Mark Shaw
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How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 1: Preparation to Intervene

March 26, 2014

How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 1- Preparation to Intervene
Mark Shaw

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Mark Shaw

How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 1- Preparation to Intervene

Addiction counselors will do much of their work with family members and friends of the “addict.” One of the key helps a counselor can offer is to be a peace-maker (Matthew 5:9) by offering to do an intervention with the family and their addicted loved one (Matthew 18:15-18).

Preparation to Intervene in Love

When you stop and think about it, God intervened in our lives to lead us to repentance and faith in Christ. The foundational principle of a biblical intervention is the same: a call to repentance and faith in Christ. Assisting to prepare the family for an intervention includes helping them prepare their heart attitudes and goals to be a loving call to trust Christ.

Start by making a list of those affected by addict’s unrepentant lifestyle (include spouse, children, parents, grandchildren, in-laws, friends, etc.). Note how many people have been adversely affected by the addict’s selfish choices. When extended family members, co-workers, and friends are included in the list of those impacted by the addictive choices the list grows quickly.

When preparing for the intervention event, think through who will be attending and who will speak. In the actual face-to-face encounter, I recommend keeping the circle of participants small, with five being optimal and twelve being the most. With big numbers, the addict can feel overpowered, which may result in him shutting down and failing to provide a true response. The goal is to illicit a clear response, hopefully that of repentance, so a small group will be effective enough in communicating the seriousness of the matter in love.

Invite those most affected by the addict’s behavior to participate. No one feels comfortable doing this yet there is strength in numbers. Even if someone would prefer not to speak, being present can be a big help. Once you have your intervention team established, have each person do a self-evaluation of heart attitudes based upon Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 7:3-5 in particular:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

The Bible teaches us the importance of a humble attitude and a proper heart motivation of honoring God and loving others more than being concerned with self-interests (Philippians 2:3-4).

When you meet together, it is vital that each person start with his/her own sin and ask for forgiveness for those words, thoughts, and actions that were not pleasing to God and were directed to the addicted loved one. This process of asking for forgiveness does not excuse or justify the addict’s behaviors yet it should serve as a tool to soften the heart of the struggling addict.[1]

Have the intervention team meet together prior to the confrontation at least once to develop a focused set of sin areas being done by the addict, the timeline of events, clear expectations of what the offender must begin to do to demonstrate repentance, and what consequences will occur if the offender chooses not to cooperate. The team should pray together, discuss goals for what they hope to see transpire, clarify motives for the intervention, cultivate a unity of purpose, decide who will be given an opportunity to speak and in what order, and determine the day, time, and location to seek a meeting with the addicted loved one. The team needs to be prepared for emotional responses by the addict, an unwillingness to cooperate, and all sorts of manipulative and deceitful behaviors. Prepare your team’s hearts for the worst but pray for the best to occur trusting God for His outcome.

The Meeting

Stepping into the offender’s world is the most difficult part of the intervention for family members, yet the purpose of restoration through repentance, confession, and godly sorrow is worth the sacrifice, fear, and anxiety. Encourage each person who desires to speak to prepare ahead of time by writing an intervention letter to be read to the addicted loved one. This letter will reduce the emotion in what likely will be a highly emotional event, regardless of outcome.

In Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, I encourage family members to first affirm the relationship by reassuring the addict of their love and desire to have a righteous relationship with him or her. Again, I have the family do their part of the repentance and forgiveness process first and that is written out (see sample letter below). Strive to establish a redemptive atmosphere bathed in humility. After getting the “log” out of your own eye, the Bible allows the believer to get the ‘speck’ out of your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5). Now, the family can focus upon the addict’s sinful choices.

The Rest of the Story

In tomorrow’s post, you’ll find a sample intervention letter.

Join the Conversation

What biblical principles do you follow in planning a family intervention?



[1]Adapted from workshop taught by Dr. Rick Thomas, Mt. Carmel Ministries, entitled “Divine Intervention” in Birmingham, AL, 2011.


2 thoughts on “How to Do a Biblical Intervention, Part 1: Preparation to Intervene

  1. Curious that a pattern of intervention would so quickly involve a “team” approach when the Bible seems to restrict such intervention to first one, then one plus one or two, then, after “telling the church”, the “team” of those in the fellowship within reach through relationship join the pursuit (Matthew 18:15ff).

  2. Steve, you are right that in Matthew 18:15 it is an individual to individual step. The “team” begins in verse 16 with one or two more added (2 = team or a tandem). In writing this, the assumption was that the first step in verse 15 was made but I can see how that was not clearly communicated here in this blog. It IS communicated clearly in my book, Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts where I had much more room to write with many more words available to me!!! I cover it in detail there in chapter 3. Thanks for your comment allowing me to clarify.

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