Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, we have with us Dr. Ben Marshall. He and his wife have been married for 24 years, they have eight children ranging from age 21 all the way down to 11 months. He spent the last 25 years in Washington State doing pastoral work, 10 years as a youth pastor, with 15 years as a counseling pastor. He received his undergraduate in Psychology at St. Martin’s University, has an MABC from The Master’s University and his Doctor of Educational Ministry in Biblical Counseling at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was certified with ACBC in 2008, became a fellow with us in 2020, and he now is the executive director for Freedom that Lasts. A ministry which equips churches to welcome, evangelize, and biblically counsel the hurting and addicted to grow in Christlikeness and wisdom in living life. And so Ben, that’s actually what I want to talk to you about today is the ministry Freedom that Lasts. So, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for taking time and talking to us about the ministry.
Ben Marshall: For sure, thanks for having me.
Dale Johnson: So let’s start there, what is “Freedom that Lasts”? I mean, I think for many people, they may not know about this ministry. And so, I want to give you an opportunity to introduce lots of people to Freedom that Lasts.
Ben Marshall: Yeah, so Freedom that Lasts is a ministry that is aimed at helping those who are struggling with addiction or hurting. So, we’ve got both categories to cover their suffering and sin. The addiction, the material absolutely spans that spectrum, and it started with a guy by the name of Jim Berg. He was having some contractors do some work in his house and he was just faithfully sharing the Gospel with each one of those guys who happen to be there and one guy in particular responded to the Gospel, and then said, “I need help. I’m struggling with drugs.” And so that started a relationship that went beyond what Jim could do in his home. Meaning this, it went beyond three months, the work started in the summer when Jim was off, he wasn’t teaching. And so he was looking at the schedule and he got to start teaching again. So, it went beyond that time span, but it also went beyond what they could house in their house. So they moved to the church and then things just kept progressing from there and other churches started hearing about what he was doing. So he formalized some of that stuff in, not some of it, he formalized all of it into an addiction or an adult addiction curriculum, a teen addiction curriculum, and even a prison or an institutional curriculum.
So really all of those now are represented under the Freedom that Lasts banner. There’s three books for adults, three books for teens and then two books for those who are in some kind of an institution. So the way that it works, there are FTL chapters and they’re kind of all across the country, even as I’m talking to you, I’m looking at the map on my wall and some see it flags popping up all over the place which is great, but those chapters then they meet throughout the week, a lot of them meet on Friday night, that goes all the way back to the beginning when Jim started working with the one contractor. He said, “I really need you to do this on Friday night because I get paid, I have a pocket full of cash and a whole weekend to use it.” So Jim agreed, and that’s just kind of stayed with it. So, a lot of chapters do meet on Friday. Some of them, that’s not a mandate, though.
Then there’s three basic components to every Freedom that Lasts night. There is a component where you’re just, some people might call it a testimony time, but what has God been up to in your life? And it’s not allowed to be negative. So listen, this is where I struggled all week. I thought for sure when I started visiting different Freedom that Lasts chapters there would be some dead time, that is not the case at all. As soon as that microphone starts being passed around, people are talking about what God has been up to and how faithful He has been, and then that transitions into prayer request time. Pray out loud for everybody and then moves into small group time or care group time, and that’s where the book material is unpacked. It doesn’t matter where somebody is at and which book they’re in, it’s all self-paced. That’s what makes this shine from my perspective, having run groups before there was always this issue. If you have a new person coming in, do we slow the group down to catch them up, or do we just let him flounder around and hope that they catch up all on their own? But with this being self-paced, literally, everybody in each care group is at a different spot in the book, so just fits with the program. So that’s the care group time and then it ends with a teaching time, and so, whether that’s Jim Berg teaching or Ben Marshall or whoever, and what we’ve done as a ministry is we have provided all of those videos to be downloaded. So, there’s a small church and they don’t have somebody who can teach or feels comfortable teaching whatever, there’s a plug-and-play option. They can download a video and that can be there during their teaching time, but those three components are what make up a freedom that last meeting and then some churches end with fellowship and food, but not every church does that. So that’s kind of Freedom that Lasts in a nutshell. I know, I just spent through that bag kind of shotgun that out. But that’s really what we’re doing. I’m getting more and more requests and sometimes it’s through kind of direct marketing, Facebook, those kinds of things, but a lot of it’s coming through word of mouth. So, I was on the phone two weeks ago with the church up in Canada. And that spawned another email interaction with another church kind of right down the street. We just brought out a church in Colorado, another one in Pennsylvania, it’s just popping up all over the place and churches are really looking for some help in this area, some structure to it. And because there’s no shortage of addicts.
Dale Johnson: That’s very true and I want to ask that question, that’ll be the last question I ask you today about a church being able to pursue Freedom that Lasts. But before we go there, and where you can get some basic instruction at the end, I want to talk a little bit about Freedom that Lasts and how it differs from a 12-step program. And the reason I want to ask that is because you know what people in our culture are most familiar with is a 12-step program, whether that be the biblical sort of version. You know, a lot of people are familiar with Celebrate Recovery or if we’re looking at AA or something like that. And so that’s sort of what people are familiar with. So, Ben, help us to understand a little bit about how Freedom that Lasts is different from those 12 steps.
Ben Marshall: Yeah, before I hop in there, I do think the one very attractive component to whether it’s a CR, or a 12-step, or, you know, whatever is I can go to this group and these people understand almost instinctively what I’m struggling with. I don’t have to worry about how are they going to view me or this, that popped out to me 15 years ago when I had to take over, it was called for men only. It was for men who were struggling with sexual sin and they were guys, by the time I handed that group off, we had about 50 guys and about half of them came from our church and half came from other churches. And they said our church won’t touch this with a 10-foot pole. It’s so nice to be able to come into a room and not feel condemned, not feel like, you know, I should have a big p on my chest for, you know, pervert or whatever. So I think the one thing that really makes a lot of these groups shine is, I can go and know, I’m in a group here that wants me to grow.
So now, what about Freedom that Lasts? How is that different? Our aim isn’t just sobriety and I want to underline and highlight bold “just.” We absolutely want people to stop the sin that they’re wrapped up in and I use that word sobriety because that’s a very common terminology, but if it’s a gambler, we want them to stop gambling. If there’s a drinker, we want them to stop drinking, you can pick the individual sin. We want them to stop doing that, but our goal is Christlikeness. And so, you can have a dry drunk, somebody who doesn’t drink alcohol at all but he’s angrier, you know, and scarier than anybody people know. And so, matter of fact, I’ve talked with people who said, I just wish so-and-so would start drinking again, because at least and then they fill in what was better about him when he was drinking than how he is now.
So we’re really shooting for Christlikeness and we absolutely are sold out that that happens through Scripture and Scripture alone. So with one, if somebody is faithful through the whole thing, they will have memorized 83 different Scriptures, and it’s my firm conviction that it’s the memorization of Scripture that the Holy Spirit uses them to transform the mind. And so, then if somebody stops doing something and I don’t know about you, but as I’m working with counselees, and we talked about, okay, what do you need to stop doing, boom. It’s just right there. They know what they need to stop doing and what do you need to start doing and there is like crickets there’s tumbleweed. That doesn’t necessarily, you know, just pop into their mind. And it’s the same thing with people at Freedom that Lasts, we need to help them figure out what to put on. Well, Scripture when it’s clearly unpacked, it tells us exactly what we need to be putting on in order to be transformed more into the image of Jesus. So that’s what we’re shooting for. I think that the hesitancy that I’m hearing from pastors is yeah, but will that be attractive to, you know, those who are coming right off the street or those who have been in the drug war? And my whole thing is the ones I’m familiar with who are at the end of their rope, they’ve hit rock bottom, whatever you want to call it. They’re already, people are already looking at me in a horrible light. I’m going to come in here, you’re promising something, and I’m going to ride on your promise for a little while. And let’s see what happens. And those are the testimonies that we’re hearing week after week. This is what God did in my life as I was faithful to obey His Word. And you know, my son who I haven’t talked to in 15 years called me out of the blue. Well, we know, it wasn’t just out of the blue, God is sovereignly working and orchestrating things, but from their perspective, it’s out of the blue and so they’re just they’re watching as I’m faithful to be obedient to Scripture both in the putting off and the putting on, as my mind is being transformed I am becoming a whole new person.
That from my perspective, that’s the amazing part. And what I have found is this is one of the easiest ways to introduce people into that front-row seat of biblical counseling, where they might be a little bit too intimidated. Like I don’t think I could sit there by myself in a room and know where to go, what to do, all those kinds of things. I just say, great, you don’t have to be by yourself. You’re in a team with you in a Freedom that Lasts group, and you can watch these things happen without the pressure of just being by yourself. I’ve often told supervisees or students, biblical counseling often feels like wrestling. That’s what I did in high school and, you know, you’re on a team. But when you’re out on the mat, it’s just you and that other person, it sure doesn’t feel like a team. So, but with the Freedom that Lasts the group approach, you definitely feel like you’re on a team. I think that is what makes us different is the Scriptural approach and the sanctification approach.
Dale Johnson: Now I want to talk about that. We mentioned the 12-step; I want to talk about the way that Freedom that Lasts differs from Celebrate Recovery. I mean, they would use passages of Scripture in that sort of thing, so that would be a little bit closer to what we’re talking about here with Freedom that Lasts. Talk about how those two things are different. CR’s approach and FTL’s approach.
Ben Marshall: So without being able to sit down and just kind of compare side-by-side, as I read CR material. Here’s a thought. Here’s some Scripture that seems to align with that thought. And as opposed to here’s Scripture, I mean that all of book one the only thing that we’re doing is unpacking, second Peter chapter 1 verses 5 to 7. Each one of those categories, saving faith and virtue and knowledge. We’re just unpacking each one of those in the order that Peter gave them in the order that God wanted us to have those. And then we’re practically applying that as opposed to a much more pragmatic approach, which is, here’s our idea, let’s go to Scripture and find that idea in Scripture and kind of staple it to that. That’s my terminology as far as stapling Scripture. So, you know, the question is where did that idea originate in the first place? Did it originate in Scripture or did it originate somewhere else? And I’m going to Scripture to try and prove that, so it’s what I would call proof texting and most of CR is going to proof text in what they’re doing. Now, some of those things are going to line up. So as I’ve talked with other people they are like, well, what about this? What about this, okay, I can’t argue that but what I can argue is the rhythm of what you’re doing is here’s an idea, most of it’s coming from 12-step material, let’s find in Scripture something that seems to match up with that and then claim we’re pulling this out of Scripture and that seems to be backward from a faithful hermeneutic, so…
Dale Johnson: Yeah, so I mean I would add to that just the paradigm that a person sees a problem matters most, so if they’re approaching it from, you know, the paradigm is sort of a 12-step or a principle approach, then that paradigm is going to change the way a person sees themself. And now the means of change is okay the Bible is helpful but it’s not central. The Holy Spirit can be helpful to sort of nudge me across the line, but he’s not like necessary and central. To me that becomes problematic because biblically the way we define a problem helps us to understand what we’re seeking for as a solution, and people might say, well, Celebrate Recovery uses the Scripture. Well, it’s one thing to have the right end or the goal, right, but another thing to have the means to get to that goal so they have a goal of sobriety. Well, sobriety that’s an okay goal, but it’s really short-sighted because you can wash the outside of a cup and if you’re not watching the inside of the cup, what you’re getting out is not godliness. You’re actually you know, just conforming the outside, so we can say we have a similar goal of you know wanting to exhaust Scripture or wanting a person to not be drunk or not be captivated by this whatever they were addicted to, and you justify the means and it becomes a problem where now we can use a 12-step program to accomplish this, and that that’s an issue. We need to have a proper goal and then means that come out of Scripture to help us to achieve that goal where we see not just the external value of the Bible, but it’s necessity to accomplish this work in the depths of the human heart over wrestling passions and desires that have to have this person captivated and these are not things that we can do with our human wisdom. We can’t overturn or overrule those issues in a person’s heart.
And so, that’s what we’re talking about as the distinction here that I think is so helpful and the focus of Freedom that Lasts. I think that that helps to push, you know, an addict in a direction that is redeeming and helpful and we don’t talk about in terms of recovery, but renewal like that a person is absolutely renewed in their heart, in their mind, and then it flushes out in their attitudes, and behaviors all the way around. And so I think that’s that’s really helpful. Talk for just a second, Ben, I know Freedom that Lasts, it is definitely one of those ministries where you guys are put together, useful things, helpful things in the church, but there’s some other folks, as well. Will you talk a little bit about, you know, some of those other ministries as well?
Ben Marshall: Yes, one of the overarching ministries is The Addiction Connection. Mark Shaw is at the top of that, and he has “Be Transformed Next Steps” curriculum, I believe it’s 18 months long. So very thorough. I think that is a huge alternative. I got commissioned with The Addiction Connection just a few months ago. So that is definitely a like-minded ministry. I’m speaking at their annual conference in August, so I would definitely encourage people to look at that. I have talked to other people who said, you know, that it’s meant to be used in a variety of different settings and so it might not be as structured as a Freedom that Lasts group, but the material that’s there is still outstanding and so, I would just say to anybody who’s listening, if you come across any kind of material run through The Addiction Connection, send the name of the ministry, the name of the book, there is a good chance that ministry has had interaction, they know that material well and they could give you good feedback on, you know, is this approach to addiction a Biblical approach or is it more of an integrated or even just purely secular approach? Because whenever you’re talking 12-step, there’s always going to be a spiritual component. And so, if a pastor is just looking for something spiritual, they’re going to find it in almost every single 12-step program, so they need to change their, what they’re hunting for away from spiritual to biblical, and then kind of referencing what you just mentioned. There’s a difference between referencing Scripture and ministering Scripture, and so, what they’re looking for is some kind of an addiction approach that is ministering Scripture, not just referencing it.
Dale Johnson: Yeah. And that’s a huge distinction, and I’ll echo exactly what you said, Mark has been doing this a long time and really appreciate that brother and he was actually very influential and helpful for us at ACBC to do our specialization in addiction, our training that we do for our certified members. The specialization that one could obtain, Mark was very helpful and influential in that. Now, burning question that I’m sure or maybe a couple of questions that our listeners may still have about Freedom that Lasts, and how does a church participate with Freedom that Lasts, how do they start to utilize your curriculum? How do they start to implement this there? How do they train some of their leaders? All of those things that, man, I get excited when I think about a church that can Implement some of the things you’re describing it becomes very missional to the most downtrodden in their community and how does the church accomplish that type of work with something like Freedom that Lasts?
Ben Marshall: Yeah, the easiest ways is to get in touch with me. They can go to Freedomthatlasts.com, and on the webpage there, there is a link where it will send me an email automatically and I will get right back in touch with them and we can set up a Zoom link for us to talk and if it’s a pastor we can talk, if it’s a lay member, we can talk. They want to invite, I mean there’s all kinds of different ways that we can go about connecting people to what we’re doing. I do love what you just said about being missional, having just moved to the Greenville area. I’ve never had to try and find a church before in my life. I’ve always been employed at the churches that I went to, but we landed on one in an area of Greenville that is a little bit on the economically depressed side of things, a little bit more transient, but we landed there because their heartbeat is for that community and we’re taking advantage of the Freedom that Lasts, my connection there to equip our people and then to help minister to our community. And our goal is we want to see men and women come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as well as being changed in this life, not just into the next.
So, I’m excited to see how this rolls out. We had our first meeting just yesterday with 10 people and our goal is to have this thing fully launched by the end of August. So, if people are listening to this and like, how long does it take to get something up and going? It could be relatively short, but I think the wise approach is get people onboard familiar with what’s going on. Do a little bit of equipping, and we have the ability to do that. We’ve got videos, I can zoom in, all kinds of ways that I can help churches be ready to open those doors. And what I have been telling people is, without sounding super cheesy, you build it, they will come. I have found whenever you tell people in a very genuine, open way, I want to help. I’ve got the tools to do that. They trust you, and so, they they show up, so kind of getting back to your question you know, if people are interested in getting one up and going contact me, Freedom that Lasts.com. There’s a button right on there that will send an email directly to me, even if people are just curious and if there are people who are listening to this and they have, you know, either a light affinity towards CR or a very strong connection to CR and they love to talk more about that. I’m even open to that as well. I want to help as best I can.
Dale Johnson: Great. This has been great. Ben, thank you so much. And for so many people who may have never heard of Freedom that Lasts. There are ministries out there that are biblically faithful and trying to help churches to minister in these particular areas. So, thank you, brother. Appreciate your time.
Ben Marshall: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
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