Something was not right in the way he sounded. It was like listening to a movie character, the kind you wouldn’t want to hang out with. This was a family member I had known all his life – and yet it wasn’t the same person. What happened next was even worse, as I confronted him with my assessment that he was using.
There was no denial or admission, just angry, defiant words. “How do you know? Don’t make accusations you can’t back up! Don’t cause me any trouble or else!”
I warned him that he could lose everything – his business, his family, even his integrity – unless he stopped and got help. His response: “Don’t ever talk to me again! I’m done with you.”
Others have tried to reach out, too, but our words and offers to help are ignored or blocked by some unseen wall. This painful experience is not made up; it’s an all-too-real story of our time.
Recently a dear brother shared with me about a relative who runs a crematorium in a relatively small town in Maine. Every month this man cremates about 15 people who died from drug overdose. For such a small community, these numbers are especially shocking and disturbing. And this is only one area of New England. Very few churches – and even fewer communities – have not been touched by this growing epidemic.
My recent personal encounter has brought the situation of addiction to the forefront of my mind. When something like this happens close to home, you begin to evaluate what can be done. You look for professional help, then you look to the church, your church.
Sadly, too many churches have either been asleep on this issue or have become resigned to think that we can do nothing at all to help. But shouldn’t we have a burden for these? A pastor friend said to me, “I can’t get the words of Fanny Crosby’s hymn – ‘rescue the perishing, care for the dying’ – out of my mind.”
So what can we do? What do we have to offer?
I’m reminded of the man who brought his son to Jesus, complaining, “I brought my son to your disciples and they could not heal him.” (Matt. 17:16)
The Lord’s rebuke of unbelief was followed with the instruction, “However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matt. 17:21) Unbelief, Jesus said, was the cause of their spiritual impotence and it is often the cause of ours as well. So let’s start with prayer and fasting. Then, let’s get practical.
Sam Rainer suggests four ways that churches can help with the addiction crisis: foster children, listen to the neighborhood, partner with schools and care for families. You can read more here.
The BCNE is currently making plans to help churches who are interested in serving those affected by drugs. In the next few weeks, we will be bringing on a point person whose job is to resource churches in starting and sustaining addiction ministries. If you’re interested in connecting, email Sandy Coelho at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Bruce James serves as director of church growth and evangelism at the Baptist Convention of New England.