When Ted Stone presented his motion to create a drug abuse task force at the 1998 annual meeting of Southern Baptists in Salt Lake City, the messengers responded with unanimous approval.
Stone, who had already logged 700 miles on his second walk across America, challenged the concerned messengers, "If the Christian church does not lead in this urgent and crucial undertaking aimed at solving this serious dilemma, who then will lead?"
The task force was chaired by Dr. Richard Land, president of the Christian Ethics and Liberty Commission, and included the leaders of the twelve SBC entities. Jimmy Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, was appointed vice-chairman. Soon after the June meeting, Stone was invited to Nashville to meet with the officers and to make suggestions regarding future goals.
One of the original goals adopted by the task force was to encourage each of the SBC seminaries to include a substantial study of the drug problem and its answers in a major seminary course so students would have a working knowledge of the issue.
"Too many of our young ministers are going to their fields of service without any basic knowledge of this problem which is affecting so many of the people in our churches, as well as those whom they love," Stone said.
Stone agreed to serve as an encourager for each of the seminaries to help accomplish this aim. By the first week in May, he and his associate, Philip Barber, had visited with the faculty members of each of the six seminaries.
In addition to the original purpose of the visits, Stone and Barber also proposed that drug abuse conferences be held at each of the seminaries this fall or winter. The conferences would not be restricted to the administration, staff, faculty, and students, but special invitations would also be extended to church staff members and lay leaders in the areas served by the respective seminaries. The two ministry partners have volunteered to lead sessions for the conferences without remuneration. "These conferences are our gifts to Southern Baptists and to those whom we serve. Above all, we intend this concerted effort as a gift to our Lord," Stone and Barber explained. "God gave us both second chances at life. We know about the drug problem firsthand, and we are seeking to help others avoid the mistakes we once made. We bring a message of hope to those who hurt because of the drug problem, and to those who would help them get well," they explained, "and we pray that through these sessions this hopeful message shall become a way of life in all our churches.
"All of our seminaries have shown genuine interest in strengthening their curricula in order to better emphasize this issue," Stone continued. "And they have also shown sincere interest in conducting the conferences. Southwestern Seminary has already scheduled the two-day conference for Oct. 18-19, 2001."
Stone praised the six schools and their leadership for their positive responses to the task force recommendations. "The seminaries are in strategic positions," Stone said, "to spur further involvement by local churches in solving the drug problem."
Stone has been involved in this drug abuse ministry for twenty-four years, and he insists that "while one person can make a difference, I am convinced that our Lord wants this message of hope to become contagious among Baptists and others who serve the Lord. Then, victory can be ours! No matter how many prisons we build, no matter how many laws we enact, no matter how many drugs we confiscate, no matter how many users and dealers we lock up, this drug problem will never be solved until we begin to change the hearts of men and women. For those hurting because of drug addiction, Philip and I both will remind all who hear or read that the addiction must be replaced with something stronger. If that gnawing addiction is replaced by a true and lasting trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is true hope that you can actually recover and become well again. We both are former drug addicts — we are no longer drug addicts. We are recovered forever by the grace of God, and that hope can belong to anyone who has the drug problem!"