Here’s the expanded version of what was published in today’s Covington News:
The goal of any ministry is changed lives. From churches that seek to evangelize the lost to organizations that provide food and shelter to groups who counsel couples whose marriages are on the rocks, every ministry wants to change lives for the better. This month, one ministry with an international outreach is celebrating ten years and countless changed lives in Newton County. Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program for “hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” is marking its tenth anniversary at Eastridge Community Church on January 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Celebrate Recovery began 20 years ago at Saddleback Church in Southern California, when John Baker, himself a recovering alcoholic, shared with Pastor Rick Warren about the need for a Christ-centered recovery program. Warren and Baker started Celebrate Recovery, and it is now in 19,000 churches worldwide with materials translated into 19 languages. Baker is now heads the ministry on an international level.
The ministry began in Newton County when pastors at Eastridge Community Church picked up a startup kit for the ministry at a conference at Saddleback. Brad and Renee Rutledge came to Eastridge in 1999. Renee shared her testimony at a women’s event, which led to three of the pastors’ wives telling their husbands about her story. Brad was overheard talking with another man about starting a small group for recovering addicts, which led to his being approached by the pastor about heading the ministry. The Rutledge’s helped launch the ministry, and they have since become full-time staff at the church. Brad now serves as Pastor of Celebrate Recovery and as Celebrate Recovery’s Southeast Regional Director, while Renee directs the ministry at Eastridge.
Celebrate Recovery launched at Eastridge in January 2001 with 27 in attendance. That number has grown to a weekly attendance of 165, with a total 294 in step study groups and children and student ministries. Celebrate Recovery meets every Thursday night, with the exception of Thanksgiving and any other holiday that may fall on a Thursday, when the ministry meets on another night of the week.
Two other churches host Celebrate Recovery on different nights. First Baptist Church in Covington launched their Celebrate Recovery in November 2009. They meet on Monday nights. Crosspointe Baptist Church in Oxford began their Celebrate Recovery program on Tuesday nights in October 2010.
Unlike other 12-step programs, Celebrate Recovery places Jesus Christ and Biblical principles at the center of recovery. Every part of the ministry’s curriculum is based in Scripture. Celebrate Recovery is also not just for those recovering from drug or alcohol dependency. The ministry looks at the root causes of addiction and hurt and shows how people can overcome them through Christ.
“The truth is less than a quarter of our participants struggle with the addictions,” said Renee Rutledge. “Celebrate Recovery is for anyone who struggles with a hurt, habit or hang-up. The feeling of being hurt is an emotional reaction to another person’s behavior or to a situation, such as abandonment, abuse, divorce, rejection, unfaithfulness of a spouse, codependency, or grief. A habit is an addiction to someone or something: alcohol, drugs, food, pornography, shopping, cutting, stealing, or people. Hang-ups are negative mental attitudes that are used to cope with people or hardship, such as, anger, depression, fear, shame, unforgiveness, prejudices, ungratefulness, or being negative. As you can see, we deal with any and every struggle that everyone deals with.”
“Celebrate Recovery taught us both to rely on Christ for all of our needs,” said Mandy Corley, who, with her husband Jason, leads the ministry at Crosspointe Baptist Church. “Even beyond our destructive behaviors the twelve steps taught us to let God change our attitudes, our motivations, and our hearts. We are forever grateful for this program and felt the call to have one at our home church. We are excited about what god will do through Celebrate Recovery at Crosspointe.”
The greatest evidence that Celebrate Recovery succeeds at its mission is the number of lives that have changed as a result of the program. Rutledge says she has seen so many examples of lives rescued from despair and broken marriages restored. In fact, 323 people have become a part of the Eastridge Community Church family through their involvement in Celebrate Recovery.
“Women trapped in codependency find freedom in setting healthy boundaries with their family members. Men trapped in sexual addiction find freedom in accountability, the process of forgiveness, and overcoming the past,” said Rutledge. “The list goes on and on. God transforms lives through Celebrate Recovery and gives us a purpose!”
Baker says he is proud of Newton County’s Celebrate Recovery programs. He is pleased to see the growth in them and to see how well they run the program.
“Eastridge is a good example of how to run Celebrate Recovery,” said Baker. “I want all Celebrate Recovery ministries to be like theirs, and I’m sure the other ministries in the county will keep growing.”
Like so many other ministries, Celebrate Recovery counts on volunteer help. At all three churches, a phalanx of volunteers keep the ministry running. From leading groups to running the technical aspects of the service, to serving snacks at the end of the night, volunteers truly are the heartbeat of the ministry of Celebrate Recovery.
“Outside of God’s direction, strength & vision, our most important asset is the small army of volunteers who serve with us,” said Rutledge. “Many volunteers are here between 4:30-5:30 every Thursday night and they don’t leave before 10:00-11:00. We have 34 wonderful people leading 15 small groups or ministries with in Celebrate Recovery. There are easily another fifty-plus volunteers who serve on rotations in different areas weekly. I am grateful for all the ways they inspire me & others as they share God’s hope.”
“I am constantly amazed at the amount of life change I see Jesus Christ bringing thru Celebrate Recovery,” said Scott Moore, Lead Pastor at Eastridge Community Church. “It has been a tremendous extension of God’s grace here at Eastridge. With the additions of Celebrate Recovery at First Baptist of Covington and also Crosspointe Baptist, I look forward to more stories of freedom and life!”
Celebrate Recovery has seen many changes in the last ten years. For seven years, the ministry has gone into prisons. In New Mexico alone, the recidivism rate has dropped from 85% to 7%, thanks to Celebrate Recovery. DFCS, judges, and local law enforcement refer people to Newton County’s Celebrate Recovery programs on an almost weekly basis. The ministry has benefited from technological advances as well. Social media and networking have made it easier for people to share the message of Celebrate Recovery with others. People throughout the world can go to celebraterecovery.com and find a ministry near them.
Ten years is just the beginning. Brad and Renee Rutledge have a vision of seeing Celebrate Recovery programs every night of the week throughout Newton County.
“Celebrate Recovery offers true recovery, not just sobriety, and it creates disciples,” said Renee Rutledge. “Celebrate Recovery is the strongest outreach ministry any church could possibly have. God has a plan for our county. We are willing and available to help teach, train, and assist anyone who is open to allowing Celebrate Recovery at their church. We would love to serve our community together. We only need four more nights a week, just four more churches.”
Though Celebrate Recovery is hosted by three different churches each week, participation in the ministry is not limited to members of those churches. People who are members of other churches, or who do not attend church at all, are welcome to become a part of Celebrate Recovery. Rutledge says word of mouth is their best advertising.
“People are invited to come to Celebrate Recovery, and others around them witness positive changes in their lives and begin to ask questions, which leads to them walking through the doors,” said Rutledge. “The ripple effect of a changed life is the impact on their homes, their jobs, and their community, as well as on our ministry and churches.”
Rutledge says the tenth anniversary service on January 13 at Eastridge will be just like any other Celebrate Recovery night, with one exception: John Baker will be the guest speaker. The church expects other Celebrate Recovery ministry leaders from this area will attend as well.
“I’m going to speak for a few minutes that night and tell people how proud I am of them,” said Baker. “We’ll also look at the next ten years. I expect to see a lot of people celebrating.”
Eastridge Community Church is located at 863 Highway 142 E in Covington. For more information on Celebrate Recovery, visit celebraterecovery.com. Anyone who is interested in starting a Celebrate Recovery program at their church can contact Renee Rutledge at 770 786 2048, extension 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.