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Doors Wide Open

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (Luke 4:18-19, NLT).

Pastor Marc* knew that Celebrate Recovery is a credible Christian 12-step program, and was thrilled when a local chapter asked to use his church for their weekly meetings. It would be a great way to help the community see his church as friendly and supportive. His church members liked the idea, too. For a while at least….

But then they insisted that Pastor Marc ask the group to find another place to meet. Why? Because some members found cigarette butts in the church parking lot. Pastor Marc could have asked the group to not smoke on church grounds, or members could have volunteered to pick up the butts each week. Instead, they chose a spotless parking lot over helping the struggling addicts of their community.

So the group found a different church-a church that fully accepted and welcomed them just the way they were. Every Thursday evening for 16 years now, Pastor Owen’s church has hosted the Celebrate Recovery meetings for groups of 30 to 70 people. People struggling with every imaginable addiction have come through the church’s open doors: men and women addicted to alcohol, to street and prescription drugs, to pornography, to food, and to toxic relationships.

Pastor Owen sees these meetings as a very positive way to bring people back to God and back to church. He told me, “People who are facing addictions are often too embarrassed to come to church. When they do attend they feel guilty. Even if no one knows about their addiction, they feel the guilt, and so they often quietly slip away. Hosting a recovery group at our church makes it a safe place where they can come and be around other people who are struggling, and not feel judged.”

Patrick is a good example of the value of hosting a recovery group. He was once a church leader and played a very public roll each Sabbath. Only he and his wife knew about his alcohol addiction. When his guilt finally became too strong, he quit attending. But then he started attending the recovery group. For months this was his “church.” Then, when he felt stronger and back in control of his life, he started attending church again. He is now back in a leadership position.

Pastor Owen suggests that members and pastors get together to discuss the needs in their community. If there’s no recovery group available, you can find the resources and people to start one. And if there are existing groups, they may need volunteers or a church building to meet in. Your church’s involvement might be instrumental in bringing some addicted people “home.”

Pastor Owen recently asked me, “Why are our churches here in the first place? Are we here for ourselves? Or are we here to get spiritually “pumped” each week so we can go out and serve the hurting in our communities?”

According to Jesus, we are here to release the captives and set the oppressed free. And we can do that by opening our doors and our hearts to them. Our focus shouldn’t be on their instability, but on what they can become when the miracle of God’s grace, and our acceptance, touch their lives.

Prayer Focus #7: Pray that we become more willing to open the doors of the church to Celebrate Recovery for missing members struggling with addictions. Then pray for those who shame people who attend.

Recommended Resource: http://www.celebraterecovery.com

by Nancy Canwell