—a carefully constructed alternate version of reality that tells us we are the center of the universe and we can have life on our terms. The serpent wove this alternate reality around Eve as he lulled her with the ideas that her Creator wasn’t benevolent, and that the fruit He forbid her wasn’t poisonous but would make her wise. She mused on these words and they changed what she saw as real. And so she rebelled. Since that time, the world, the flesh, and the devil have continued to conspire together to rewrite reality in their own image.
When God stepped into history at the Incarnation, we couldn’t even recognize our Author. Jesus’ words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32) are an invitation back into what is real (His story).
His Holy Scriptures—informed by the historic teachings of the Church and illuminated through the presence of His Holy Spirit who has come to lead us into all truth (John 16:13)—are like a splash of cold water, rousing us from our slumber and able to open our eyes to real reality again as we read and submit to their teachings.
Our first father and mother listened to the serpent with their ears, looked with their eyes, considered with their brains, reached with their hands, and ate and digested with their mouths and stomachs. We sin with our bodies and so our bodies know corruption, addiction, and death. Likewise, we experience the sins of others through our bodies. And so our bodies need a remedy.
Adam and Eve “took and ate” (Genesis 3:6), and so opened the gates for sin to reign in our mortal bodies and death to reign over our bodies. In reply, God did not just offer good advice or kind sentiment. He became blood and flesh. Jesus bids His Church to “take and eat” of His body (Matthew 26:26). When we join together at the Lord’s table, we proclaim His death and we partake of the physical bread and wine for the sake of our bodies. Why? Because our bodies need rescue. And this is so true for those bound by sin and addiction.!
As Leanne Payne used to teach, we are designed to worship. Whether sex, success, sports, spouse, self, or something else, we will worship something. And everything we worship conforms us into its image: We either become like the worthless idols we follow (Jeremiah 2:5) or we look to the Lord and become radiant (Psalm 34:5) as He is.
The world we live in would occupy our lives with chasing after worthless idols, exalting ourselves in pride, or stumbling under the weight of our sin and shame. The local church provides us with at least a weekly opportunity to gather together with broken, needy brothers and sisters in need of a Savior. We gather together as we are to lift our faces in humble yet joyous worship to the One who made us, loves us, sought us, saved us, and is saving us.
Should churches be about the business of recovery? They already are!
Leave a comment below. In what other ways does or can the local church be involved in recovery for those caught in addiction or cycles of sin?