Jim Berg, Freedom That Lasts
In May 2010, God brought several addicts across the path of Jim and Pat Berg. The couple discipled these men and women throughout the summer and in October started Freedom That Lasts® (FTL), along with John Monroe, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Taylors, SC. FTL is a “Christ-centered, Bible-based, local-church-focused discipleship ministry to those enslaved in life-dominating sins or overcome by hurtful events of life” (www.freedomthatlasts.com).
Jim wrote a three-level curriculum for adults, a teen version of the curriculum, and an institutional version for use in prison. At present eight other churches have started chartered chapters in their communities. The headquarters chapter at Faith Baptist Church ministers to eighty to one hundred men and women (including volunteer workers) every Friday night.
In addition, several men and women at Faith Baptist Church have been trained by Miracle Hill Ministries to mentor at their various facilities. Several men from the Greenville Rescue Mission and graduates of the Overcomer Center for Men regularly attend Freedom That Lasts® and the services of Faith Baptist Church.
Miracle Hill recently asked Jim to participate in pre-recorded and onstage interviews at the annual fund-raising gala for Miracle Hill. In the video below, Jim was interviewed by David Hanna, the director of the Greenville Rescue Mission, at the 2019 Love Lived Out Banquet. The video highlights the mentoring relationship Jim had with Anthony Hugh, an Overcomer graduate who upon graduation became the evening resident supervisor at the rescue mission. Anthony now serves in another ministry in North Carolina, and Jim is mentoring the current resident supervisor of the mission who is also a recent Overcomer graduate.
Anthony Hugh: In 2005 I converted to Christianity, and I stayed clean for ten years. I relapsed at the end of 2014, and I knew I needed to do something about my addiction once again. So, I went to Miracle Hill.
Dr. Jim Berg: Anthony started coming to our church, and that’s where I met him. He started coming to our Friday night addiction recovery program, and we got to be really good friends. We just hit it right off immediately. And I remember early, early on, he came up to me and said: ‘God laid on my heart to sing for you tonight.’ And so, I said, ‘Come on up and sing!’ He sang a song about God, and how Jesus is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to him. There was so much heart in it, and it was obvious that God was working deeply in him.
Hugh: Dr. Berg shows me that he cares about me; he’s consistent; he shows up. But the biggest thing for me is that all of the information that he has, and that he’s learned, he’s ready to really pass it on to me and help me to understand that information. It has been instrumental in my growing, along with my Bible reading and prayer, and really understanding what it is to be a Christian.
Berg: There’s not a problem of human life that can’t be solved with the Bible if it’s taken in big enough doses. So, we spend a lot of time getting big doses of the Word, and that’s the transforming power. God’s Spirit uses that. So, love lived out means taking people to Jesus. He’s the one that transforms people.
David Hanna: Good Evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is David Henna. I have the privilege of serving as Director at Miracle Hill Greenville Rescue Mission. And with me tonight is Dr. Berg, author and professor at Bob Jones Seminary. Sadly, Anthony Hugh, who you saw in the video, cannot be with us tonight as he is relocated to Asheville North Carolina to serve a ministry up there. I know that he’s thinking about us and praying for us as we speak. Jim, can you tell me how you and Anthony clicked?
Berg: Well, I think it was the eagerness to learn, and for his life to be transformed in the Word. He was like a sponge. And as I mentioned in the video, coming and wanting to sing, and what he sang had such a heart. As we talked later, we made our connection for mentorship. I think he asked me at that time, and I was ready to do that. I thought, here is a man who loves God and wants to know God more. And it was just a wonderful relationship from the very beginning.
Hanna: Fantastic! What impact has this experience had on you?
Berg: Well, I think the more you mentor and the more you counsel and disciple, the more you realize every person is different. Every person’s struggle is different. And, I think the thing that has enhanced in me a greater compassion for people who come from backgrounds that I didn’t come from, like Trudy just mentioned. You realize they have struggles you’ve never been through. And it does make you more patient, and it builds a lot more compassion in your heart.
Hanna: Amen! And I know you’re a very busy man, but somehow you manage to make time for this. How come you can do this?
Berg: Well, if you read leadership books or go to seminars, they tell you that basically you find time for whatever is a priority for you. And ministry is a priority. And people are a priority. What that means if you’re going to minister to people—there a lot of movies you’ll never see, a lot of ball games you’ll never go to, a lot of window shopping you’ll never get to do. And you don’t have to watch movies for adventure because you have a lot of adventure in the lives of the people you’re ministering to. It’s just thrilling to watch God work in another person’s life and in your life, as iron sharpens iron. I’ve learned much from Anthony. There was often a zeal in him for the Lord, an immediate obedience to the Lord, that was a challenge to me. And I was thinking, I need to be as sensitive to the Lord as Anthony is right now. So, it benefitted me in a lot of ways.
Hanna: You know, that’s great insight, that you’ve learned as much from Anthony as he may have learned from you. That’s great. Have there been any surprises for you, or any “aha’s” in this experience?
Berg: I think the biggest surprise was how refreshing the relationship with Anthony was. I didn’t have any big traumatic surprises; what I had was a great deal of delight. It was surprising to find out how much of a delight it was to mentor him because of his humility and his teachable-ness, and his willingness to live a life of repentance and dependence on the Lord. It was very refreshing.
Hanna: Very refreshing, that’s wonderful. Would you do it again?
Berg: Absolutely! I am mentoring another man right now. David Shirley is here tonight, and we have become fast friends—close brothers. I meet with him every week at the mission; he’s a blessing.
Hanna: Amen. I’m going to borrow a previous question: if there’s somebody in our audience tonight, and God is touching their heart and saying, ‘why don’t you consider being a mentor?’ They may be thinking, ‘not me.’ What would you say to them?
Berg: I would say its too easy for us as believers to take in. We take in through our worship services, we take in through preaching, but we’re not as good at giving out. Our Lord called us here to be salt and light, and I tell our church (Faith Baptist Church) of the Friday evening addiction recovery program called “Freedom at Last….” We minister to about 100 men and women every Friday night, and many of them come from the mission. Several of the lay volunteers are here tonight, and many of them have said ‘I can’t do that. I’ve never had alcohol problems, or drug problems. I don’t know that I could help.’ And I tell them that Paul says that our problems are common to man. We may not have had a sinful habit that has a chemical hook in it. But, all of us know what it is like to keep going back to a sinful habit, even though it is destroying us, and destroying relationships around us, and destroying a relationship with God. All of us know that experience, and there is a connection we have.
We have to listen to people and understand their ways. We don’t counsel disorders we counsel people, and we must know what they’re like. Sometimes, one of the men or women from Freedom at Lasts will say, ‘but how can you help me if you’ve never done this?’ And I tell them, a good friend of mine, Dr. Ted Harris, graduated with me in 1974 and then went on to med school. Before the Lord took him home with cancer he had delivered over 1,100 babies, but had never been pregnant once. And I think, you don’t have to have gone through the same experience, but you do have to know what to do. And so, if we have come through Bible-believing churches, Bible-preaching churches, we’re reading the Scriptures ourselves, God is equipping us. Their questions drive you back to the Word. I think the most important thing a layman can do is get involved in this way. He will grow out of necessity and have to go back to the Word in dependence.
Hanna: Thank you for that. We’ve all sinned; we all know what that’s like, and we can help other sinners too. There may be a pastor here whose church is not involved with a Miracle Hill facility. What would you say to a pastor that might be here tonight?
Berg: One of our pastors went through the “Overcomer Mentor Program,” and became a real cheerleader for that. I think it’s important to at least go through the training and see what it is like. And get involved in at least one mentoring relationship. And then you can become a real cheerleader in your church for that. Our pastors would say—about this kind of involvement with the men and women in our city who are not like us—that if were doing our job in our churches, there ought to be a lot of people in our churches that are not like us. And we ought to be drawing them to our church. We tend to have churches that gather people who are like us; we need to gather people who need us. And pastors can be a real lightning rod to bring that kind of help into their church
Hanna: Fantastic. I should point that Dr. Berg is the author and director of the Freedom That Lasts program that the men and women in our programs love to go to because it really helps them with their addiction dependence. Jim, I’m so grateful for all you do for us and our guests. Thank you for your faithful service.
Berg: It’s a privilege, thank you.
As part of his research for a doctorate in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jim developed an eight-hour video training program, “Helping Others Overcome Addictions.” It can be purchased here after signing up for a free account at www.udemy.com.