Every Church Should BE a Recovery Ministry

By



Emergency Room

Some churches don’t want a recovery ministry – a ministry that specializes in helping people deal with their addictions and pain – because of the messes they’d have to get involved in. That’s tragic. Most churches in this category are less than a generation from their graves because they’ve forsaken the ministry of Jesus.

Other churches get that reaching broken, messy people matters and they’ve launched recovery ministries to reach out to people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. But often, the recovery ministry is the part of the church we’re happy to have on the side while hoping the broken, messy people don’t find their way on stage or into the mainstream of our leadership. Recovery ministry is seen as a good cause and an evangelistic tool, but perhaps little more.

There is a third category of churches rising up. These churches understand that we are ALL broken by sin, we ALL make messes, and recovery is something we ALL desperately need. These churches may or may not have an organized program for recovery, but they’ve determined to BE a recovery ministry from Sunday morning to small groups to staff and leadership development to volunteer placement. Everything is seen as an ongoing process of helping broken people find healing and redemption.

The Grace Hills Church staff has spent the past five weeks studying through an excellent little book that surveys various churches around the country that take recovery issues seriously. One of my favorite quotes thus far was this:

“There is a stirring in churches of all theological stripes to wed a red-hot passion for personal evangelism and discipleship with a compassionate love for the poor, marginalized, and addicted. The world is standing on tippy-toe to see this kind of church!”

- Pastor Jorge Acevedo
Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral, Florida

Swanson, Elizabeth A; McBean, Teresa J. (2011-07-05). Bridges to Grace: Innovative Approaches to Recovery Ministry (Leadership Network Innovation Series) Zondervan.

You may have heard it said before that the church isn’t merely a retirement home for the frozen chosen but an emergency room for dying sinners. It’s important for members of every local church to realize that every single last one of us has been a sinner, broken and devastated by sin’s effects and bound for hell forever. The grace of God that has saved us from such a fate should be motivation enough to fuel our compassion for people trapped in their problems.

I’m convinced that when churches embrace the mission of rescuing the broken, we won’t have a growth problem anymore. We’ll have a space problem.

I’m broken. And I’m shamelessly trusting Jesus as my Healer. And thankfully, I’ve found a church that IS a recovery ministry – a family that will faithfully love me through my own hurts, habits, and hang-ups and give me space to minister to others who are wrestling with the same.

I’m praying, like Pastor Acevedo, “God, send us the people nobody wants or sees.”

photo credit: Sailing “Footprints: Real to Reel” (Ronn ashore)


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About Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.


  • James Gleason

    Amen, brother! Our church made the transition through the church with no recovery ministry, to having a recovery ministry, to being a recovery ministry. It took several years, but we are testimony that when you reach out to the hurting and broken you will always have an audience…and a space problem!

  • http://feedleaders.com/ Brett Faris

    Brandon great thoughts. I couldn’t agree more. What I have found that helps with this is when a church drops the suits and Sunday’s best to wear everyday clothing on Sunday. I’m all for looking nice on Sunday but when it comes at the cost of people not feeling like they can’t come to your church because they don’t own a suit then it becomes a problem. At NewPointe Community Church, I have encountered many hurting people who are there on Sunday and they have said, “I’m so glad you guys don’t wear suits, because I don’t have one.” Breaking that image management with clothes helps break down image management of hiding our hurts and pains. Does that makes sense?

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      It not only makes sense to me, I can identify with it completely. Before we started planting Grace Hills, one church planting assessment dude said I might be hindered by my “frumpy” look with the jeans and untucked shirts. I stuck to my guns and we’re discovering a ton of people who felt intimidated by the more polished (and often very effective) churches in our area. So I sometimes say I’m a “missionary to the frumpy.” It’s not just about dress. It’s about culture.

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