Recovering from personal injury is challenging no matter the cause. However, when it comes from within the church, the challenge is often greater. We are all human and struggle with many issues and sometimes we are either hurt by or cause hurt to those around us. It is how we respond to those hurts that determine whether we will be bitter or better. I would like to share with you a story of recovery.
A number of years ago, a couple received a brochure in the mail inviting them to a Bible seminar. After attending almost all of the lectures and believing what they heard, they decided they wanted to get baptized. During their visit with the pastor shortly before their baptism, the woman was shocked by the way the pastor explained the symbolism of the wedding ring. Her reaction resulted in the couple being refused baptism. The visiting evangelist quickly arranged for the couple to attend and be baptized at another congregation near by. Although this was quite challenging, the couple decided to continue attending their new church.
After settling into their new congregation, the woman began serving in offices in the church. After many years of faithful service in various capacities, she came to attend a regular board meeting and, to her total surprise, found out that one item on the board agenda was a concern someone had with her. The elder with the “concern” proceeded to yell at her in front of the other board members and pastor, accusing her of attempting to undermine his authority. Then another person on the board pointed directly at her and added, “People like you should be put out of the church.” The shock of the accusations (which later were shown to be a misunderstanding) resulted in her deciding to not return to that church. The hurt was so deep that it took many years for her to feel comfortable even being in the same room with those who made these accusations.
The question comes to mind, why do people in the church hurt other people in the church? If the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance, why do we experience hurt? Church members are people. People are human, and humans have issues. Everyone has a past, all are broken or wounded in some way large or small. Whether it is addiction, fear, worry, anger, desire to control, co-dependence, workaholism, pride or…fill in you own struggle… we all deal with our own issues. All are on a journey of being transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Along the way, people make mistakes. People get hurt and then often hurt other people.
Another question comes to mind, how do we welcome the fruit of the Spirit back into our churches? I’m happy to tell you the rest of this story.
God had been good to this couple over the years. He had given them understanding and compassion regarding their previous experiences. And now, they were about to discover something more.
In the summer of 2019, Pastor Kevin Kuehmichel, of the Chippewa Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church (CVSDA) in Altoona, WI, offered to show his church a different method of public outreach. This method, called “Celebrate Recovery”, was a 12 Step Bible based, Christ centered program of recovery from life’s hurts, habits and hang- ups.
Through this program, the church would learn how to lead out in weekly lessons and the small group discussions on each week’s topic. The program would be open to anyone in the community or local church who needed recovery from addictions, trauma, abuse or other habits and hang-ups.
The woman and her husband decided to attend the Celebrate Recovery program offered at CVSDA and see what it was all about. They discovered the meetings began with music and prayer, then a reading was given of either the 12 Steps or the 8 Principles which are based on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5. Next the lesson was presented, followed by a closing prayer, a little social time and then the ladies and men separated into their small groups to discuss the day’s lesson.
In attending this program, the couple found how to better share the healing and recovery they had already experienced through God’s goodness. Today, they are excited for what God is doing in the church and community through Celebrate Recovery.
You may wonder why people would attend a 12 Step recovery program. One attendee said it has really helped him communicate better with his wife. Another said that as she has gotten more honest with her own failings, she can look at the hurtful behaviors of other people and just think to herself, “Well, they sure don’t have very good people skills.” Another attendee commented about Step 6 of the 12 Steps, which reads: “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character” and then referenced the Spirit of Prophecy quote from Sons and Daughters of God, pg. 361 which reads, “The character which we now manifest is deciding our future destiny. The happiness of heaven will be found by conforming to the will of God, and if men become members of the royal family in heaven, it will be because heaven has begun with them on earth.” This attendee then went on to comment, “This class is really helping me a lot, to become more patient and kind. God is really using this class to change me from the inside. I want to be ready for Heaven!”
So, how do we welcome the Fruit of the Spirit back into our churches? We all need to start by looking into our own hearts first!
The Celebrate Recovery program at CVSDA will be entering its third year this fall (with the required break due to public health). Both members of the community and local church have been in attendance. Meetings are held on Tuesdays nights from 6:30-8:00 pm. All sinners are warmly welcome to join in learning more about how to practically manifest the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives, and get their character ready for both the soon coming final conflict as well as our future lives in heaven. No reservations necessary, come as you are, you will be among friends!
Marcia Harycki, Assistant Communication Director for the Chippewa Valley Church