Hello, and welcome to the IBCD Care & Discipleship podcast. We are on sight at Mission Hills Church in San Marcos, California for our 2017 Institute, and we are interviewing some of our keynote speakers. Today we’re delighted to have Mark Shaw with us, and Jim Newheiser is also joining us. So we get to talk a little before the conference starts. So, Mark, glad you could join us.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Mark, I was wondering if you could tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and the ministries that you’re involved in with biblical counseling?
Well, the first thing I guess you should know is I’m a pastor and so my heart is for shepherding God’s people. You do that with the Word of God and you rely on the Holy Spirit. To do that in the area of addiction is unique in the church today.
A lot of people do other things and so I love to lead people who think that the church is irrelevant for their problems. I love to help them with the understanding that the Word of God speaks to the heart of addiction.
I work in a unique setting. I work at a women’s residential program. I’m the pastor and the executive director of Vision of Hope. It’s at Faith’s Church in Lafayette, Indiana. I get to shepherd a staff of about eight ladies. We have eight staff members. We have 12 interns who come from all over the world to serve there. And then we have beds available for 26 residents who struggle in the areas of addictions, or eating disorders, self harm habits, and unplanned pregnancy. Those are the four primary areas that we help ladies with.
So that’s what I get to do and all of that in the context of the local church. Our ministry is not a 501c3 stand alone. We are part of the fabric of the local church, woven into that. That’s the part I really like about what I get to do in ministry.
Yeah, wow. You know, I sent you an email, I think it was today, and the auto-responder popped back because you’re here, and it listed this huge list of, “If it’s related to this, contact this person.” I just couldn’t believe how many different contact things were going on, and part of what I wondered is what your day to day life looks like involved in those ministries.
It’s chaotic. I guess that’s the way to put it. No, I oversee Vision of Hope, and then we’re working on a human trafficking ministry, which is fascinating. We’re trying to work with the state of Indiana to provide a safe house for girls that get caught up in prostitution and trafficking. We help these girls out of that.
The idea is they’re wards of the state, so the only way that you can have access to these kids is if you are a licensed program to do so. So if you are, then they give you the children and you can help them. We’re planning to do that with biblical counseling. The state is not as inclined to biblical counseling, as you can imagine, so that’s gonna be an interesting walk to see how all that transpires. So I do the human trafficking.
We have a house called Safe Haven that we have people stay in who are in trouble. The house is designed to help people with temporary homelessness. It could be a fire or flood. It could just be down on their luck or whatever situation, but they can live in that home, and we can help them for about 30 days to get on their feet to get to the next permanent place where they live. So I do that as well.
Then write books, and teach, and do stuff, so it’s fun.
Yeah. In the ministries that you’re describing it sounds like they’re involved in the community and then working with the state. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you’re able to interact with those things and biblical counseling?
Yeah. I started out really wanting to help people. I wanted to be the next James Dobson. That’s who I was reading. I never dreamed that the local church could help people. I didn’t know anything about biblical counseling. I began to take biblical counseling classes from a guy named Lou Priolo.
God used Lou to open my eyes to see that, “Wow, the local church should be doing this,” and so then my goal changed from being a James Dobson to being a pastor and shepherding people in the local church, and helping people to use the Word of God wisely to help counsel hearts. So I don’t know if I remember the exact question. I started rambling there. What-
Do you have any background in training that would help your interactions with the government as you’re trying to create these programs and interface.
Yeah, I got a Master’s degree in educational psychology, and my initial eight years of work was all in the social science network. So I worked for mental health centers, and I worked in different capacities as a director of programs and that kind of thing. So all that experience in those institutions qualify me to do the human trafficking stuff.
Then I have, now, the biblical counseling stuff. You know, I have the Master’s in biblical counseling and Doctorate of biblical counseling, etc., etc. I have some secular credentials. I’m an addictions certified counselor, so I have that. I have both of those worlds right now.
I’m tailored made for this arena. We’re trying to make it very biblical. We’re trying to use biblical terminology, and it’s an interesting road. There’s a lot of pushback, and change, and that kind of thing with the state. They just think differently about it.
I appreciate Pastor [Viers 00:06:40] at Faith Church, because he says they’re pushing their religion, whether they realize it or not, with psychology being a religion. They’re pushing that and we are saying, “Hey, this is legitimate, too,” and really, more legitimate, I think, than the stuff that they’re pushing for Freud and all that.
I think we can really offer these girls help with that human trafficking program.
What are some of the things you come up against most frequently that they’re seen differently? What are some of the most common things, especially for people listening who just aren’t familiar with all the ins and outs of those dynamics?
The way that the world counsels is therapy and medicine. That’s what their hope is in and that, somehow, you’ll magically find the answers within your own self. We know the answers come from God’s word and by his spirit. That’s what changes one’s heart, motives, and desires.
They just believe that you help the girls, you get them on medicine, and you create a safe environment for them, which we want that, as well, but then their method of change is not one that brings, really, any lasting hope. It labels them. It gives them medicine. It keeps them, I think, from finding the freedom that’s available in Christ.
We’re going to do counseling. The world says do counseling. We’re going to do it in a Biblical way and offer them anger management skills, but do it in a Biblical way. Everything that the world has to offer, we can offer in a Christ centered, gospel-centric way.
I had a question. I’ve actually had the opportunity to supervise people who are your interns, I think, or one who’s your intern at Vision of Hope. One thing that impressed me is, those people are working … I gave the analogy, “You’re not working the maternity ward, you’re working in the trauma unit.” I would assume you’re dealing with addictions, you’re dealing with the really hard cases.
I guess I’d have two questions. One would be, how do you keep yourself and others encouraged, because I’m sure there are a lot of cases where people continue in their sin, which is not your failure, but how do you keep people going? What kinds of successes are you seeing?
Yeah, the first one is tricky, because we kind of ebb and flow. Whenever a resident leaves the program, whether they leave in rebellion or we have to dismiss them, and dismissals are usually for reasons where they’re not safe, or they’re not helping keep other people safe, they’re putting them in danger … Whenever someone leaves, it’s always a dagger to the heart of the girls that I supervise. It is tough.
We have a weekly staff meeting, which I think is as important for relationship and encouragement as it is to cover the business of the week. We communicate well. You have to stay on the scriptures. You have to understand that some people get more connected to certain counselee in our place than others.
I think that’s my role, is to shepherd this group of ladies to help them to not take it so hard when someone leaves or there’s a failure. We do see a lot of that. We do have about a 30% graduation rate, which is great. I compare that … The world’s graduation rate, there’s a 45% success rate for 90 day programs. Typically, our girls are in our program 18 months or so, so we’re talking about a year and a half versus three months and we have a 30% graduation rate.
We think that’s a tremendous success rate and we’re thankful for that, but you do have to encourage each other. Hebrews talks about that, encouraging one another every day, exhorting one another daily. I think that has to happen in an environment like you described, because you nailed it on the head. That’s exactly what we deal with.
In some situations, the girls are high handed rebels. There are girls now I’m thinking about, part, present, and future, and they’re just … They’re rebellious. They don’t even realize how rebellious they are. Part of what we do in a treatment center, rehab facility is confront them in love, but to help them to see that, “You guys are rebelling and you don’t even realize it. You’re against God.”
That’s tough to do, because these are, many times, traumatized girls. I’d say about 75% of them have sexual abuse issues and issues with their parents. They haven’t had good homes. A lot of them can’t go back to the home, which is why us being a church ministry is so important, because our girls can be part of the local church. They don’t have to be in a program and go find a local church. They’re in a program that’s connected to the local church.
Many of them stay, right there in Lafayette, in the church and they serve. We have a girl now, in the Dominican Republic, who graduated our program and is serving down there. We have a couple that have married interns, faith seminary institute interns, so those ladies are serving the lord as well. It’s really neat to see these girls move from counselee to counselor or minister in some way, whether it’s with their husband, and their families, and whatever God calls them to do, or ministry in Dominican Republic. It’s fun to see.
It takes a lot of work and a lot of investment. Emotional investment. It’s tough. It is taxing.
Mark, hearing all of that, part of what I’m thinking is, most of us aren’t in the day in, day out type of ministry that you’re doing, especially with so many people, too. We have some people in our churches that are struggling with these things intensely, but what would you say to those who are wanting to better understand addictions, wanting to better understand these types of struggles that you all deal with, but don’t know where to start? What are some key things that you’ve learned, just in your time working so intensely with these types of situations?
I love Proverbs 23, the end of that, 29 through 35. Really describes, to me, some of the key issues that you want to deal with whenever you’re working with somebody that struggles with addiction. It could be anybody. Addiction is just idolatry. I probably should take more time to explain that, but it’s the idea of putting other things that you want, for selfish reasons, ahead of God and everybody else, every priority in your life.
I always say, and I’ll probably say this tomorrow, is that … I always say that the church needs people who have been struggling with idolatry and addiction, because they know how to lay down their lives, they’ve just laid it down for the wrong thing, for alcohol and drugs. If you can get them to now love Jesus, and God has to do that, please understand, but if they make that change and you help them to now love Jesus, they’ll do so in a radical way, where they’ll lay down their lives for Christ, which is what we want.
We need people who have struggled with addiction. They understand sacrifice. They’re willing to do that. Proverbs 23 really gives some key insights. We’ll go through this tomorrow in the conference, but there’s just some very good things God’s given us in his word that help us to just understand the heart of an idolator, especially with a drug and alcohol addiction, that are laid out there in Proverbs 23, verses 29 through 35.
As you mention these people who come to see Jesus as the one who truly satisfies and to really pour out their lives for him, do any examples come to mind of ways you’ve seen that change or people that jump out?
Oh, yeah. It’s so rewarding. We talk about 30% success rate, but those 30% make the other 70 worth it. Even those 70, some of them have called me. We had a girl from California who once called and said, “I got saved the night before I was dismissed from your program. I was led to Christ. I repented and trusted in Christ the night before I left. I was dismissed the next day.” Usually those things are planned, especially long distance. She’s doing great. She’s one of those 70% who didn’t graduate but is doing great.
So you have those kinds of stories. We have girls that have been trafficked and treated just brutally. To see them now loving Jesus and having a different understanding of who God is, trusting him. It’s fabulous. They serve. They’re delightful to be around. The couple, few ladies I’m thinking about who have been trafficked by their own families, they’re delightful young women to be around. They’re so grateful for everything, because they’ve been in wicked, wicked situations, so they’re thankful. That’s always nice to see.
A lot of ladies will volunteer in our program, help us. Many take biblical counselor training and so forth. I mentioned one is in the Dominican Republic now, serving as a missionary, for a year. That’s neat to see. People who think, “Well, this is very hard and unrewarding. We should let other people, other than the church, handle this,” they’re missing out on the blessings of seeing God radically transform people who will just live for him in victory in a sacrificial way. They’re missing out on that.
How do you prepare the ladies who help with these trafficked women and with women dealing with addiction? How are they prepared for this?
Well, we’re not. It’s tough. We do biblical counseling weekly, but we also have something that we call an orange slip. If a girl’s really struggling with her thoughts, or with anything, we encourage them to fill those out. They fill out some information about what they’re struggling with, what their counselor’s told them to do already. Usually that’s on there. They have to list that. Then they meet with an intern to talk about it. We always have a staff person who’s on duty that they can then counsel with in a crisis moment. We do a lot of that with those girls especially.
Then you have girls that space out. They’re called flashbacks, or there’s just times where they’re in their thoughts and they get lost in that. You have to pull them out of that with truth and help them to deal with reality of the situation. You’ve got to go to places that are very dark. They’ve experienced very wicked things.
I typically don’t meet with the girls for that, because it’s a male-female thing, but our staff will walk them through those things. You have girls that don’t want to admit that they were raped, or that their stepfather did this. You know, just barriers. They’ve created a false reality, even different identities, if you will. You have to address those things, and bring them to the light, and deal with it in a new way. They can’t keep living this world filled with lies.
It’s just a long process. 18 months is probably not enough. We have girls that have graduated in three years in our program. Just takes time. My hope … I sit down every session. I just hoping and praying, “Lord, you have to open their eyes. You have to do this because we can’t. We can’t do it. We’re presenting your truth. We’re helping them. We’re working as hard as we can, but God, you’ve got to really open their eyes.”
They view people … The illustration I use is, they see people like we would a stranger at Wal-Mart or somewhere, who just looks hideous. You wouldn’t trust your purse or your wallet to this stranger that you see them and you think, “I couldn’t trust them with my wallet for six hours.” That’s how the girls are seeing God. They don’t know him. He looks strange. He looks like someone they can’t trust, because that’s how they’ve been programmed to see him and that’s how they’ve learned, themselves, to see him.
We have to help them to begin to see him in a new way. That’s the joy of discipling them. The word is helping them to see that he’s not that hideous stranger at Wal-Mart that you couldn’t trust with your purse or wallet. In time, they get to where they not only give him their purse and wallet, but they give him their lives.
That’s what we want to do. That’s what we get to do. The privilege of ministry with those girls. It’s fun. It is. There are ups and downs. We write reports. There’s end of shift reports. I’ve been reading those, since being here, just a couple of days. They’re discouraging sometimes. You’re reading those reports and a girl’s having an attitude, and another one’s struggling here, and this is going on there, and you read that stuff. When I’m away, it tugs on your heart strings a little bit.
That’s the joy of walking with them through the process. It is a daily thing and it takes our whole team to help these girls. Some will end up investigating the claims of Christ and walking away, but others will gladly trust him with their lives and then begin living for him. That’s our hope.
Mark, one of the things, as we wrap up, that you’ve referred to over and over again is the centrality of the church in seeking to provide this help. That is something that’s often lacking in the conversations. We see Christians wanting to help people in this situation, but the concept of the church being involved in that’s just absent. Can you just let us know why that’s so central, or how you’ve seen that play such a role in this?
Yeah. It’s probably my greatest disappointment, is that churches often think they can’t, or they’re not qualified, because they see addiction as a medical problem, rather than addiction as idolatry and as a heart problem. There are certainly certain physical things and other considerations, but for the church to think, “Well, I can’t help people,” that is crushing to me, because I believe that, too. Now I see that, man, the church is the only vehicle that can rescue people and teach them truth.
When Tiger Woods went to rehab years ago, he went to rehab at a place in Mississippi. They actually carry my book. They’re not a Christian organization, but they have a donor who gives a lot. He got my book in their bookstore. I always thought, “If Tiger Woods goes to this program … ” It’s not Christian. He did have access, technically, to the book, but what they teach there will not transform his mind. It won’t change his heart.
I heard, last month, or so, he had some addiction issues with prescription medication. He was arrested for driving a vehicle, and so forth, about a month ago. Years ago, he went to rehab, but it didn’t change the heart.
The local church … He’s not going to hear the truth without the local church. In programs like that, guys like Tiger Woods will go, they’ll get help, they’ll be sober for a while, but it’s not lasting heart change.
We won’t graduate a lady … We’ve had a few that have finished the requirements and done what was necessary, but I just don’t want to graduate ladies unless they’re really walking with Jesus. That’s what’s important to me. I think the local church has to be involved.
I think one of the dangers, again, with CR, is that they promote themselves as a replacement for the local church. “Well, if you can’t go to the local church, don’t go right now. That’s your decision. You come to CR,” is what they say. I think that’s a shame, because we need to get people in the local church, not in a CR program, which I know some of those folks are believers, but still, it’s the local church. That’s what Jesus said he would build. The gates of hell won’t prevail against it.
That’s what we need to be doing. The more I can get involved in local church training and help … Appreciate you guys and all the work you do. You guys are technologically ahead of all the rest of us put together in the biblical counseling world, just with all the resources and stuff you guys do here, so thank you for that.
We’ve got to get churches to believe, first of all, that, “Hey, I can do this.” That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish at this conference, especially with the “Biblical Insights into Addiction” workshop. That one is the one where, everywhere I teach it, people go, “Oh, okay, I think I can work with somebody who struggles with addiction now.”
It’s just unpacking Proverbs 23, verses 29 through 35.
Craig Marshall: Well, Mark, thanks so much for joining us. We’re looking forward to your talks. When this podcast airs, in the show notes we’ll have links to your talks, and the notes for those, and then also some of the resources that we mentioned here, so people can be checking those out. We’re just delighted to have you with us. We’re thankful for your heart and excited to continue to get word out of how God’s people can care for people in these struggles.
Thank you guys.
And finally, for our listeners, I just wanted to mention that by the time these episodes are airing, all of the audios from the conference will be available for free on our website. The pre-conference, workshops, everything, and videos from the general sessions as well. All available at ibcd.org. That’s ibcd.org.