There is a five-step addictive cycle that can be destroyed by true spiritual transformation.
At any one time, 10% of Christian congregations are addicted (involved in damaging behaviors), 30% are compulsive (hearts preoccupied with pleasure), and all are eventually tempted. If someone tells me they do not experience temptation, compulsion or addiction, then my suggestion is to see a medical doctor. Something is medically wrong! Addiction and compulsion are common problems; we need an uncommon response.
We have experienced these as challenges. During my life as a pastor, I know I did. As a seminary professor and a speaker for our seminar ministry, I’ve had continued opportunity for honest dialogue with pastors.
Addictions appear to be a growing threat to congregations and to those in ministry. Four to five years ago, pastors shared with us the onslaught on their congregations from the Internet revolution. Men were perusing pornographic sites; women were catching their husbands and becoming outraged.
Through addressing the five-step addictive cycle, the mirror opposite of spirituality, the pastor has a tremendous tool. The cycle begins with unaddressed pain. The person takes the first step by avoiding the pain and pursuing some pleasure. To get this pleasure the second step is to go into isolation. Isolation allows the person to focus on the intended high from sex, food, drugs or something else.
The third step is into a fantasy world of false identities. This is a world where: calories do not count, eroticism does not degrade, drugs cause no harm, and the person becomes nothing more than a sensation. The fourth and fifth step is to initiate a “robotic like behavior” (like driving to a grocery store or turning on a computer) and to carry it out.
True Christianity and true spirituality transformation destroy each part of the addictive cycle. People need to be taught that the unaddressed pains need to be taken to a comforting Father in heaven. Christians must learn and practice relational Christianity. Instead of the lies, the false worlds, and the false identities of temptation, compulsion, and addiction, we need to teach Christians how to see themselves through an identity found in Christ, instinctively living the life God intended.
False identities and false worlds are created in the imagination, and it is just crucial that pastors and preachers learn how to systematically train their own imaginations and the imaginations of their congregations to embrace the reality of who we are in Christ and how God sees us and the world. A healthy Christian imagination is a blockbuster of a weapon for destroying addictions as we are living the life God intended. We need to train ourselves and our congregations on how to preemptively strike.
The fourth and fifth steps of initiating an addictive act and carrying it out can be addressed by restructuring the life and by accountability groups. But the real power of addiction proofing comes from addressing pain, associating with God the Father instead of isolation, and intuitively living out of our identity found in Christ (seeing ourselves as who we are in Christ, which is the way the Father sees us). Then, restructuring and groups will be successful.
To make a significant difference in the lives of individuals, we need to relate these truths to the addictive cycle. Join us in using this strategy and watch how lives are dramatically transformed when men and woman see themselves through an identity found in Christ while living the life God intended.