By Jim Dennis
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
What comes to mind when you hear the word recovery?
Perhaps your first thought takes you to people with addiction issues. The alcoholic who can’t get his act together who rides a motorized bike around town because of his multiple DUI convictions. Or the emaciated drug addict with sunken eyes. These are just two of the stereotypes recovering people and recovery groups have dealt with for years.
Perhaps you envision groups gathering in the basement of a church somewhere, participating in a program run by someone who most likely doesn’t even attend that church. Many Christians think they don’t have “those kinds of people” attending their church, and as a result, they don’t see a need for their church to offer a recovery ministry.
Most of us have something we need to work through and recover from. We began our recovery ministry at The Crossing 12 years ago, and in that time, we have seen amazing things happen. We have watched people find freedom from life-controlling issues and begin leading entirely new lives in Jesus Christ.
A few years after we launched our original recovery ministry, we realized the program wasn’t producing much fruit. Then four years ago, through a series of God-orchestrated circumstances, we discovered re:generation, a recovery ministry created by Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas. I called Nate Graybill, the ministry’s developer and leader. Nate explained that their annual training for the ministry would be held soon. We decided to attend the training and learn more about the program. Within hours of listening to the leadership team explain re:generation, we knew it was what we needed to offer to struggling people in our Midwestern region.
Here is what makes re:generation special and why you might want to consider adopting it in your church to help people find freedom from the issues that have controlled them.
What makes re:generation a unique recovery ministry?
Re:generation (www.regenerationrecovery.org) is a 12-step recovery ministry used by more than 300 churches and organizations in the United States and around the world. According to their website, “re:generation is a biblically based discipleship program offering healing, recovery, and freedom from any type of struggle.” Its developers regard the yearlong re:generation journey not as a program, but as discipleship ministry.
Participants meet weekly and engage in daily readings and workbook assignments that help identify their issues and the underlying root causes. The workbooks contain nearly 900 Scripture passages for study and discussion. Topics include love, grace, repentance, identity in Christ, forgiveness, making amends, and serving others. The program identifies 117 different issues people may face. Be careful if you decide to read the list and take a personal inventory. When we started re:generation, we soon realized that alcohol and drugs were minor issues compared to many others that were listed.
Re:generation can help anyone who is willing to admit they are broken and need help. They must then be willing to put in the necessary work to finally deal with the root issues. Many of our people struggled as they emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their struggles included worry, anxiety, fear, depression, anger, drugs, alcohol, co-dependency, pornography, and past sexual or physical abuse.
Re:generation will change how your church looks at recovery ministry. In the past, people at our church thought of recovery as being for those with addiction issues, but they now see it differently. In fact, we have had more than 20 staff members go through the program. Would your staff feel safe coming forward and admitting they needed to do some work on themselves? It is wonderful for our church people to see our staff right in the middle of recovery with them, not hiding out in special groups. In fact, I know of a church in California that expects all new employees to go through re:generation within their first year of joining the staff. It is part of their church culture!
Re:generation helps people get healthy and gives them a place to serve.
From experience, I know that many of the issues we struggle with make us feel “less than” and unqualified to serve in the church. These issues can also lead us into unhealthy communication patterns and prevent us from receiving the kind of coaching we really need. In many cases, we are in recovery because of sin issues, and our sin issues keep us from serving or leading. By dealing with our sin issues properly and in a biblical way, we remove the limitations and free ourselves to serve and lead. Surrendering to God and admitting that we are powerless lead to change. Participants who do this are restored to health and are ready to use what they have learned to help others.
Re:generation teaches that our identity is in Jesus Christ, not in our issues or hurts.
Those who participate in the re:generation ministry are taught who Christ is, what he did for us, and what that means for us as his followers. (Yes, there is a chapter asking if the reader has been saved and what to do if they haven’t been.) The Scriptures and teachings constantly remind us that we are new creations and that we are to be holy and live a life that reflects the lordship of Jesus Christ. It’s a joy to see someone “get it” for the first time and to watch them suddenly realize they can have a new life free from current or past sin issues.
Re:generation comes with training, support, and resources from a great team with an abundance of experience.
Watermark Church has created several ministries that they willingly share with other churches and organizations. This was evident when we attended our initial training in Dallas. Training workbooks can be ordered as needed. Teaching videos are available, as well as dozens of other videos and handouts (www.watermarkresources.com). All the resources you need for this ministry are available online. Your tech team will not have to create anything. The Watermark team provides coaching as you launch your ministry and remains available anytime for a phone call to answer your questions.
I cannot say enough about our experience with Watermark, with Nate Graybill, and with their leadership. Since we launched re:generation in our church, we’ve used two additional ministry models developed by them. They continue to bless us and many others through their innovation, service, and leadership.
I became sober at age 45 and have now gone 19 years without a drink. I am approaching 16 years in ministry. My recovery started when I asked for help, realizing I was not alone. I have been around recovery and recovering people ever since. Re:generation has proven to be a powerful discipleship ministry tool for people in need of recovery and a great starting point for churches seeking to launch a recovery ministry.
Jim Dennis serves with The Crossing, a multisite church located in three states across the Midwest.
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Here are testimonies from three people involved in the re:generation ministry.
Brett (a ministry leader and staff member with a church in Illinois): “Re:generation has impacted our church by creating a culture of honesty and accountability with the participants and [it has] given program mentors the knowledge they need to lead effectively. This ministry has taught us that recovery is not just for those who have alcohol or substance-abuse problems. It has impacted me personally as well, encouraging me to turn to Jesus for things that are going on in my life and not to worldly desires, and to turn to his Word for guidance. The mentor component has aided my walk with Jesus by having another spiritually mature man walk alongside me as I went through the ministry.”
Sean (a pastor and ministry leader with a church in Indiana): “I see re:generation blessing not just this generation but generations to come in our congregation. People are taking next steps with Jesus that will influence their children and their grandchildren. We’ve seen marriages restored, purity pursued, and the chains of painful addictions broken. Not only are our participants seeking the new life that Christ has to offer, but they are also returning to our ministry in leadership and mentorship.”
Rachel (a ministry leader and staff member with The Rock Church, Conway, South Carolina): “We have been running re:generation for the last four years. We have seen many people from the church and the surrounding community come to know Christ and find freedom from the things that drag them down. The ministry has impacted our congregation by creating an awareness that addiction issues go far beyond drugs and alcohol. We invite everyone to come to re:generation and find healing. People often come to us broken and resistant. We show them grace and provide a safe place where they can finally let down their guard and unpack their hurts. The curriculum invokes deep thought and processing. As a result, participants come to know who they are in Christ and no longer define themselves by what they have done or by what has been done to them. They find freedom to move forward in their relationship with Christ by serving and helping others find their freedom as well.”
Author’s note: Brett and Rachel, quoted above, are on staff at their churches because of their involvement in the recovery ministry and the fruit it produces.