A new mission: War on gambling addiction

MY EARLY retirement from the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) last year was a surprise to many people. However, as an ordained minister, I am called by God to a lifetime of servant leadership in specialised ministries among the people of God.

I have not retired from the pastoral ministry but am still serving full time in God’s mission for the Methodist community – the Gambling and Debt Recovery Ministries at One Hope Centre as its Director.

We need to extend the church’s ministry beyond the local church in order to minister to those whose hurt, anger, despair, guilt or grief cuts them off from a faith community; to those who are “on the margins” of social acceptability.

I believe that the Gambling and Debt Recovery Ministries is God’s new mission for His church, especially to the people called Methodists. I trust God is leading Methodist churches and members to support and join me in this worthy cause. Let us come together and be effective witnesses to our nation that Christ is the only hope for these problem gamblers and their families.

Biblical teaching on gambling

Today, gambling addiction is widely recognised as a major problem, and the Christian community is not immune to it. Many life-long Christians struggle with gambling addiction.

Gambling encourages the belief that work is unimportant, that money can solve all our problems, and that greed is the norm for achievement. Gambling fosters greed and stimulates the fatalistic faith in chance.

In 1Timothy 6:9-10a Paul says, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

The Methodist Social Principles
According to the Methodist Social Principles, “Gambling is an expression of one’s desire to instant wealth. It is a form of bondage and a social sickness motivated by greed and covetousness. It is also a menace to society as it compromises the interests of moral, social, economic and spiritual life of the community.”

Thus, The Methodist Church opposes gambling in any form. It should provide materials to Annual Conferences and local churches for study and action to combat gambling and to help gambling addicts. Pastors and church leaders are becoming more aware that there are hurting individuals in their congregations, but they may lack the training to cope with the problem effectively.

As Methodists, we should work with the National Council of Problem Gambling through One Hope Centre to discourage gambling and provide services to promote social awareness and free people from gambling addiction.

Church-based ministry

Studies have shown that after advanced therapies and treatment, the relapse rate of a problem gambler is 94 per cent. Only the power of the Gospel is able to set an addict free to live a new life.

One Hope Centre’s Christ-centred recovery groups enable addicts and their families to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with others from similar backgrounds. They provide a safe place for the addicts to tell the truth, talk through a crisis, openly express feelings, identify options and make decisions.

They create a forum where individuals can support and encourage one another towards healing and wholeness.

However, Christ-centred recovery groups also need to be church-based because not only do they need the support from the church, but they also need to be welcomed into the church as their rightful home for total recovery.

When recovery support groups are part of a Christian community, individuals can integrate their faith in Christ with their journey towards healing. They will find practical help in the Christian community where acceptance and love make change possible.

Testimonies of God’ love
To date, One Hope Centre has handled nearly 300 cases, with the number increasing through the weekly support groups. More than half of these cases are gambling and loan shark-related problems.

Through a one-on-one counselling recovery support group, family support group and pastoral care, the centre leads them to anchor their faith in Christ, re-assess their values, re-build their life, and restore their relationship with their families. Many lives have been transformed and saved from the brink of death. Countless marriages and family’s relationships have been restored.

As many as 35 people and their families have since planted their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. They have since joined many of our partner churches. Their bold testimonies of how the power and love of Christ transformed them and their family members have glorified our Father in heaven.

The Rev Tan Lye Keng is the Director of the Gambling and Debt Recovery Ministries at One Hope Centre.

One Hope Centre is located at 1, Block 7 Lorong 23 Geylang Singapore 388352.
Helpline: 6547-1011 Pastoral Care: 9615-0527
Email: tan. lye. Website: www.