Because of recent studies and investigations into the church, we know that many churchgoers are struggling with addiction, in equal numbers as non-churchgoers. This has raised a great deal of concern within the church about how to address and combat addiction, which affects a large number of church members in the form of alcohol, drug, sex or gambling addiction, as well as a number of other documented addictions. If a person is living their life resembling the teachings of Christ, there should not be a need for indulging in an addiction or escapism at all. This begs the questions: how can we bring an end to addiction within the church?
This is a complex spiritual matter that calls for intelligent analysis in order to resolve. Addiction is a prevalent part of the human condition and can be found in every demographic of society. If it were easy to conquer, it would not exist in the numbers that it does. Addiction cannot be defeated by going to church. Addiction can only be defeated through the love of a perfect God. God’s love can be discovered through church, but spiritual warfare begins with the individual, as does spiritual revolution. The choice to lay down one’s life before God is deeply personal and cannot be made for you.
Do not buy into the lie that you can indulge in your addiction and not hurt yourself and others. Addictive behavior is selfish behavior, and it will negatively impact yourself and those you care about. Because we are believers, we already know that there is no peace, freedom or happiness for us outside God’s will for us. God sets us on the path to freedom, and when we veer away from it in an attempt to control our lives, we wander into spiritual traps such as addiction. If this is the situation you have found yourself in, do whatever it takes to change your behavior, whether it is counseling, rehab or self-help literature, and recommit your life to Christ.
The addiction problems that exist within the church are unsettling. Recent studies have found that addiction exists as much within the modern Christian church as it does in secular society. This is disturbing because it shows that, despite the Christian value of letting God influence every part of your life, most people are restricting God’s access to parts of their life. It is part of Christian theology to never place anything higher than God in your life, but these cases of addiction within the church prove that many people prefer escaping into pleasure more than going to God in surrender.
There are a number of reasons why people are indulging in this behavior.There are many problematic thought patterns that lead to addiction slipping under your spiritual radar. Many people justify addiction by reasoning that if they are hurting anyone, it is only themselves. Addiction obviously does not wrong another person on the same level that stealing or physically injuring does. However, not only does it emotionally wound those who are close to you, but it is also destructive to your body and your soul, which the bible says are the temple of God. There is no denying that addictive behavior is sinful behavior.
Many also tell themselves that if no one but them knows about it, it cannot possibly be a severe sin. One only has to take note of the numerous times the bible tells us that God sees our heart to know how errant this thinking is. God cares only for the condition of our hearts, not for how we appear to others.Surrendering addiction and trusting God enough to live without one hand on the escape hatch is not meant to be easy. In fact, it is supposed to be a true test of character. God wants to know that we rely on him heavily enough to be able to forego the things we are tempted to escape into. This is not to say that God wants us never to feel pleasure. He created us to enjoy a number of pleasures. But when we put these pleasures before him in importance, it is heart-breaking to him, and inspires the kind of jealousy that a wife would feel toward an unfaithful husband.
Recent studies and investigations into the church have revealed that Christians struggle with addiction as much as secular society does. This information has changed the way we view the church and how well the church body applies the lessons of faith they claim to live by. However, even more poignant is the knowledge that church leaders are also addicts far more often than we would guess. This was recently illustrated in the media by the horrific claims coming out of the Catholic church about the sexual relations that priests had with alter boys. This is an extreme example of criminal sex addiction that took place within the church, but other studies have revealed that pastors, priests, deacons and elders within the church are also susceptible to addiction at alarming rates.
It would seem that church leaders succumb to addiction under the same reasoning that church members do. They tell themselves that as long as no one knows, no one can be affected by it. They convince themselves that indulging in their addiction secretly will keep them level and happy so that they can serve their congregation better. They also convince themselves that corruption will not enter into their lives through their addiction because they are righteous, so as long as no one finds out about it, they will not leave an impression of addiction on someone who is spiritually weaker than they are. For this reason, church leaders tend to protect the secrecy of their addiction fiercely.
It goes without saying that their logic is erred, and their behavior is unacceptable. Firstly, indulging in an addiction is putting it over God, and anyone who believes they are free of consequences in this regard is deluded. Putting anything over God in your life creates a foothold for the devil, who will not cease to pick at you until your life is unraveled, which is exactly what addiction does to people. Secondly, believing that you can be an addict and not affect the lives of the people you care about is also an illusion. You will inevitably hurt the people you care about because you are ignoring God’s commandments and the spiritual character that he has called you to.
Church congregations look to their leaders for spiritual guidance, which is why it is disastrous for a church leader to fall into the binds of addiction. When pastors, priests or deacons succumb to addiction, they place themselves and those they are an example to in jeopardy. Addiction is an inherently selfish condition that places a substance or a behavior on a higher pedestal than God is on. This can only lead to destruction. When a church leader recognizes that they have been overcome by addiction, it is very important that they seek addiction treatment immediately before they attempt to continue their profession.
Selecting the right rehabilitation center is the first step in the recovery process for addicted church leaders. It is important to find a reputable rehab that incorporates Christian teachings into its treatment program. Christian church leaders should be aware that there are some treatment programs designed specifically for church leaders and similar professionals. Many treatment centers focus on certain groups of people, typically related professions or professions with comparable demands. There are particular addiction treatment programs for those who are in ministry such as a Christian alcohol rehab or a Christian drug addiction center.
If the addiction is to a substance, the church leader will go through a detox before beginning the psychological treatment program. This is to rid the body of toxins, reset the sleep schedule and get the body and brain alert for reconditioning. It is worthwhile to conduct this process under the care of professionals in order to prevent relapse and ease the unpleasant or dangerous symptoms of withdrawal.
After the detox, the church leader will enter into the psychological exploration of why they became addicted and how to change their thinking. Christian rehabilitation puts God at the center of all the cognitive behavioral exercises that are conducted. Dependence on a higher power for the strength to deny addiction comes back to God. Healing for the painful moments in a person’s past comes back to God. Thinking intelligently and with reverence to mental and physical health comes back to God. Clients will also have access to meditative, therapeutic recreation such as nature walks, and to spiritual nourishment and worship time through regular church attendance.