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FIRST-PERSON: A rescue station for sinners

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–When we recently asked the congregation at Pearl Baptist Church in Iron Station, N.C., “How many know of someone who is lost, whether family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor?” there was a sea of uplifted hands.

We then asked, “How many of you have a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who has some kind of drug-abuse problem, whether with legal or illegal substances?” once again there were upraised hands all over the auditorium.

That same morning we had shared the message of hope that has become this ministry’s distinguishing mark with those at the First Baptist Church of Baileyton, Tenn., which is just across the North Carolina border. One of the great needs to be addressed at the church, Pastor Robert Lutz said, was habitual use of marijuana by a large segment of the local teenagers, many of whom had no church roots.

The hurting and broken hearts of those who come to hear our message — and their loved ones who are sadly missing — provide continuing evidence that there are Christians who no longer deny that there are pressing needs related to drug problems. They ache for workable solutions. The drug problem is certainly rampant, and while some of these are saved ones gone astray, many of these involved are lost and without hope. If the Christian church does not rise up to the challenge with the good news that Jesus delivered, who will? Sadly, no one.

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Many of these broken people are yearning for some glimmer of hope, but they have been taught by the shortcomings and misconceptions of the established church that the church is for good people, and not for sinners who hurt like them. In many of our churches we have settled into a false comfort zone in which we associate only with the lovable, with those whose background and present lifestyles resemble ours. We are uncomfortable with those who are besieged with urgent problems. We have become entranced with our tragic game of “let’s pretend.” In other words, “Let’s pretend that no one is hurting and lost. Let’s pretend that everything is alright.”

And yet, honesty demands that we own up to the truth. Many of our family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors are lost, and a devastating number of these are ensnared in the drug tragedy.

They have no hope unless they can turn to Christ. They know that we as Christians claim to be followers of Jesus, and since He has descended to heaven, we represent Him. But we have forgotten the words of Jesus in answer to the complaints of the Pharisees and scribes, who questioned why the disciples spent so much time eating and drinking with sinners and publicans. “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick [do need one]. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Have our churches become places for saints to rejoice and feel good about themselves? Or will we busy ourselves with the Master’s business? We hold the solutions for those who cry out for help. We must tell others what Jesus has done for us, and what He can do for them. He is still in the miracle-working business.

On this fourth walk across America (June 18 through Aug. 20), we will seek not only to evangelize the lost and rescue those whose lives are being destroyed by drug abuse, but we will seek to inspire the faithful to reach out with the love of Jesus to these who are hurt and broken. A church without an open heart to such people is a dead church.
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Ted Stone is a Southern Baptist minister who provides leadership to churches and individuals seeking avenues of hope for those involved in drug abuse. He will set out for his fourth walk across American — this one running from Chicago to Pensacola, Fla. — June 18. Churches interested in getting Stone to speak along his walk across American should contact him at Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C. 27702, or telephone 919-477-1581.

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