Delivered from Crack
(New Orleans, LA circa 1989)
I am not sure how many Mardi Gras Outreaches I have attended with No Greater Love Ministries. My dad founded No Greater Love with the mission of “putting the Gospel in the hands of faithful men” and street ministry was his chosen means to that end. I would guess I have attended over half of dad’s forty Mardi Gras outreaches. To be honest, they sort of run into each other but some years something stands out. It had to be during my seminary years that we were joined by David Wilkerson’s Teen Challenge for an afternoon. They were going to do an outdoor worship service with us and then we were going to get something to eat before hitting the streets for a night of faith sharing.
The Teen Challenge guys were hard core. Not because they were mature Christians with the gift of boldness but because they had only been saved, cleaned up and off the streets for nine minutes. Their service consisted of a group of about 50 men singing in choir fashion (with a blaring and highly distorted music track), followed by a guy who talked about his life on the streets, his addiction to crack cocaine, his conversion and his freedom from his addiction. Then came the invitation. It was clear this guy had been trained to share his story with street people and the only invitation he had was deliverance from crack. There was no plan B or varying from the template. The choir began to sing and the speaker fervently offered his invitation of deliverance. “Someone here is addicted to crack and God is going to set you free today. Just raise your hand and accept deliverance.” The choir sang a few verses and I was getting hungry so I began to look around the No Greater Love Ministries team for potential drug addicts. Things did not look promising and the choir was now out of verses and started verse one all over again. The speaker appealed again to our hearts and informed us the service would not end until someone raised their hand to be delivered. The guy was killing me.
Then it occurred to me someone was going to have to take one for the team. Looking at the No Greater Love team for potential candidates to simply lift a hand to let this mercifully end seemed no more promising than my search for possible crack addicts. All our guys had their “heads bowed and their eyes closed” and seemed to be fervently praying for the crack addict among us to reveal himself. The choir was now about two hundred verses into the song and the speaker was not about to allow the devil to rob that one member of our rural Midwestern witnessing team the chance for a crack-free life. Supper was now spread out on the tables and stood only twenty-five yards and a closing prayer away. In one of my finest moments of courageous leadership, I slowly lifted my right hand to the joy of the presenter and the relief of the nearly exhausted choir. He said a quick prayer for me and we all got something to eat.
I am proud to say I have not used crack since that momentous moment in 1989 when I was set free. That I had never used crack before that day misses the point entirely.
-Shane L. Bishop is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and the author of “Exactly As I Remember It” and “Re:member.”