God’s hand is upon church’s ‘Celebrate Recovery’ ministry

Chris McDaniel is the worship pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., and the ministry leader for their Celebrate Recovery ministry. He was formerly with the multiplatinum-selling country group Confederate Railroad. He spent 16 years with the group until 2000, when he found himself in the middle of a $70,000-a-year cocaine addiction.

McDaniel went into rehab, admitted he had a problem, and realized his need for a Higher Power. He got out of rehab and found himself in a Baptist church where he heard a message of hope and redemption and surrendered his life to Christ.

He testified, “I thought God was through with me. I had to literally peel my face off of the carpet from a drug binge. I have been to the top of what the world calls fame and success. [I had] money, women, and even a Grammy award, yet it left me empty, because I was trying to fill a hole that can only be filled by God.

“God placed me in a small church that allowed me to play the piano, and God just led me from there on. There are Celebrate Recoveries all over the world, and God is doing something in this one that I’ve never seen done anywhere else.”

Celebrate Recovery is a Bible-based ministry that offers people struggling with a variety of issues the atmosphere and opportunity to heal and overcome their personal conflicts in life. It is a Christ-based approach to recovery that was a response to 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. CR was founded in 1990 by pastors John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who felt that AA was too vague in referring to God as a “higher power.” They wanted a Christ-based program aimed at all hurts, habits, and hangups that people encounter in the struggles of life.

‘A ministry for everyone’

At Dalton’s Liberty Baptist Church, CR has been a blessing to those who need a healing touch, but the ministry has blessed Liberty and other churches with new life and new believers.

Pastor Brian Branham explains, “Celebrate Recovery has created a vital connection between our church and the community. It is an unmistakable front door that welcomes the hurting.

“The biggest surprise about Celebrate Recovery is that it is not a ministry for certain ones, but it has become a ministry for everyone. The more the church is exposed to the eight principles and 12 steps of CR, the more we all realize that in some way we are all in recovery. There is recovery for everyone who makes Christ a priority.”

Jeff Lewis, who provides leadership for CR, declares, “What makes the Celebrate Recovery special at Liberty is the lives that are being changed throughout it. The Lord is allowing a group of us to come together as one team to use it to build a discipleship pipeline straight into the church.

“People are getting real and taking their masks off, so much so that the CR ministry has already influenced the overall church culture at Liberty. In the course of a year, we have doubled in size from 35-40 on a Thursday night to 125-175 on just about any given Thursday night. God is using it in a powerful way to reach many people’s lives. It has become a highly effective side door for church growth for Liberty as well.”

Walking with others

Some of the struggles that Celebrate Recovery seeks to address are chemical dependency, alcohol, anger, codependency, eating disorders, marriage issues, pornography, sexual addiction, self-discipline, depression, and living with a serious or life-threatening illness. At Liberty these issues are addressed in a “safe, loving and festive environment.”

Brent Coffee had been on a methamphetamine binge for quite some time and was in the process of losing his wife, Amanda, his family, job, house, and likely everything in his life when he saw the lights on at the church one night. In desperation he stopped by the church to see if the pastor would pray for him.

What he encountered was a Celebrate Recovery gathering, which was the beginning of a genuine spiritual renewal. The group provided support and accountability. Amanda started attending the CR meetings with Brent. Their relationship was restored, and God gave him back his family, his house, and even a better job. Brent and Amanda were remarried during a Celebrate Recovery meeting at Liberty. They are now both leaders in the ministry.

“I am seeing God do things in this church that I have never seen before,” said Lewis. “Walls are coming down, masks are coming off, and families are being put back together. This ministry has become a well-oiled and streamlined disciple-making machine.”

— This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. J. Gerald Harris is editor of the Christian Index.