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By Lance Rhoades

“Why are [local] churches doing so little when it comes to the opioid epidemic?”

This question was posed to me at a recent gathering of politicians, community leaders, police officers, recovery agencies, and concerned citizens hosted in downtown Pittsburgh. I was the only pastor in the room. “It seems to me that people would turn to God when they need recovery help,” the person added.

The use of opioids in our community has been growing at an accelerated pace. Dealing with recovery is an overwhelmingly complicated challenge, and people are divided as to what approach is most successful. This division among organizations and limited access to public funding create a caustic environment among those who are providing support.

I want to see that change.

Tree of Life Open Bible church serves with an Opioid Action Coalition in our community to help bring together resources, empower those who need support, and, most important, form a new rhetoric regarding recovery. Over the past year we have been attending monthly meetings, listening to what other organizations are doing well and cheerleading their successes. At our church we have supported families who have lost loved ones to addiction, conducted countless funerals at no cost for those who have overdosed, and even trained our entire staff in providing emergency care to save lives when a person is overdosing.

In December of 2017 we hosted the South Pittsburgh Opioid Action Coalition’s resource fair to “End the Epidemic.” The fair brought together over 20 organizations that provide aid to those in any state of addiction or recovery. Each organization brought information, support, and even training opportunities to help families in need. We invited a local news anchor who has overcome addiction to be our speaker. One of the recovery agencies even catered food (made entirely by people currently in recovery) for everyone to eat!

The turnout was astounding! In attendance were police, EMS workers, politicians, people who had lost a loved one to addiction, family members of those in various states of recovery, and local news media. As a final note, attendees learned how to use Narcan, an important tool that can help save a person’s life. Those who knew someone who could overdose were even given a dose to take home. Hosting this event quickly positioned Tree of Life Open Bible at the top of a short list of organizations that are providing support, thus giving us an opportunity to help those who are struggling to find the true answer, Jesus Christ.

Hosting an opioid fair at your church is easier than you think. The first step is choosing to overcome the stigma of addiction and beginning to form a hope-filled rhetoric in your congregation and community. Gather resources and contacts, ask questions, and connect the dots. Celebrate the successes other organizations are having in your community. Building bridges of resources in your community will save lives and create opportunities for you to introduce Christ to those affected.

Odds are high that a large number of people in your church have abused drugs at some point in their lives. Discover their stories and look for common denominators. Learning about these people is the first step in becoming effective in this crisis and positions you to be able to make a personal impact at your own event.

What would it look like if you could empower those people from your congregation and community who have a past of abuse with a vision to see your community free from the afflictions addiction brings? Cast that kind of vision and transform your city! People are looking to turn to God in their recovery. Help them find Him at your church.

About The Author

Lance Rhoades

Lance Rhoades is a pastor, church planter, and entrepreneur. He was dramatically touched by God as a teenager and moves under a strong prophetic mantle. His heart is to see the world reached with the message and the power of God. He lives with his wife, Amanda, and three children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.