What is Celebrate Recovery?

written by Gary Wackerlin, Celebrate Recovery local chapter head

The back of our favorite Celebrate Recovery tee shirt simply says “God Never Wastes A Hurt.”  Celebrate Recovery is a ministry that brings hurting people together to guide us through a scripturally based road to recovery process, so that we can live the lives that God intended for us.

I was led to Celebrate Recovery through my own battle with alcoholism and the failed self-serving issues that led me to a life I do not want to return to.  As I have shared many times in my testimony, my internal battle was living with one foot in the world and one foot in God’s Kingdom.  As hard as I tried, God finally won the battle.  In my head I already knew that, but I had to experience it before I could believe it in my heart.  During my own recovery process I became totally committed to the Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Millions of people have experienced dramatic changes in their lives by “working the Steps” as we say in AA.  It is a fantastic program of recovery that I have recommended to many people battling the disease of alcoholism.

Many people begin the Twelve Step program with little or no belief in God, much less a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I have witnessed many who started out like this and gradually began to understand who our higher power really is.  Celebrate Recovery differs from the secular Twelve Step Program because Jesus Christ is our higher power rather than a higher power of our own understanding.  Celebrate Recovery also differs in that we bring people together dealing with all of life’s issues.  No matter what the issue – alcohol, food, financial stress, co-dependency, anger, abuse, childhood abuse, sex, the internet, you name it – God wants us to take a different path.

Celebrate Recovery began twenty years ago and was founded by John Baker, a recovering alcoholic himself, with the commitment and endorsement of his Senior Pastor, Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church.  Rick Warren states that he believes Celebrate Recovery is unlike any other recovery program, and has seven features that make it unique:

  1. Celebrate Recovery is based on God’s Word, the Bible,
  2. Celebrate Recovery is forward-looking, focusing on the future rather than the past,
  3. Celebrate Recovery emphasizes personal responsibility,
  4. Celebrate Recovery emphasizes spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ,
  5. Celebrate Recovery utilizes the biblical truth that we need each other in order to grow spiritually and emotionally,
  6. Celebrate Recovery addresses all types of habits, hurts and hang-ups, and finally
  7. Celebrate Recovery is a leadership factory.

Celebrate Recovery is now an important ministry in over 13,000 churches now reaching into other countries.

So if you are curious, here are the Twelve Steps and their Biblical Comparisons:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.  Romans 7:18
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Philippians 2:13
  3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.  Romans 12:1
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Lamentations 3:40
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  James 5:16
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  James 4:10
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.  1 John 1:9
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.  Luke 6:31
  9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  Matthew 5:23-24
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.  1 Corinthians 10:12
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.  Colossians 3:16
  12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.  Galatians 6:1


Step Twelve is why I am committed to serving in this ministry.  Come join us.

Windsor Road Christian Church, 2501 Windsor Road, Champaign
Every Friday Night 5:45 – 9:00 PM
Dinner 5:45 PM
Worship 6:30 PM
Lesson or Testimony 7:00 PM
Breakout Groups 7:30 PM