Rick Warren: Why Your Church Should Initiate This Powerful Ministry

Celebrate Recovery has helped multitudes of people in 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. (Rick Warren Facebook page)

Do you want to see God change lives through your church?

Since the day I started Saddleback, that's been my prayer for the church. I'm addicted to changed lives; it's the main reason Saddleback has continued to grow all of these years.

I've never been excited about the numbers. In fact, more people means more headaches and more crises, but it's worth it because it also means more changed lives.

In 1 Corinthians 16:15, Paul writes that the household of Stephanas has "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints" (KJV). That's a good cause to be addicted to. God wants to heal broken, messed-up lives—and He wants to use us in the process.

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No ministry, in the history of our church, has changed lives more than Celebrate Recovery. God works powerfully through this ministry!

Not only does it produce life-change, it's a leadership "factory" for our church. When I choose to share a testimony during our weekend services, Celebrate Recovery is the first place I look. Why? Because I know I can depend on finding stories of life-change in that ministry.

The Story of Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery began with John Baker's story. More than 25 years ago, he wrote me a letter. Honestly, I could have easily missed it—I didn't get all the letters that were sent to me. But two of my associate pastors, Glen Kreun and Tom Holladay, told me I needed to read it. In that 13-page letter, John suggested a new ministry at Saddleback to help people like him who needed recovery.

John had become addicted to alcohol as a way to overcome his nagging sense of emptiness. He was in recovery, but he was struggling with the vague manner that Alcoholics Anonymous deals with God, the Bible and salvation through Jesus Christ. Since those issues were also important to me, I did a six-month intensive study of both the Old and New Testament on the concept of recovery.

During my study, I came upon Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount. As you know, Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, where he shares eight ways to be happy. In fact, if you look carefully at the Beatitudes, you'll see that they parallel AA's 12 steps of recovery in the exact same order.

John and I launched Celebrate Recovery at Saddleback in 1991 with a 10-week series called "The Road to Recovery." Since then, I've taught that series multiple times under different names. We've never looked back.

Reach Into the Sores of Your Community

Today, 27,000 people have been through the program at our church—70% of them came from outside the church. It's by far the greatest outreach our church has seen. More than 35,000 churches now have Celebrate Recovery ministries and over five million people have completed a step study.

God took an ordinary person in our church and started a movement. God can start a similar movement in your church, too.

It's time our churches work together to help people heal and become whole so they can live out God's purpose for their lives. Yes, a recovery ministry is messy at times—but it's what the church is all about.

Interested in Learning More About Celebrate Recovery?

The Life's Healing Choices: The Beatitudes Sermon Series takes a deeper look at the hurts, hang-ups and habits that stifle the abundant life God has planned for us. If your church's budget can't afford this series, email matt@pastors.com so we can get it to you.

Interested in Starting a Celebrate Recovery Ministry in Your Church?

The Celebrate Recovery Program Curriculum Kit will provide you with all the support you need to cast the vision for Celebrate Recovery and help your congregation get started on God's road to wholeness, growth and spiritual maturity.

Interested in Strengthening Your Existing Celebrate Recovery Ministry?

The Advanced Leadership Training Kit will take your ministry to the next level with dynamic leadership development designed to encourage, equip and empower you and your leaders.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at PastorRick.com. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.

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