LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–For Ted Stone, visits to Southern Baptists’ six seminaries are no less important than his three previous walks across America.
In a way, they’re even more important.
His walks across America — all since 1996 — were done to call attention to the nation’s drug and alcohol problem and to point people to what he says is the only solution — a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His current tour of the six Southern Baptist seminaries shares that and other goals. Stone and his associate, Philip Barber, are touring the seminaries in order to better prepare seminary students for ministry among those with alcohol and drug problems. Both men are former drug addicts.
“It is my firm belief that those who attend seminaries need to be prepared to meet this drug problem head on when they get out into the fields of service,” Stone said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 3. “It is also my firm belief that those in the churches need to be better prepared to solve this drug problem among their church members.”
In addition to Southern Seminary, Stone and Barber have already visited Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
The conferences, titled “Freedom from the Drug Tragedy,” are a result of a motion Stone made at the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City for the seminaries to give special attention to drug awareness and drug prevention.
Stone said the drug problem in America is a result of Christians depending solely on the government for solutions.
“We’ve enacted stronger laws,” he said. “We’ve hired a ton of new law enforcement officers and we’ve built lots of prisons. And the drug problem is still here. … It’s very easy for us to stand here and say, ‘Well, the government failed.’ No, we failed. For a long time the church was extremely silent.”
Stone pointed to one myth that he said must be destroyed: the belief that drug abuse occurs only by drug addicts in dark alleys of large cities. Drug use, he said, can occur in even the most spiritual of Christian homes.
“Drug problems happen in the best of families,” he said. “It could happen to you. It could happen to somebody that you love. I pray to God that it will not happen, because I firmly believe that the drug problem is something that does not have to happen.”
In his conference at Southeastern, Stone used himself as an example. He said he was saved at the age of 10 and grew up in a Southern Baptist home. He went to the “right kinds” of schools and attended Wake Forest University. But a friend introduced him to amphetamines and he became hooked. Stone said in the span of 14 months, he went from taking two capsules a day to taking 15 capsules a day.
“It’s by the grace of God I’m not dead,” he said.
Stone called the person he once was “a monster to be feared. I eventually shot a man in a robbery, and only by the grace of God did that man survive. I was arrested. I was charged with six armed robberies and attempted murder.”
But he is quick to point out that “even though I turned my back on God, God never turned his back on Ted Stone.”
Jesus himself, Stone said, set the example that all Christians should follow.
“We forgot that Jesus spent those three years of ministry with those who are unlovable, with those who couldn’t pay him back,” Stone said. “He was often in the dark alleys with those kinds of people when people searched him out.”
In fighting the drug war, Stone said, Christians must be proactive instead of reactive, always keeping in mind that anyone — including teenagers — can develop a drug problem. Open discussion between parents and children is important.
“A lot of times we’ll close the doors when we punish [children] every time they’re honest with us,” he said. “Pretty soon they’ll stop being honest with us because they don’t want to be punished.
“I would rather have my children talking with me than being silent.”
Barber mentioned a list of reasons why people try drugs, including the desire to feel good, the desire to be “cool” and the desire to rebel.
“We believe that Jesus is the answer to America’s drug problem,” Barber said at Southwestern Seminary Oct. 18. “It only stands to reason that we as Christians ought to be leading in efforts to bring relief from and find solutions to the drug tragedy.”
Stone and Barber are coauthors of two books, “The Drug Tragedy – Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy – Hope for the One Who Cares.”