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FIRST-PERSON: Rescuing the perishing

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–The message in the large advertisement across the bottom of page 13A in The Brunswick Beacon Dec. 8 clearly identified the readers for whom it was intended. “LOSERS WANTED!!,” the bold headline proclaimed.

The unusual church advertisement that belonged to Open Door Baptist Ministries in the small coastal town of Shallotte, N.C., identified those invited to a series of special weekend services further: “Attention all drug addicts, alcoholics, and ex-cons. Wanted: the hopeless, broken-hearted and lonely ….”

The ad promised: “There is hope for you!”

The small congregation meets in a remodeled store, led by Pastor Larry Shreve and music director David Phipps, both of whom possess hearts of compassion for needy people. They and the other dedicated church members are determined to reach out to hurting and broken people across the beach community, regardless of circumstances or backgrounds.

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We had just arrived when the pastor pointed us to a small room that housed his desk (a small table) and three chairs. Soon a young man and his concerned father entered, and another tale of crack addiction was unfurled. It was an obvious opportunity to witness about how Jesus had rescued us, and this we did, pointing out our deep shame for our previous mistakes, but also sharing how His grace had been sufficient to rescue us from our dark, sinful pasts. The young man was at church the next morning, and now is waiting for admission to a Christ-centered treatment facility in the mountains. On Christmas, he called just to say thank-you, and assure his listener that he remains committed to walking in the steps of Jesus.

In reflecting on the efforts of the weekend, Shreve noted that some of his church leaders formerly were drug addicts or alcoholics. Their dedicated Christian lifestyle, he said, allowed them privileges of service.

We have often told our audiences, “It’s not who we used to be that counts with the Lord; it’s who we are today that really counts!”

God can use any of us, if we are only willing to surrender totally to Him and His will for our lives. We are all sinners, but thank God many of us have been saved by His shed blood on that cross. We have been washed as white as snow and we are new creatures in His sight.

How we wish that every congregation would open up the doors to the heart so that the perishing could be rescued. It is the task to which God has called us. Sadly, we who are members of His church are sometimes tempted to follow the examples of those in the lost world by doing only the things that make us feel good, such as associating only with those who look and act like us. But that is not the way of Jesus. During His brief three-year ministry he surrounded Himself with those who were broken and in need, seeking to make a difference in their lives.

As representatives of Jesus on this earth, we must never forget that His church exists to bring hope to those who are hopeless, to reach down and lift up those who are helpless, to feed the hungry, to mend the broken-hearted ones, and to provide company to the lonely. If we truly share His Good News, all of these miracles can become reality! And the family of God will be enlarged, and our Lord will be pleased with those who claim His name.

That little church in Brunswick County, so alive with a burning desire to be a lighthouse for those in need, has shown us all the way!
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Ted Stone and Philip Barber are Southern Baptist ministers who provide leadership to churches and individuals seeking avenues of hope for those involved in drug abuse. For information about speaking engagements or about the anti-drug HIS Way program, contact Ted Stone, Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C., 27702, or telephone 919-477-1581.

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