One thing the world seems unlikely to ever run out of is broken people. And as long as they exist, there will be a need for Celebrate Recovery, the Christian answer to the 12-step program.
The Christian-based addiction recovery program, created by pastors John Baker and Rick Warren of the popular Saddleback Church, uses the eight beatitudes ("Happy are the...") to help people get over life's "hurts, habits and hang-ups."
Newton County has two local programs, including the county's original program at Eastridge Community Church, which meets Thursday nights, and a newly started up program at Living Way Worship Center, which meets on Monday nights.
Saddleback founded the program in the early 1990s out of a desire to help people overcome spiritual stumbling blocks.
"Most people are familiar with the classic 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups. While undoubtedly many lives have been helped through the 12 steps, I've always been uncomfortable with that program's vagueness about the nature of God, the saving power of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit," Warren said on the Celebrate Recovery website.
The program is used today to help people who have problems with alcohol, anger, co-dependency, drugs, eating habits, pornography and sex, among other problems.
Eastridge Community Church opened the first local program in 2001 and the program has been there ever since.
Other local churches have occasionally hosted programs of their own, but the volunteer-intense nature of the mission has made it difficult to sustain.
The Living Way program is actually an existing program that moved from First Baptist Church, which decided the program was no longer an ideal fit, said organizer Terrell Wingfield.
Celebrate Recovery revolves around two core activities.
The first are the regular Celebrate Recovery meetings, which are open to everyone and anyone. At both Eastridge on Thursdays and Living Way on Mondays, Celebrate Recovery meetings begin with a meal at 6 p.m., a large church-like worship service at 7 p.m., small group discussion sessions at 8 p.m. and then a more casual fellowship period at 9 p.m.
The meetings rotate every other week between a spiritual lessons and personal testimonies from recovered addicts.
The second core activity is called a step study. This intense nine-month or longer program works attendees through four workbooks developed by pastor John Baker. Attendees meet every week after completing a lesson and share their answers in a small group setting.
Living Way currently has one men's and one women's step study in progress. Wingfield said the women's step study will be wrapping up soon and the next study is expected to start in mid-October. Eastridge also has step studies in progress.
Both churches also have teen-based versions of the program.
Though Wingfield had an alcoholic father and struggled with anger, control and dependency issues himself, he didn't become involved with Celebrate Recovery until he saw problems develop in his, at the time, 14-year-old daughter.
"I live with an alcoholic father and it came back to me with my own children and shook me up and motivated me," Wingfield said Wednesday. "And when I saw CR (Celebrate Recovery) at Eastridge, I said this is what I want to do the rest of my life.
"A lot of teens have my problems; my heart is really in working with the teens," he said. "I see my daughter so many times when I'm helping other people."
Wingfield hopes that the program not only helps fix broken families, but also prevents the cycle that those families create.
"Since I've been in it, I've found out that so many people struggle with pornography and that so many people have been sexually abused," Wingfield said. "I'm shocked at the number of men who were sexually abused. I always thought women were the ones being abused and they are, but a lot of the men who turned to drugs and alcohol were sexually abused as children."
To learn more about the Living Way program, call Wingfield and his wife and fellow leader Donna, at (770) 787-7611 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Eastridge's program, call (770) 786 2048 and hit ext. 250 for Celebrate Recovery Pastor Brad Rutledge or ext. 233 for Director Renee Rutledge.