By Pastor John
Working in the addictions ministry presents its challenges. As a pastor, I face an array of different emotional, mental, and spiritual problems. One of the most difficult things I run into as a pastor in a drug rehab environment is people with resentments against Christianity and the church. People have left my groups when I started to talk about religion (even warning them beforehand that I would). I’ve had patients curse at me, be combative with me, not want to talk to me, avoid me, and overall want nothing to do with me just because I have the word “Pastor” on my name badge. It makes me wonder what must have happened to them in the past to make them feel the way they do. Who betrayed them? Who hurt them? What happened to make them so angry with anything associated with the church?
This started to make more sense to me after meeting with patients who opened up to me and experienced healing from some of their resentments. I’ve heard many stories about people being hurt by the church since I started in ministry. This made me realize that we are evangelizing to a pre-churched society. We are not having encounters with people that have never been to church, but rather, with people who grew up in church, and for whatever reason fell or ran away. How do we show Christ to people who don’t like him because of the Church’s mistakes?
First, we need to show them the love of Jesus—exceed their expectations in loving them. Forgive them if they have lashed out at you because of who you are. Respect their beliefs even when they insult yours. Show them the same grace that Jesus himself extended to you. This is the only way that you will gain the relationship equity required to share your beliefs and actually be heard.
Second, find common ground with them. Show them that you are a real person with real struggles. Don’t elevate yourself above them. The “holier than thou” complex is a lie anyway. You and I were saved by God’s grace alone and we have nothing to boast about. Show people that even the good things that you do are all because of God’s grace. Show them your relationship with God by giving him all the credit for your success.
And lastly, realize where they are in their journey now. Don’t compromise the truth but at the same time don’t shove your beliefs down their throat. Having these encounters are not apologetic arguments, but rather they are opportunities to show people Jesus, to promote relationship over religion, and to give people the hope of the gospel.
Pastor John Hall – Associate Pastor
Pastor John serves as an assistant pastor and worship leader for church services at The Treatment Center and Recovery Church in Lake Worth, Florida.