When my church began hosting a Celebrate Recovery program, we expected that those who attended would see positive changes. We all looked forward to the personal victories for those that did the work. But what we didn’t foresee was how these meetings would start a “ripple effect” outward that would bless our congregation at large.
I’ve witnessed Celebrate Recovery improve these three areas at my church.
1. Our Fellowship
I have always felt that my church family was very loving toward each other. Any kind of crisis has jumpstarted meals being cooked and visits being made. But for many, sharing still only meant saying good morning on a Sunday. Godly fellowship calls us to be more honest than that about our lives.
To openly say all of us have “hurts, habits and hangups”, the motto of Celebrate Recovery, was a strong statement. Just introducing CR stirred up anxiety. Some people had been denying any issues in their lives, while others had always tried to hide struggles. Those approaches and reactions came from a desire to avoid looking weak or needy, and caused isolation.
But God’s Word tells us plainly that we are to “...carry one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2) Holding CR meetings was acknowledging that addictive behaviors can happen to anyone. Fortunately, my church gradually accepted this truth. The congregation as a whole began to see that having weaknesses isn’t a cause for shame, but an opportunity for deeper relationships and more meaningful ministry. The results were closer bonds and more powerful prayer times between people.
2. Our Worship
When I first started attending my church, I was drawn in by the sense of worship during the music set and the sermon. In between, though, the other elements felt a little routine. As time went by, in fact, it seemed that most of our services were becoming predictable.
I read passages like "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:2) and became convinced that God had more in mind for us than stale gatherings each week. Well, I believe He used Celebrate Recovery to wake us up. Once the core CR attendees got comfortable opening up with each other, a couple of brave souls shared bits of their stories in the regular service.
Soon, hearing about how God was working sparked a renewed sense of hope and encouragement in lots of our members. Sunday gatherings became more focused on praising and thanking God for His mercy and miracles. A new energy took hold in the service, from beginning to end, and people left more equipped to face the upcoming week.
3. Our Outreach
I would describe my church atmosphere as welcoming. We’ve intentionally offered groups for people of different ages and levels of knowledge, so that as many as possible found support and fellowship. But until Celebrate Recovery, we hadn’t addressed how we could be a resource for those with ongoing personal struggles.
The more we as a church body embraced the principles of CR, the more 1 Thessalonians 5:14 inspired us - “...encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” A couple of members took counseling courses to become better equipped to minister to needs. We compiled a list of local services to help with issues like addiction, finances and housing. The leadership discussed whether long-held traditions still served our congregation in meaningful ways.
To say that Celebrate Recovery started a revolution in my church might sound too dramatic. But since we started hosting CR, I have seen great changes in the way members connect and minister. It has rejuvenated our gatherings and given many of us a new sense of purpose.