Some churches don’t want a recovery ministry—a ministry that specializes in helping people deal with their addictions and pain—because of the messes they’d have to get involved in. That’s tragic.
Most churches in this category are less than a generation from their graves because they’ve forsaken the ministry of Jesus.
Other churches get that reaching broken, messy people matters, and they’ve launched recovery ministries to reach out to people with hurts, habits and hang-ups. But often the recovery ministry is the part of the church we’re happy to have on the side while hoping the broken, messy people don’t find their way on stage or into the mainstream of our leadership. Recovery ministry is seen as a good cause and an evangelistic tool, but perhaps little more.
There is a third category of churches rising up. These churches understand that we are all broken by sin, that we all make messes and that recovery is something we all desperately need.
These churches may or may not have an organized program for recovery, but they’ve determined to be a recovery ministry from Sunday morning to small groups to staff and leadership development to volunteer placement. Everything is seen as an ongoing process of helping broken people find healing and redemption.
The Grace Hills Church staff has spent the past five weeks studying through an excellent little book that surveys various churches around the country that take recovery issues seriously. One of my favorite quotes thus far is this:
“There is a stirring in churches of all theological stripes to wed a red-hot passion for personal evangelism and discipleship with a compassionate love for the poor, marginalized, and addicted. The world is standing on tippy-toe to see this kind of church!” —Pastor Jorge Acevedo, Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral, Fla.
You may have heard it said before that the church isn’t merely a retirement home for the frozen chosen but an emergency room for dying sinners. It’s important for members of every local church to realize that every single last one of us has been a sinner, broken and devastated by sin’s effects and bound for hell forever. The grace of God that has saved us from such a fate should be motivation enough to fuel our compassion for people trapped in their problems.
I’m convinced that when churches embrace the mission of rescuing the broken, we won’t have a growth problem anymore. We’ll have a space problem.
I’m broken. And I’m shamelessly trusting Jesus as my healer. And thankfully, I’ve found a church that is a recovery ministry—a family that will faithfully love me through my own hurts, habits and hang-ups and give me space to minister to others who are wrestling with the same.
I’m praying, like Pastor Acevedo, “God, send us the people nobody wants or sees.”
Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.
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