Demonstrating God’s Power to Change Lives

Excerpted From
Loving Your Community
By Stephen Viars

Several years ago, I talked with a local sheriff about the pressing needs he saw in our community. While he was grateful for the church groups who came through the jail to offer Bible studies and prayer meetings with his prisoners, he said it would make an even greater impact to “stand at the back door and meet the inmates when they are released.”

Often these individuals have burned many of their bridges and are alienated from family and other support systems. Their criminal record also makes it harder to find employment. All of this leaves them ripe to return to the very people, places and patterns that resulted in their incarceration in the first place.

As we talked, it became clear the sheriff was not just spouting off impersonal statistics about recidivism. He cared about these men and women who had been under his care for many months, and in some cases years, and it troubled him to see them again as repeat offenders. His next question was both a challenge and a plea: Can the church help?

A Battle in Every City

My guess is that wherever you are, whether in a large city or the rural countryside, drug and alcohol abuse, along with other addictive behaviors, are on the rise. Quick internet searches will reveal statistics that are overwhelming. Local political, nonprofit or hospital foundations may also publish annual health needs assessments. I encourage you to carefully study this kind of data, particularly looking at the statistical gap between those needing treatment for substance abuse and those for whom treatment is readily available.

The numbers are staggering, especially when you consider that often the persons who need help the most can afford it the least. Please allow our sheriff’s question to deeply and prayerfully penetrate your heart: Can the church help?

Here’s the challenge—begin praying, dreaming and planning to open a residential treatment program in your town for men and women struggling with addictions. Perhaps you can do this as an individual church or a group of congregations working together. Every ministry context is unique. Whatever the case, helping people overcome substance abuse and other forms of addiction might be one of the most powerful ways you could love your community and demonstrate the bright light of Christ’s redeeming grace.

Building on Your Existing Counseling Ministry

I have been involved in the biblical counseling movement for over 30 years, and I’m excited about the number of people and churches around the world who are taking steps to get involved in biblical counseling. The thoughts in this chapter are a way to expand on a biblical counseling ministry.

If you have made your counseling ministry available to the community, you have probably come across individuals who are in need of far greater care than just a counseling appointment one hour per week. They may have been recently released from jail. They may be homeless or unable to keep a job. Perhaps they have a horrible story of abuse and are suffering in all sorts of ways. In short, these individuals would benefit greatly from a residential program that provides decent housing, daily mentoring, a job and an opportunity to reset spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally and relationally.

Can the church help?

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Excerpted from Loving Your Community by Stephen Viars. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2020. Used by permission.

Stephen Viars
Stephen Viars

Stephen Viars has served as a pastor and biblical counselor at Faith Church and Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries in Lafayette, Indiana, since 1987.