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Celebrate Recovery is for everyone

15baefe699e26bde66610c9dd50c8d37Every week in Oklahoma, an average of 2,500 adults, teens and children pursue freedom from addictive, compulsive and dysfunctional behaviors by following Celebrate Recovery’s steps to healing.

Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christ-centered, biblically based program that is proven to work. Churches across Oklahoma offer CR ministries to participants who find anonymity, confidentiality and fellowship, God’s healing power and transformed lives in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Celebrate Recovery rises above other recovery programs by firmly establishing Jesus as the one true and only Higher Power. The CR curriculum was developed by John Baker, whose own struggle with alcohol led to Saddleback Church and friendship with Pastor Rick Warren, author of best-sellers: The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.

Baker found no place at Saddleback to openly share his struggles with alcoholism after completing the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—where ridicule resulted from sharing his Higher Power, Jesus Christ. Sensing that other church members were secretly wrestling with all kinds of hurts, habits and hang-ups, too, Baker approached Warren in 1991 with a vision for CR, and the ministry was founded.

Today, CR ministries are thriving in churches and prisons all across the nation and in 11 foreign countries. Truly, captives are being set free!

Traveling the Road to Recovery

The steps along CR’s road to recovery follow eight principles from the Beatitudes, taught by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 3-11). Drawing on Jesus’ message of true happiness and biblical truth that fellowship is a key to spiritual growth, participants take the steps out of hiding in the darkness of denial and move into the light of forgiveness, acceptance and healing in Christ. Thus, recovery is found in the restoration of relationship with God.

The CR name is a registered trademark, and CR ministry programs follow a consistent format when the name is used. Specifically, program guidelines include the curriculum of group-based teaching and study exclusively from the Celebrate Recovery Leader’s Guide, Participant Guides and the Bible.

A typical CR program meets weekly, beginning with a meal and fellowship, then moves to Large Group, which is devoted to praise, teaching and testimony. Following this is a break into Small Groups, which are gender-specific and structured for safe sharing on recovery-ripe issues such as chemical dependence, food and pornography addictions, sexual or physical abuse, anger, control, busyness, codependency, grief, loneliness, over spending and depression among others. The evening concludes with a final gathering for coffee and dessert. The vitally important CR step study groups are also gender-specific, and meet at other times throughout the week.

Recovery for Youth

Several churches offer Life Hurts God Heals (LHGH), the CR curriculum for teenagers experiencing pain or addiction and who are involved with sex, drugs, eating disorders, pornography or troubled family lives. Many teens are simply struggling to find solid footing, and what better foundation to offer than an active relationship with Jesus Christ?

In LHGH ministries, teens gather for fellowship, Large Group teaching and Small Group sharing time. Adult volunteers come alongside as mentors offering support, encouragement and guidance. Presenting Christ’s teaching through a step study program, leaders reach the teens with a contemporary message of Christian truth: the saving power of Jesus. Small, gender-specific groups are opportunities for safely sharing thoughts and feelings, and for mentors to demonstrate love and acceptance found in a relationship with Christ.

Changing Lives Inside Prisons

The attraction of changed lives is too strong to contain. CR is reaching prisoners incarcerated behind correctional walls of jails and medium security facilities. The Department of Corrections recognizes the ministry as a crucial component of community re-entry programs. Oklahoma CR-Inside State Rep. Mike McKenrick, a member at Tulsa, Southern Hills, is working toward the award of certification hours to prisoners who complete a CR step study program as an education requirement for community reintegration.

Another powerful statement of the involvement of CR in the lives of prisoners is the collaboration between Warren, CR, Prison Fellowship Ministry founder Chuck Colson, community churches and countless volunteers to further minister to the needs of inmates and families through annual Angel Tree campaigns.

This past year in Oklahoma alone, 8,500 children were placed on the Angel Tree Christmas list by a parent in prison. More than 500 of these children and caretakers were directly touched by the loving hand of God extended through the ministries of CR Inside and 28 participating churches that adopted Angel Tree kids.

Recovery for Pastors

People in ministry positions no longer have to hide in shadows to deal with their struggles, thanks to William L. “Hess” Hester, Senior Pastor at Tulsa, Southern Hills. Witnessing the deep, life-changing impact of CR groups on participants, Hess recognized CR was not just for other people—he needed recovery, too. Although Hess didn’t struggle with any major addictions, he had life issues to resolve and knew other pastors could identify with this as well. With few options available for pastors seeking help in times of crisis, the idea for a Celebrate Pastors Recovery group surfaced. To date, 22 pastors have completed the program.

According to Hess, the time spent with this group was personally beneficial and eye-opening; he draws from the experience in ministering to others.

“We all need recovery,” Hess said. “The theological word for recovery is sanctification. As believers, we are seeking to recover the image of Christ in our lives.”

If you are struggling with a hindrance or break in your relationship with God, please consider CR for restoration.

To locate a CR group, visit, select “OKLAHOMA,” then choose either E (counties East of I-35) or W (counties West of I-35). If your community is not listed, contact Eastern OK State Rep Norma Murphy, at, or Western OK State Rep Nancy Reeves, at

If you are interested in starting CR at your church, attend the One Day/ALT on Saturday, April 25, at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa. CR founders John and Cheryl Baker will share their personal journey of recovery and the “7 Keys to a Successful CR.” Register at

Blythe Fowler is CR assimilation coach at Tulsa, Southern Hills.


Author: Staff

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  • Cornelia Knighton

    Thanks for posting your article. ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics has helped me a lot in my life. Its a great 12 step program

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