Addicts and Millennials Together in Church on a Week Night?

One evening this week, I was feeling sorry for myself. After visiting the dermatologist. I came home with two blood-red biopsy scars on my nose…about an inch apart. And a lot of allergies from the budding cottonwood trees meant I had to handle my runny nose with TLC. My nose looked gruesome after I ditched the band-aids. Dang it, despite this I am gonna go to the local church meeting.

There must have been 700 people in the auditorium when the first song lit up the stage. Lean on Me. An old favorite which boosted my spirits right there. The words and tune spoke to me (see words below). And the place was rocking, with most of the audience singing along with the ten folks in the band, which included a hyperactive drummer.

A girl with glasses across the aisle from me was swaying back and forth to the music, and looked to be about 30. In front of me were two women, mother and daughter I would guess, with the daughter about 20. Next to me were two men clapping energetically, both under 30. I think I may have been the oldest person in the hall.

As the songs turned more to worship, the beat and the volume continued. But now about 10% of attendees were raising a hand to God. I raised my hand, and instantly felt better…..good to remember my position in the universe, and acknowledge my need.

The Lord is my Shepherd. Painting by Eastman Johnson (died 1906). Click to enlarge or to source.

More surprises:
• The song leader had been a drug dealer in his previous life. He looked to be about 45, with a scar down one side of a rugged face.
• Also, he spoke easily and directly about addictions and broken people, and that God provides peace and solutions. This reminded me of Jesus’ time on earth.
• Although the millennials (under 30) seemed to be in the majority in this audience, there was a wide range of ages.

• The pastor gave a talk about deception, and how we hide from it. Those reasons  are (1) fear of consequences, (2) shame because we have failed again, (3) others would reject us if they only knew.
• He talked more of pornography than other addictions such as alcohol and drugs. But he talked openly about all these. Gutsy talk. Unafraid to call a spade a spade. The solution is to bring hiding things to the light, he said.

• He asked us to write on a white card one thing we were hiding. I did. At the end he challenged us to drop the card on our way out at the foot of a large wooden cross in the foyer. I did. Along with many millennials.

After the talk, we could choose one of many support groups to attend. These included Men’s addiction, Women’s addiction, Anger, Codependency, Clean, Guardrails, Blended families, Divorce care, Grief care, and Stress-Anxiety.

I dropped into Stress-Anxiety, where about 40 people gathered. The leader, a professional therapist, talked about the Three Phases of Stress: (1) Alarm (fight or flight for a man or tend and befriend for a woman), (2) Resistance (the body eventually adapts to the stressor), and (3) Fatigue or Exhaustion (burnout after long-term exposure). The leader finished by talking about God’s cure for damaged emotions, based on Psalm 23 “He restores my soul”.

We all get hurt – life is tough, he said. Sometimes we get beat up by discouragement, depression, and despair. Other times we have hidden hurts from our past. We carry wounds, battle scars, and emotional garbage. God wants to restore our soul: Let God remove our guilt, relieve our grief, and replace our grudges, because these three things keep our emotions unstable.

Altogether, it was an impressive evening. Impressive how this church is providing a venue for the broken people to come and feel welcome (aren’t we all broken or broken-hearted at times?). It’s also impressive how they are reaching the millennials. I can’t help thinking part of the secret is being direct and honest with the young people.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters,
and he restores my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Psalm 23).
Lean on Me by Bill Withers (1972) (click on the link to hear the song)

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
And we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me

Withers’ childhood in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, was the inspiration for “Lean on Me”, which he wrote after he had moved to Los Angeles and found himself missing the strong community ethic of his hometown. He lived in a decrepit house in the poor section of town. (From Wikipedia).
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Sherrie Greenville
Sherrie Greenville
10 years ago

Great article Ian. I pray your nose heals quickly! I was surprised this morning in prayer time when I could not remember all the lines to Psalm 23. Time for me to re-memorize.

10 years ago

Thanks Sherrie. My nose is progressing. I have memorized certain verses that I know and say when I or others are uncertain or unwell. But you reminded me that I haven’t expanded this list for quite a while.

Dale Bryant
Dale Bryant
10 years ago

A good post, Ian! I have experienced all of those things you mentioned in meetings of believers I have been a part of. It is so refreshing to receive insight and uplifting and nurturing and possible solutions instead of condemnation and rejection when seeking God.

10 years ago
Reply to  Dale Bryant

An astute comment Dale on emphasizing the positive and redemptive aspects. Hope to see you at Anna Maes in a week or two.

10 years ago

Okay, I just have to ask — what are the classes in Clean and Guardrails? Hey check it out — my book is now a collectible. LOL That sounds like a great meeting at your church with that many people there. Renee and Howard have turned me on to Church on the Move here in Tulsa with their worship leader Andy Chrisman (sp?) who was the lead singer in the Dove winning group 4Him. For the first time in my life I actually sing at the top of my lungs and nobody can hear me. I love it! And there’s nothing like raising your arms in praise to get your spirits lifted. I had never thought of that song by Withers as if it were from God, but what a blessing if we do. Thanks for sharing, as always.

10 years ago
Reply to  Donna

Donna, I knew that someone would ask this question. I don’t know the answer, but suspect that those two groups may include sexual mores. I agree with your comment about the song “Lean on me”, and also find it especially uplifting when I think it could refer to God, as well as human helpers. The song has been in my head for a day and a half!

10 years ago

Dear Ian, one question: why are we scarred by events of life? One answer could be: because we forget that events of our lives come to make us grow and to push us onto the path that our soul has choiced to go in this life. If we can remember this and just be like children faithful in the Father’s hand that drives us, we would never be sad and despairing or depressed, but instead grateful to our Father who is our Shepherd. Ps 22-23

10 years ago

Your suggestion is a mature way to think about life-scars Anne-Francoise. Thanks for sharing.

dave nawrocki
dave nawrocki
10 years ago

thx, wish i’d been there too!

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