A place where it’s ok to not be ok

24 Sep

Last year (at Christ Church Bexley 10.30am) we followed the story of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. Again and again Jesus tears down pride and self reliance in order to lead us to salvation and joy in him. So one of the things we said was that we want to be a church where it’s ok to be not ok. To put it another way – we don’t want church to be place where we put on a brave face and all pretend ‘everything is ok, no problems here’. We want church to be a community where we live out the reality of the saving, transforming and sustaining power of Jesus Christ.

Now that is easy to affirm in theory but difficult to embrace in practice, particularly when our personal struggles move beyond the ‘polite’ sins (I drive too fast, I gossip, I spoke harshly to someone) into the realm of addiction.

A recent study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre found 18% of Australians will experience periods of problematic drinking within their lifetime, while 4% will become alcoholics. All told that means some 3.5 million Australians will have their lives seriously and negatively affected by alcohol. Most experts say that only 9% of them will be the stereotypical park bench bottle in a paper bag alcoholic. That means the overwhelming majority of alcoholics will be highly functioning, holding down jobs and to outward appearances just like non alcoholics. However, they have lost control of their drinking and this will damage their loved ones and kill them well before their expected life span.

But alcohol is only one of a number of addictions people struggle with in Australia. Addiction can range from self medicating on pain killers and narcotics, eating disorders, gambling, and pornography addiction. And then there are the family members and friends whose lives are damaged by the addiction of someone close to them.

Now we know that Christians are not immune from these struggles. Yes wehave forgiveness in Christ, the presence of God by his Word and Spirit and the encouragement of his people. Despite this, what so many people don’t realise is that addiction is a disease in which the pathways of the brain are different to someone without addiction. Mere willpower, New Year’s resolutions and determination cannot beat addiction. Tragically many Christians struggling with addiction get locked into a prison of denial, shame and the guilt that ‘I am a Christian, I shouldn’t have this problem…I have failed’. So often this is a secret struggle where individuals and families battle on behind closed doors too ashamed to ask for help. Think about it. How does someone say in Bible Study ‘My prayer point this week is that I drink too much…I am struggling with pornography…my Mum/Dad is self medicating on pain killers’? And so the private shame and struggle goes on. Too often churches have been silent or poorly equipped to help.

In response to this need, we have been running the St George Overcomers’ Outreach (OO) since 2011. It is part of a wider network of groups connected with Phillip Jensen and Penny Wilkinson at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

The OO fellowship seeks to be a safe and confidential fellowship for people struggling with addiction or the addiction of a family member. 12 step recovery groups like AA have been enormously successful in helping addicts find recovery. However, even though its origins were in the Bible, the name of Jesus is no longer welcome in these meetings. So non Christian addicts find recovery but no salvation and Christians with an addiction find recovery but no fellowship. OO seeks to be a bridge between the church and 12 step recovery groups. A place where there is safe, confidential fellowship (as we say in the meetings ‘what you say and hear in the meeting stays in the meeting’) grounded in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I tell you all this; 1. So you can pray for the ministry and the leaders, and 2. Some of you (and your families) may be suffering in that private world of denial or shame in addiction. There is a safe place of help and hope.

James Lewis

Overcomers Outreach (St George)

When: 3rd Monday of every month at 7.30pm (so September 17th, October 15th, November 19th, December 17th)

Where: Christ Church Bexley (cnr of Albyn and Dunmore Streets, Bexley) in the hall.

Contact:

John J (leader) – 0412 119 423 or john@raptor.com.au

Glenda T (leader) – 0431 306 039

Rev. James Lewis (Chaplain) – 9546 7291 or james.lewis@christchurchbexley.org

 

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