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FIRST-PERSON: There is a better way

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–We have agonized for years over the potential disaster awaiting those who have completed a stay in a primary treatment center.

These individuals, still weakened by what often has been a longtime battle with drug abuse, are ripe for a fall, unless they encounter dedicated encouragement in the outside world. As we have so often proclaimed, Jesus is the only source of permanent hope for those who hurt. And we who claim to be his followers are entrusted with carrying our His mission. The old hymn entitled, “Rescue the Perishing,” should be the battle cry of the faithful.

The Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous organizations seek to provide a safety net by convincing the addict that the effort to become free from drug abuse is a lifelong battle, with no hope for permanent recovery. They urge these dependent persons to incorporate the higher power of their own understanding into this “forever” recovery process, but they fail to define who or what this higher power is.

For years we gave a measure of praise to A.A. and N.A. for the human miracles they attempted to provide in the lives of men and women entangled in the web of addiction, recognizing that the Christian church had failed to provide the necessary leadership in this field. At least those in Alcoholics Anonymous cared enough to attempt to provide assistance. But we knew that any program without Christ at its center and without the hope of permanent recovery, at best, could only provide temporary relief in human terms. And we also realized that many of those entrusted to this method of support would fall again and again. We do thank God everyday for those who have walked the A.A. path and found a measure of success in a sober lifestyle.

At the conclusion of every worship service in which we share this ministry of truth and hope, we give an invitation for those who have loved ones hurting because they either are lost or because they are suffering from drug addiction — or both — to come forward and kneel with us, praying to God for a miracle in these lives, promising our Lord that we are willing to be a part of these miracles in whatever way He leads.

Once, an elderly man slowly walked down the aisle. Obviously experiencing a great deal of physical pain, he knelt to pray. When he had finished his cry to God for help in his particular loved one’s life, he attempted to get up from his kneeling position. The lady who accompanied him offered assistance, and when he had struggled to his feet, he turned to us with a tearful smile and warm embrace, acknowledging, “I’ve been free from the bottle for 20 years. It wasn’t A.A. that freed me from alcohol. It was Jesus!”

After much prayer, and observation of so many failures among those who tried numerous types of support groups, we believe that we have found a better way. Nearly a year ago we spoke to the congregation at Central Baptist Church near Wendell, N.C. On that first visit, there was a spirit of caring evidenced in conversation and deed. Later we mentioned to Pastor Ed Rose and Assistant Pastor Bill Kincaid that we were searching for the right location to try our new idea for a support group for recovering addicts that would encompass the two essentials we considered vital for success.

A few weeks later, Chris Mullinax, a relatively new member of the body of believers at Central Church, who had himself tasted the bitter fruits of drug abuse and then abandoned his wayward life, called to say that his pastors wanted to meet to give serious consideration to establishing a local support group.

It was by divine appointment that we came together in that first meeting. The words of Pastor Rose set the tone for the initial session, “Our church is determined to get out in the trenches where people are hurting and bring them into the family of God!” The fervor of his devotion swept across the room.

When we explained that mentors (encouragers) for the recovering individual would be necessary from the church body, the three members of Central all agreed that they were confident that their men would be up to the task.

One mentor would be assigned to each man entering the program, we explained, and there would be one weekly general session for the entire group, mentors and those seeking to overcome their addictions. … a time for a Bible-based study emphasizing God’s purpose in the Christian’s life. Each mentor would also hold an accountability session with his assigned recovering individual weekly, and would maintain daily contacts of encouragement. The mentor would also seek to integrate his charge into the full mission of the local church, so that he would come to realize that he, too, was a significant partner in the body of believers.

By the time of graduation, the individual would be able to boldly proclaim that he was recovered forever by the grace of God, and hopefully, that he was now ready to assume his coveted position as a servant of God through the local church body. We will be persistent. We will never be satisfied until this great day comes.

Those present agreed that this local unit, and those to follow in churches across the Southern Baptist Convention, would be known as “His Fellowship of Overcomers.”

We reminded each other that once a newcomer inquires about being a part of the program, we must first discover the spiritual condition of this hurting one. Is he saved or lost? If he has never savored the fruits of salvation, we must immediately introduce him to Christ as Savior, and through the mentorship seek to elevate him to the state where he can truly acclaim Jesus as the total Lord of his life. If he is obviously still suffering from the pangs of addiction, we will first refer him to a primary treatment center that is Christ-centered, and when that treatment is concluded, we will relish the opportunity to mentor him, by the grace of God, into a status that will please God and honor our Lord Jesus.

Pray for us as we seek to meet this great need. We will be happy to share the significant essentials of this effort with your congregation if you, too, wish to go into the trenches where those who are hurting cry daily, “Help me. Help me!” If we who claim Christ as our Lord do not answer, who then will heed these cries?” Only those with the wrong answers!

The words of Pastor Kincaid still ring our hearts, “When God’s up to something, He wants to get us involved!” After all, we’re family.
Ted Stone and Philip Barber are Southern Baptist speakers and writers on the subject of drug abuse. Contact them through Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C. 27702, or at (919) 477-1581.

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  • Ted Stone and Philip Barber