John Baker, the founder of Celebrate Recovery, lauds a new partnership to enhance Prison Fellowship®'s in-prison curriculum and recruit more Angel Tree® churches to serve prisoners’ children and families.
Prison Fellowship: Describe the personal journey that led you to found Celebrate Recovery.
John Baker: I was in business for a long time and was very successful; I was a functional alcoholic for 19 years. I drank just enough to not feel anything. It was a very empty journey. I would come home and be emotionally unavailable for my family. My breaking point came when I was on a business trip. I woke up in a hotel and reached for a beer. I couldn't get enough beer. Alcohol had stopped working. I sobered up in Alcoholics Anonymous, and my family invited me to go with them to Saddleback Church. I heard Pastor Rick [Warren]'s message and I knew I was home.
Eventually God gave me the vision for Celebrate Recovery, a Twelve Step program with Jesus right at the center of it. I approached Pastor Rick, and he said, “John, you do it.” If I hadn't said yes, God would have found another leader; but I did, and I have never in my life been happier. Every day I get up and I'm amazed I get to do this.
How large is Celebrate Recovery today?
Right now it's in over 30,000 churches, and it's in 20 different languages, 32 countries, and prisons and universities. It's pretty crazy.
How did this new partnership between Prison Fellowship and Celebrate Recovery come to be?[Prison Fellowship staff member] Joe Avila and I became friends. Joe gave me a call and told me that James Ackerman was going to be in town and would like to meet me. We met in my office, just like we were old friends. It was a really good, good discussion. I believe [this partnership] was a God thing. What's great about it is that we didn't have any deep concerns. We just said, “Let's get this thing started.” And we have. For two organizations of this size to move this fast, I feel God must have put us together.
How will the partnership work?
Prison Fellowship is going to use Celebrate Recovery's curriculum on the inside to help men and women overcome their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups.” And after people get out of prison, they can find a church nearby where they and their family can continue to get support on their recovery journey. And we're encouraging every Celebrate Recovery chapter to do Angel Tree. I love Angel Tree. We have been promoting the program at our regional one-day seminars, and we've run out of pamphlets! I've also asked Prison Fellowship President and Chief Executive Officer James Ackerman to speak at our Celebrate Recovery summits. Each summit has about 3,500 churches represented. I think it's pretty exciting.
What excites you most about this collaboration?
I really feel that this is the time, because we are both doing what God wants us to do, and we are doing it well. Certainly I admire Prison Fellowship, and I think together we are going to make both organizations better. I am honored to be a part of it.
ABOUT CELEBRATE RECOVERY
Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than just psychological theory.
Twenty-five years ago, Saddleback Church launched Celebrate Recovery with 43 people. Celebrate Recovery has helped more than 20,000 people at Saddleback, attracting over 70 percent of its members from outside the church. Eighty-five percent of the people who go through the program stay with the church and nearly half serve as church volunteers.
Prison Fellowship® is partnering with Celebrate Recovery to provide addiction recovery programming to incarcerated men and women nationwide.