Back in 2010, Jim Berg teamed up with Greenville-area BJU feeder church Faith Baptist of Taylors to found Freedom That Lasts, a “ministry” marketing itself to other churches as “the biblical path to freedom from addiction.” The system works like a fast-food franchise: a church can become chartered with Freedom That Lasts for an annual fee (“through a private link provided by headquarters”), and, after the church’s application is reviewed and approved by FTL, receives training and promotional materials for the program. For suffering addicts, what does Freedom That Lasts look like? Mostly, a heavy dose of Berg-flavored Nouthetic counseling: videos, workshops and studies organized around a series of books and DVDs produced by Berg and JourneyForth, a BJU entity.
Noticeably absent from FTL’s materials is any reference to licensed, qualified counselors or mental health experts. Neither BJU, Faith Baptist Church or Jim Berg have any use for medical or psychological solutions to problems they consider spiritual in nature; in fact, the FTL Charter Document specifically precludes chartered churches from seeking professional assistance in any situation under its purview:
The Freedom That Lasts program may not be blended in any way with the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, pop psychology—Christian or secular—or other secular or faith-based programs.
And what issues does Freedom That Lasts claim to provide assistance with? Well:
That’s a wide range of challenging issues (along with a few non-issues), and there’s nothing on FTL’s website to suggest that its staff is qualified to deal with any them–unless you consider affiliation with Bob Jones University to be a qualification, in which case FTL is stacked. Like so many fundamentalist “ministries,” Freedom That Lasts is in lock-step with BJU. FTL lists only three staff members: its Founder, FBC Taylors head pastor John Monroe, Director Larry Pierson, and Executive Director Jim Berg. All three are BJU grads with endless connections to the University. Freedom That Lasts distributes Berg’s package of books, videos and studies guides through BJU Press, and its Statement of Faith is nearly identical to BJU’s Creed. And on and on.
Here’s Pierson on FTL’s mission (comments disabled on the YouTube video, naturally):
Freedom That Lasts’ system is simple: individual churches are sold Berg’s series of books and DVDs and are instructed to use them, along with Bible study, to help troubled people in their communities. But how can untrained laypeople hope to grapple with issues like alcohol addiction, self-mutilation and suicidal tendencies especially when the program they use forbids them from seeking proper counseling and assistance?
Here’s Berg on FTL (again, no comments allowed):
We called Faith Baptist in Taylors in an attempt to get details on the Freedom That Lasts program and specifically to ask the hard questions about how an unlicensed, layman-staffed program can really treat life-threatening mental health issues. So far, we’ve met with stalling; the leadership of FTL is proving difficult to get ahold of. We’ll update this post if and when we’re successful in getting answers directly from the leadership of Faith Baptist.