Recovery Groups are Mainstream

You and I believe a lie. Recovery Groups are for really sick people. But here’s the truth – we all need recovery because we are all sick. Recovery is not a place or a program or a kind of group – it is a way of life, a process where we “recover” from the effects of the Fall. We are all wounded emotionally and damaged spiritually. Emotional health and spiritual growth are mutually dependent. This has implications for how we build community in the Church.

Here’s a few things to consider as you build groups and guide leaders.

1)    Emotional health is a pre-requisite for long-term spiritual vitality.

2)    Leaders and Pastors need healing just like the rest of us.

3)    The “really sick” people in our churches and communities are not just the “addicts” or the “abused” or the “formerly incarcerated.” We all need a doctor.

4)    Group life flourishes when churches become safe places.

Becoming a “Hospital Church”

If you talk with James Reeves, the first and only Pastor of the 25-year old, 1500 member Celebration Fellowship in Ft. Worth, TX you will hear this mantra: “The Church has to be a safe place and the Church has to have a safe process.” The first funeral he did, at age 18 was his own 41-year-old alcoholic father. Alcoholism impacted his entire life, yet Reeves dislikes using terms like addiction and recovery because, “It sets up barriers between us and them; between the so-called healthy and the sick people. But we are all sick.”

Known as the Hospital Church, a place where everyone is “in recovery” from the effects of sin, the ministry has about 35 Home Groups for basic support and community. But people need a focused Support Group for deeper personal work, to confess secrets that destroy the soul, and to find tools to overcome destructive lifestyles. These groups must be safe, healing, provide real process for change and must foster the recovery of genuine intimacy with God and others. And they must be seen as “normal” – not special groups for “those kinds of people.”

The church’s emphasis through Reeves’ teaching is learning the “ABC’s of Life Change” which creates the environment for spiritual and emotional growth. Leaders are required to participate in two 14-week cycles in a Support Group, then another cycle as an apprentice leader before leading a group of their own. The biblically-rooted 12-step process is foundational to the experience.

Reeves observes that “The Church has historically said, ‘just love Jesus more’ but often people do not know how to be intimate with God or others, because of emotional wounds.”  Those wounds create blocks to intimacy in both directions. These holistic groups and the process used help people remove the blockage and find freedom.

And we need a lot more of that — I know I do.