How the church misrepresents healing of addictions

Now, a post title like this deserves a long and fair answer. Lacking the time, I’m only going to address one issue–that of the healing process with addictions. If you ask a person in AA how they defeat addictions they will quickly point out the need for God (or higher power) and the need for community in changing their lifestyle. They need a sponsor, they need to feel they are fighting with others to maintain their sobriety. Will power will not be enough.

I suspect that most Christians would agree. But, here’s the problem. When we are asked about the healing agent for any sinful or repetitive problem, we point to Jesus. True, without God we do not have a shot of defeating our nemeses. When we talk like this it can sound like an isolationist, just me and God, healing process.

One of my students said it well. When he got saved out of his addictions he got new friends, new discipleship activities, and a new view of the reality of addictions (friends died). He had new activities to replace the old, new reinforcement patterns, etc. And, while he points to the saving grace of God, it wasn’t an isolating event.

That is our problem. We continue to think of our sanctification as a me and God experience. AA does a better job (often) than the church in reminding each other of the need for support without any condemnation for needing years and years later.


Filed under addiction, biblical counseling, christian counseling, Christianity

9 responses to “How the church misrepresents healing of addictions

  1. And too often, in the church, people fail to see sanctification as a process we’re all in. Instead, they get weary of the addict not just being transformed already.

    We want instant healing…not long-term accountability.

    Great post!

    • Great way to put it. While we recognize our own need for a process of sanctification, we don’t want to admit the need for it in others lives. And so we collude with them not to be accountable.

  2. Scott Knapp

    I wonder if our “just Jesus” responses are intended to minimize the dirty work of involvement (addictions are messy to begin with)…sort of like a “referral” to Jesus. I got lost in the Cleveland Clinic, where I frequently take my wife for treatment, so I asked the first guy I saw with an official Clinic badge how to get to my intended destination. Not only did he offer directions (for future reference) but walked with us to the office we needed to get to. I had a much more positive impression of the Cleveland Clinic after that.

  3. Joy

    Excellent!!! That’s the key: being free from addictions isn’t an isolating event–just me & God. AA does have it right–there’s a need for support without condemnation, but rather love, hope, and faith. Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this matter.

  4. Accountability is said by clients to be a main factor for why they take actions to change. If they know someone is going to be asking them and they acknowledge the need to change, they will make far greater progress. The school I work for trains both Christian coaches and counselors, and in both areas, holding the client accountable is huge. Thank you for your insightful post.

  5. Lou Buses

    A good read and helpful workbook for addiction counseling is The Heart of Addiction (and Workbook) by Mark Shaw. We presently have three counselees and their accountability partners working with this with good success. It moves from a psychological model to a Biblical model of addiction without becoming simplistic. It is not too difficult to understand, which is important for my counselees, most of whom barely finished high school. It covers the bases of physical, spiritual, relational and intellectual understanding of the struggle. It also gets the counselee involved in body life and the body involved in the counsele’s life.

  6. Carmella T

    I really like this post, Phil. I find that many believers (considering I work so much with addictions) become very discouraged when they hear of stories of people who “got saved” and were “healed”, claiming to never have an urge again. While I believe God can do that, I do believe it is very rare, doesn’t reflect the physiological componants of addiction, and can leave believers who were not likewise “delivered” feeling abandoned by God…

    While I have a lot to say about this, it mostly boils down to what you said- the lifestyle changes and support system/internal work.

  7. Pingback: Understanding Addiction and Recovery |

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