Celebrate Recovery Helping Heal ‘Hurts, Hang-ups and Habits’


By Holland Johnson 

Celebrate Recovery (known as CR) is a Christ-centered recovery program in churches throughout the United States and parts of the world. It is similar to other recovery programs such as AA and NA, but CR is very biblically-based and Jesus Christ-centered. It is a program that has become a vital part of thousands of churches of different denominations. 

Celebrate Recovery started in 1991 at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forrest, Calif.; the church was founded by Pastor Rick Warren. At that time, Saddleback was meeting in a high school gymnasium. 

John Baker, a former Air Force pilot and businessman, had allowed his alcohol addiction to disrupt his personal and family life. His wife, Cheryl, and their two kids had started attending Saddleback Church. Eventually John also began attending and had recommitted his life to Christ. At the same time he continued going to his AA meetings and sharing how Jesus had become his “higher power.” Getting some push-back from the AA folks for his “Christian” explanation of his recovery, he wrote Pastor Warren about his vision for Celebrate Recovery. Pastor Warren said, “Great, John, you do it!” 

That first night 43 people showed up and Celebrate Recovery was born. Now, Pastor Warren says, “over 27,000 people have gone through the CR program at Saddleback alone since 1991.” Today there are over 35,000 CR church hosts all over the country. 

People often think of CR as only for those battling drugs and/or alcohol addiction. And, admittedly, in the early days that was the initial focus. However, it soon became apparent that almost everyone has a need of recovery from some painful issue in their lives, even Christian believers, and CR “expanded.” It is now a program for every kind of “hurt, hang-up, or habit.” Some examples are anger, sexual addictions, co-dependency, anxiety, control issues, unwillingness to forgive, judgmentalism, financial recovery, food addiction, etc. 

Specifically, CR follows Christian guidelines and a biblically-based philosophy. The overall intent of CR is fourfold: 

  1. Help people understand the purpose of personal responsibility.
  2. Encourage participants to let go of the past and focus on the future.
  3. Introduce, or renew, a dedication to Jesus.
  4. Move people into ministry.

Although the majority of CR ministry outreaches are in churches, the program is also in numerous prisons, jails, rescue missions, and other venues. 

Currently here in the Treasure Valley of Idaho, Celebrate Recovery is in eight different churches that meet in the evenings of the week. 

  • On Monday night:
  1. Tree-City Church of the Nazarene (Boise) – www.treecitychurch.com
  2. Christian Life Fellowship (Ontario) – www.clfontario.org
  • On Tuesday night:
  1. First Church of the Nazarene (Nampa) – www.nampafirst.org
  2. Weiser Community Church (Weiser) – www.weisercommunitychurch.com
  • On Thursday night:
  1. Bethel Church of the Nazarene (Nampa) – www.bethelnazarene.org
  2. Deer Flat Methodist(Caldwell) – www.deerflat.org
  • On Friday night:
  1. Vineyard Christian Fellowship (Boise) – www.vineyardboise.org
  2. Life Church (Meridian) – www.lcboise.org

To find out more about Celebrate Recovery for yourself or someone you know, or if you think your church would be interested in starting a CR ministry, contact any one of these churches. 


Holland Johnson is a retired school principal and school counselor. He may be reached at [email protected]. 

Free Digital Subscription Sign Up

Free Digital Subscription Sign Up

Share this post with your friends