Any Christian watching the news lately has learned about the grim reality many American’s are facing today – opium addiction. The opioid epidemic has been ravaging communities across the United States, taking over 33,000 lives in 2015.

Many Christians believe addiction is fueled by the lack of spirituality in America; however the faith community isn’t immune to these problems. With an estimated 2.5 million of our neighbors currently addicted to some type of drug, there is a high likelihood that you know someone that is greatly affected by this epidemic. It’s too big of a problem for Christians and the church to ignore anymore.

There are people in our church, leading community groups, teaching Sunday School classes, and sitting on our church leadership teams who are possibly unware or have a secret addiction to pain medication, often the result of an injury or recovery after surgery. For most Americans, this wasn’t intentional, nor was it anticipated. This new reality for them can be scary and shameful, making it incredibly hard for them to reach out for help or confess their struggles to people they trust.

As the opioid crisis worsens, the Christian response needs to grow. Christians can be a beacon of light and hope for those in the darkest places of their lives. Here are some things that the church and Christians can begin doing now to help.

Openly Speak About the Problem

One way to pull people out of shame is by bringing the problem out in the open. Sometimes, you need to talk about a topic first for someone to feel comfortable enough to also bring it up. Has your church ever spoke about the crisis in a sermon or similar? Tell others in your congregation that you feel God is calling Christians to meaningfully engage with the opioid crisis. You might be surprised how many people you reach, and will come up to speak with you about their personal stories.

Plan a Worship Service on Addiction and Recovery

Have you ever spoken to church leadership about the opioid crisis? Many church pastors think it’s a good topic to hold a worship service covering the issue but haven’t yet for whatever various reason. You can work with your church leaders to offer resources, bible studies, and worship services dedicated to addiction and recovery. There are tool kits online full of information on how to go about such services.

From there, you can consider leading an on-going ministry. Your locality might not have any detox facilities or inpatient treatment centers due to lack of funding. The church can step in and open their doors in situations like these. While a church cannot be a hospital, there are other options such as hosting Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Pray For Guidance and Compassion

When in doubt, Christians are told to pray. Winston Churchill once said that “Christians can be counted on to pray, after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities.” Action is incredibly important here, but through prayer can help Christians find the guidance needed to see new possibilities and opportunities for them to help. We need to pray for wisdom not only for ourselves but for our leaders. What’s going on requires right policies but ultimately it transcends policies and even good ideas.

We also need to pray for compassion. While it’s tempting to point to people’s bad choices, but Jesus asks us not to judge. We’re called to do the works of God in the midst of a hurting world. This, not assigning blame, is what restoration looks like. We also can pray that God will mobilize us to follow the examples of Christians throughout history who, finding themselves in times and places of significant crisis, dove head first into the problem—not away from it.

If we are open to signs from the Lord, and if we listen to the needs of our church families and communities, God will raise up churches to combat this emerging health crisis. Stand up as a Christian and begin taking action, so that the broken, sad and addicted of the world can find a beacon of hope.

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