There is healing for those with addictions, whether they’re drug addictions, sexual addiction, or any other form of addiction.
The following material may seem highly specialized, aimed only at those with overt addictions or serving as mentors to those with addictions. But sin itself is massively addictive, and we’ve all been hooked on it. The general principles described here apply for all of us.
Anyone leading a recovery ministry must be a recovering addict with solid sobriety, while continuing to work rigorously at the 12 Steps as a model for those being led. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”1
The leader must not be above strict accountability and needs to have a mentor; someone who can help point out blind spots and keep him or her on the right track in recovery and in relationship with God. That mentor, as we noted, needs to be a recovering addict also. Otherwise, it’s like a golfer trying to train a football player. You have to have been through a certain landscape to know how to lead another through it.
Mentors can provide the model of a solid relationship with the Lord, health in marriage, and insight as a counselor and coach. It is also very important that mentors be the same gender as their mentees. The mentoring program is tough, without apology. It’s similar in tone to the kind of discipleship that Jesus offered: “ ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’ ” (Luke 9:58). He laid down the toughest challenges He could think of to prospective recruits like the rich young ruler in Luke 10, and they turned away in droves. He wasn’t worried about His numbers or His ratings. He wanted to know if those who chose to follow Him were serious.
It has been learned that whenever we are tempted to make the mentoring experience easier, it is almost always because we are trying to be liked by the mentee. This is not about making friends and having warm fellowship. It’s about doing some of the hardest, but most loving things anyone can do with another human being: tell the truth, especially the unwanted truth; model vulnerability by leading with our weakness; and perhaps even “fire” the mentee from the mentoring program because he or she’s not living up to commitments. These actions all take fortitude, a close relationship with the Lord, and access to others older and wiser in the program to advise and support you. If at some point your mentee doesn’t hate you, you’re probably not doing your job. Let’s face it, addicts don’t like rules, they don’t like discipline, and they don’t like being told no. All those functions are central to a mentor’s job description.
Mentees who previously had been fired are now some of the strongest mentors. They rose to the challenge, re-entered the program and finally made it through. They say being fired was the best thing that ever happened to them.
In some ways, these counsels are wholly applicable to pastors intent on doing their jobs and leaders in any of the ministries the church offers. Leadership is always challenging, and it requires amazing humility. In order to lead, we can’t just be nice. We need to challenge the men and women around us to accept the call God is making on them. And we need to face the call He is making on us too.
There are those in the broad field of discipleship who would argue that you can’t really do discipleship training except in the mentor-mentee model—that everything else is just fluff. That may be taking the case too far, but it is still clear that spiritual growth is fastest under this sort of model.
In the broad issue of dealing with sin in our lives, we need to understand that we cannot overcome by ourselves. God is working in us, and He invites us to find Christian friends who can help us be accountable too.2