PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP)–Each face in the room told a different story of addiction. But as hands that once grasped drinking glasses or drug paraphernalia flipped through the pages of God’s Word, faces broke into smiles and tears streamed — a typical Thursday night scene at Pine Summit Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
“My children didn’t know their mother as a Christian until now,” shared a young woman named Kathy. “It is a blessing to be able to tell the true way. I am so thankful that I have made myself available to God.”
Kathy is a member of The Most Excellent Way, a program designed to help addicts and alcoholics become God-dependent rather than chemically dependent.
“It’s not just about being clean and sober,” a member said. “It’s about changing our lives through Jesus Christ.”
Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, recently held a two-day training conference and workshop designed to assist other churches and Christian organizations interested in forming a Most Excellent Way group.
“Olive began this program about six years ago with five people participating,” said Eddie Echarri, Olive Baptist’s community outreach coordinator. “Within weeks, the number increased, bringing us now to an average of 50 to 60.”
Echarri is the southeast director for The Most Excellent Way, which originated under the direction of Glenn Wright in 1986 at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego.
During the Pensacola workshop, Echarri, Wright and northeast director Dick Watson shared their personal testimonies of lives broken by addiction that now are broken in spirit for Jesus.
“I came to know Christ here at Olive five years ago and The Most Excellent Way drug and alcohol support group was a most needed ministry for me,” Echarri said. “It helped me to not only know Christ, but to know that my victory over drugs was through Jesus. I was very blessed that the only church in Pensacola that had a Christian support group was the church that God put me in.”
As a result of Olive’s ministry and Eddie’s ever-increasing burden to minister to addicts, Pine Summit Baptist Church and Christian Life Fellowship in Milton are now offering The Most Excellent Way meetings.
The Most Excellent Way began as a small prayer group started by Wright in an effort to minister to addicts and alcoholics. As word of the meetings spread, the group’s size almost doubled in every session. With the help of his wife, Judy, Wright developed the leadership of the program.
It was Judy who suggested the name, The Most Excellent Way, as she read 1 Corinthians 12:31 (NIV). It has proven to be a name that is remembered.
After two years, The Most Excellent Way became a nonprofit para-church organization, filling requests from churches, rescue missions and hospitals.
“We have never had to advertise. People have come to us,” Wright said.
A former alcoholic, Wright understands the bondage of addiction: “I will have been sober for 20 years in May. I have experienced the difficult struggle to be free from addiction, and I understand the needs of others who are affected,” he said.
The vision for The Most Excellent Way is to reach out to chemically dependent individuals using the principle of Win-Disciple-Send. The organization seeks to approach those in need with an attitude of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
“The quality of love we desire to share is agape — the ability to accept and forgive one another just as God, the Father, accepts and forgives us because of our faith in Jesus, his Son,” Wright noted. The organization teaches that the enemy [Satan] is in total control of the addict’s life and that the only true release comes from Jesus Christ.
The group’s Christian alternative to chemical dependency is God-dependency. All of its principles for recovery are based on God’s Word, as expressed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount — the Beatitudes particularly.
In a variation from the familiar 12-step recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, The Most Excellent Way is home to the “Ten Attitudes of Victorious Living.” Those 10 attitudes, found in the Sermon on the Mount, are used as an outline for permanent change from the chemically dependent life.
“Using Christ’s sermon as our foundation causes us to examine our hearts and attitudes in order to have self-control, to be renewed in our minds in order to think before we act, and to live the spiritual life by putting off the old and putting on the new,” Wright pointed out.
The Most Excellent Way involves regularly scheduled fellowship and support meetings each week. The meetings provide a safe harbor for people to express their faith in Jesus Christ, and a place for unbelievers to find Christ and his genuine love, Wright said.
Because of the growing need for ministry to chemically dependent people, The Most Excellent Way has been translated into Russian, Spanish, German and Polish. The organization now is forming a special program to target teenagers.
Cooper is a correspondent for the Florida Baptist Witness newsjournal.