Is God calling your church to help opioid addicts?

Ponder that headline for a moment.

I doubt that I would have to convince readers of the Florida Baptist Witness that drug abuse of any kind is an abomination before God.

Scripture is clear about how God views our bodies, and how we are to hold a similar view:

  • “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” Paul tells us in I Cor. 6:19-20.
  • “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” Paul says a little bit later, in I Cor. 10:31.
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship,” Paul says in Romans 12:1.

Despite such clear guidance in these passages and others, we too often struggle. As reporter Nicole Kalil reveals in “Messy Ministry,” the cover story of our current print edition, heroin has turned into an especially troublesome toxin for Floridians. The drug killed 779 Floridians in 2015, an increase of 80 percent from the previous year.

Nicole does a good job explaining why the opioid is especially addictive, and how too many people have fallen prey after first being addicted to opioid-based painkillers such as codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone and morphine.

Despite the power of these drugs, we know that healing—even healing from this awful addiction—can occur through the power of Jesus Christ. It is the only way that most people will escape their demons. So we must prayerfully consider what that means for us as Florida Baptists as we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ in our communities. And, regardless of where you are living or what your church’s demographics are, opioid addiction and heroin use is a problem in your neighborhood. These drugs are equal opportunity offenders.

And, for the moment, the church is behind.

Many congregations host Celebrate Recovery or similar programs. And these often work well to encourage people who have made it through the detox process. We need more churches that have the vision, passion and resources to help those who are still struggling.

Don’t know where or how to start?

The cover story in our current print edition highlights the messy ministries taking place at the Christian Care Center affiliated with First Baptist Leesburg, the detox residency program offered by Set Free by the Sea in Yulee and the event-focused approach used by West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton.

We did not intend to single out these churches to say their approaches are the only ways. In fact, leadership was more than willing to acknowledge the difficulties inherent in helping heroin addicts. But these churches were willing to get involved anyway. And they are willing to share their stories with you, and help you do something to serve your own community.

Not sure your church has the resources—or the stomach—for this type of ministry? There are other ways to get involved. Drug addiction in general, and opioid-based addictions in particular, are one of the primary reasons that innocent children have to be removed from their parents’ care and put in foster situations.

If you or your church is ready to get involved in this much-needed area, you couldn’t have a better ally than the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. They can be reached at 863.687.8811, or P.O. Box 8190, Lakeland, 33802.

But before you do anything, get on your knees. Ask God to give you the vision for what He wants you and your church to do in these critical areas. He is more than ready to guide you to where He is already at work in a way that brings glory to Himself and healing to your community.

Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention. A version of this commentary first appeared in the FBW's April edition.

Comments (2)

  • Betsy Millen Reply

    God bless you Kevin for writing this article. I wrote a letter to Dr. Peoples last year asking what we as Southern Baptists were going to do about this pandemic of opioid addiction. It is killing our young people and destroying families. Christ is the only answer against this demonic force sweeping our nation. Christians have to partner together to help addicts, many of whom unknowingly have become addicted through legal medical prescriptions for injuries and medical conditions. Hopefully the medical profession will start becoming more accountable after the Surgeon General wrote his letter last year admonishing the doctors for being participants in creating this crisis. Again, thank you for bringing this topic that so many want to avoid to the light!

    April 4, 2017 at 10:25 pm
  • Kevin Bumgarner Reply

    Betsy, You are certainly welcome. It is our prayer that more and more Florida Baptist churches get involved in this ministry so that God can redeem those whose lives are trapped in their addictions right now. It is only through the power of Jesus Christ that they can be set free!

    April 5, 2017 at 11:31 am

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