Refuge for recovery: First Baptist offers 12-step, Christ-centered programWORTHINGTON — No one’s life is perfect. Everybody has struggles. That’s the premise behind Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program that was initiated a year ago and is about to begin its second year at Worthington’s First Baptist Church.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — No one’s life is perfect. Everybody has struggles.
That’s the premise behind Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program that was initiated a year ago and is about to begin its second year at Worthington’s First Baptist Church.
Founded by John Baker, a pastor at the renowned Saddleback Church in southern California, Celebrate Recovery is “designed to help those struggling with hurts, hangups and habits by showing them the loving power of Jesus Christ through the recovery process,” according to its website.
The initiative to start a Celebrate Recovery program in Worthington was taken by Sue and Randy Simonson, members of First Baptist.
“I saw a need for it for a long time,” explained Sue. “We all have struggles and pain in life. I had a struggle I was going through and would have gone to someone in church, but in church we tend to wear masks and try to look good.”
The Simonsons attended a Celebrate Recovery Summit in California and a workshop in Florida to gather the information to launch the program in Worthington. The congregation and staff at First Baptist embraced the concept and the opportunity to host the program.
“Everyone struggles with certain compulsions, certain problems, and the Gospel has this great message of freedom, but we have trouble trying to figure out practically what we can do to overcome those problems,” said Jonah Beckermann, pastor of First Baptist. “… As Christians, we believe there is healing in Jesus’ name, and our passion is to bring that to the people. We just speak of the great promises of Scripture, but we don’t always do a good job of walking people through it.”
Like other recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program.
“But it is very Christ-centered and for all kinds of issues, not just one thing — gambling, sex, pornography, co-dependence, discontentment, low self-esteem, fear of failure,” explained Sue. “It’s not just for drug and alcohol addictions. It runs the gamut, for when life is broken.”
“It’s for any issue where you don’t have the problem, the problem has you,” added Jari Lynne Johnson, who also serves on the local leadership team.
About 16 to 18 people took part in the first year of the program, and its supporters hope it will draw more people from throughout the community. They stress that it is not exclusively a First Baptist effort, but is non-denominational and open to people from all walks of life.
“It’s a safe environment,” said Randy Simonson, adding that no other programs are scheduled at the church at the same time as Celebrate Recovery and confidentiality is stressed. “You don’t have to worry about judgment.”
“For many people, this is the first time they can start being honest, honest with themselves,” said Sue. “The hardest things is going the first time. You’re saying, ‘My life isn’t right. Something isn’t right,’ and it’s hard to admit that, to take that blanket of denial off.”
With just one year of Celebrate Recovery under their belts, its leaders and participants have already seen the positive effect the program had in their lives.
“It’s hard. It takes commitment, working through the steps, but we didn’t get where we’re at in a day, and you don’t get out of it in a day,” Sue said. “Not only do we learn how to get connected to God’s power, but for real healing, we need community, people. Where we struggle is we isolate ourselves.”
“Forgiveness comes from God; healing comes from community,” agreed Beckermann. “To get released from guilt, we need to confess this to someone else, say it to another human, to feel that release of guilt over our sin.”
“One thing I’ve noticed with a couple of people who have experienced healing transformations, they look younger, lighter, brighter. You can see it in their face,” noted Johnson.
Celebrate Recovery meets on Monday nights at First Baptist Church, 1000 Linda Lane. The first hour is devoted to a worship time, followed by either a testimony or lesson that walks the participants through the 12 steps. During the second hour, men’s and women’s groups meet separately so the discussion can get more issue-specific. There are also step studies that are offered throughout the course of the year, during which the participants can work through four Celebrate Recovery booklets.
“We try to recognize milestones or progress with little chips — 30 days, 90 days, six months, a year,” said Johnson, “and that’s similar to AA, so that people don’t forget the progress they’ve made. We have steps you go through, but we don’t try to fix people, tell them what to do. That’s something they need to sort out between them and God. It’s more effective when people grow into change. It makes for more effective change.”
The local Celebrate Recovery team hopes that people will consider giving the program a try to find help for whatever problem may be plaguing their life.
“It’s broader than one issue,” said Randy. “It’s about life, finding the freedom and happiness and joy in life.”
“The neat thing is the spirit that is there — that these are broken people, and they know they are broken,” Sue said. “There is something liberating about that. They know they are broken and that healing comes from God.”
A new session of Celebrate Recovery will begin on Oct. 3, although participants are welcome to start the continuous program any time. For more information, contact Sue Simonson, 376-9232; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.