It was 2005 and I found myself as a Pastor in the midst of a brewing “perfect storm.” Long-standing internal staff problems were coming to a head. Pockets of discontent within the congregation, some stirred by the staff issues, were stewing. And on-going personal issues continued to go unresolved. As this “perfect storm” continued to build, I battled depression and burnout and tried to hang on to the few bright spots in my life at the time. One of those bright spots was a ministry that had begun in 2002 in our church called Celebrate Recovery. The testimonies that derived from that ministry were phenomenal. Life-debilitating hurts, habits, and hang-ups of all kinds were being healed and defeated in Christ and new “creations” were emerging all around.
The more I observed the enormous healing that was taking place through this Christ-centered, biblically-based 12 step process, the more I began to yearn for that same healing in my own life. But, given the fact that many of my personal hang-ups and hurts were related to internal church matters, I did not feel “safe” joining any of our ongoing 12 step groups out of our ministry. So, I did what seemed logical, I invited our CR network of Pastors to consider joining me in forming a Pastor’s 12 step group. As God would have it, and no doubt it WAS a “God-thing,” ten of us took the plunge and started a Pastors-only 12 step group. The group was made up of both Senior Pastors and Staff Pastors; 5 Methodists, 4 Baptists, and 1 from a non-denominational Bible Church.
That was the beginning of a 14 month journey that became quite a serendipity experience for all of us. For me, it was a lifeline. During that period of time, the “perfect storm” that had been brewing, finally blew in with all its fury. Having the guys in my 12 step group for support and encouragement and prayer and accountability is what helped me keep my sanity. Working the steps helped me step out of denial regarding my own personal contributions to the “storm,” and helped me keep moving forward. And, I was not the only one who benefitted from the experience. As it turned out, almost every one of the guys in our group encountered one or more of their own storms during the 14 months as well. So, in Christ, we all got to help keep one another afloat.
Almost a year into that first Pastor’s 12 step group, John Baker, the founder of Celebrate Recovery, found out what we were doing. As God would have it, starting such groups had been a long-standing dream for John. He already had a name for it… CPR, or, Celebrate Pastors in Recovery. That following August, at the Celebrate Recovery Summit, John invited us to share our experience and lead a couple of workshops. The response was overwhelming. CPR officially began.