By: Brad Gathright, BMA Missions:Honduras
There is no doubt that our world is changing, and many of us would say these changes are not for the better. I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22. Notice that Paul did not say he stayed the same to reach all men. He implied that he used innovative methods for the purpose of reaching all men. He never compromised by changing the content of his message, but he definitely changed how he presented the gospel.
In this day and time we need to consider how we should strategically present the message of Jesus Christ in order to reach the lost. I am not as concerned that we will go too far, as that we won’t do enough. The world is full of lost and hurting people and we have the only cure for their sickness. The words of Jesus in Mark 2:17 are key here, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” One of the implications here is that churches should be reaching out to people with messed up lives. Why is that? I believe they are quicker to recognize their lost state and more open to the changes that God requires than people who seem to have it all together.
In the Great Commission Jesus called us to “make disciples of all nations.” That implies that we are to get involved on a personal level. Discipleship is our calling, and no doubt evangelism is the first step in the discipleship process. Discipleship requires ongoing relationships and a huge time investment and can often be messy. We should be more interested in transformation and multiplication, not merely a transfer of information.
I feel that many times we have a bias in our minds about “recovery ministry.” That it is only for alcoholics and drug addicts. Only thirty-three percent of people who attend Celebrate Recovery struggle with chemical dependency. The rest are hurting because of the effects of sin in their lives or in the lives of someone they care about. True recovery only comes as we apply biblical truths to our lives. That is how Celebrate Recovery works. As people are open and honest about their lives and apply biblical truths to their lives, they are changed. These changes then become the basis for a testimony of how God worked in their lives and they are taught that we have a responsibility to share the message of Christ with others.
Let me ask you a question: What if someone comes to you and asks for help with a struggle with alcohol, drugs, pornography, or abuse? Is your church equipped to help him or her? That was the situation in Honduras. Our pastors were struggling with how to help the families and friends of church members. These were the people in the communities all around our churches. I was so impressed with their desire to reach the broken and hurting in their communities.
In reality Celebrate Recovery is a discipleship ministry and, when done correctly, brings people to your church. Many people who struggle with life issues are not comfortable in church, but they are comfortable in a recovery setting. A recovery ministry can become the bridge that gets them involved with your church.
Does it work? Personally I have seen more radically transformed lives through this ministry than any other that I have been involved in. I know people who have gotten off drugs, quit alcohol, forgiven abusers, and restored marriages and relationships. That is only possible through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people actively serving in churches today that were brought to Jesus Christ through the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. It is working well in the United States as more than 29,000 churches use the program.
The next question is, how is Celebrate Recovery working here in Honduras? It is working very well. The first church we worked with is now operating the ministry on their own with only guidance and input on our part. To quote Pastor Marvin Valerio, “I used to have a church of spectators and now I have workers who are volunteering to serve.” Their church has experienced a renewal and has gone from struggling to planting another church. People in the community noticed the lives of the church members changing. This created an excitement and momentum for them to grow.
One of the advantages of Celebrate Recovery is that it is translated into Spanish and there is flexibility in some areas, which enable us to adapt it cross culturally. We are currently working to prepare materials for a cell-based church that is interested in having the ministry as well.
The church we are currently working with in San Pedro Sula is excited about the opportunity to use Celebrate Recovery to minister to those involved with gangs. The initial work is being done right now to make this a reality. What an exciting moment. I personally have had the opportunity to meet some of these young men and to share a devotional with them. It was well received and the doors are open for us to move forward.
I have already talked with pastors from Guatemala and El Salvador about ways we can begin to train them while we are continuing our work in Honduras. The need is here all around us. I am so excited that there are pastors and churches that have a desire to reach the hurting and broken in their communities. Our vision is to equip these churches to reach the least of these. In the end, we want these churches to be able to equip and train other churches so that the ministry can multiply.
Let me be clear here. Celebrate Recovery is a ministry of the local church and answers to the authority of the pastor. In order for this ministry to be successful, it requires the support of the pastor. I am thankful for pastors who are willing to commit their churches to reaching the hurting around them.
As with every part of Christianity, nothing is automatic. God always stands ready to do what he has promised to do. We have the responsibility to do our part in obedience. This program works when people take biblical truths and apply them to their lives. We like to say “It works if you work it” and “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Growth in Christ is a serious work that is a combination of teaching, identifying the areas of our lives to change, repentance and a commitment to work the process of change. It is not always comfortable and seldom easy, but it is always worth it.
I believe that our churches should be “loving communities” that lost people want to come to. But we should love them enough to not leave them stuck in their destructive lifestyles of sin. As we share our stories of gospel transformation this will create hope in their lives that the same God who changed our lives will also change theirs. I believe that the most effective evangelism begins with a short testimony of what God has done in my life and then an invitation for them to ask God to do the same for them.
My desire is to see souls saved and lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Celebrate Recovery is a tool to introduce people to the gospel, help them to evaluate their lives biblically, restore their relationship with God and others, and then begin to share the message of what God can do. I am excited to be serving the Lord and the churches of BMA America in Honduras.