I recently went to an early morning Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I went to celebrate one of my friends at Agape who had 1 year being clean. He had relapsed last year and almost lost his family. I sat by his wife, daughters, and grandchildren. Some of us got the chance to speak for a few minutes. I mentioned Peter in Luke 5. Jesus gave him a vision and Peter trusted that vision from Jesus. I felt that these men and women needed that same vision. They agreed. Many talked about how this community helped them more than their church. Others talked about how the group accepted them, loved them, walked with them, and above all--didn't judge them.
It was a great moment. This couple is already shepherding many in this community. They are leaders here and will be shepherds and leaders in Jesus' church. I realized it is mine and Lori's responsibility to prepare them to be elders in the kingdom. Our recovery ministry at Agape is missional. We are bringing the Gospel to this recovery culture/community. It is our responsiblity as leaders/theologians to empower people in recovery to translate the Gospel to this culture. Terms such as forgiveness, repentance, grace, and journey all have rich meanings in this culture. Richer than they are in my white middle/upper class culture.
I thought about the power of the Gospel this day. Not just the transformation part of it. But the risk involved. First, there is a great risk to train, develop, and appoint leaders who are recovering Christians. The risk is that they will relapse and cause the whole ministry to fall. However, the potential is mind blowing. To have elder couples who have come out of drugs, alcohol, and dysfunction guide those who seek Jesus in our community is exciting. To develop home community leaders who form groups of acceptance for addicts and introduce them to the body is wonderful. To give people a vision that they can be powerful partners in Jesus' ministry is attractive and offers hope.
Second, there is a great responsibility to empower people who are struggling with addictions. Typically the church will not embrace those in this group. At least that is what they tell me. We can set up a system that allows for relapse, mistakes, and screw-ups and places these leaders back in recovery. For so many years we have tried to avoid having leadrs sin but when it happens the ministry falls apart. The ministry spends months/years trying to heal. However, it still happened. No matter how hard we tried to avoid it leaders sinned. So, if we plan for mistakes we can confront them, call people to repentance, and go forward. If a group leader relapses, they have a place of acceptance. If a ministry leader screws up, we put them in a healing ministry/program and help them rehabilitate.
I was sharing with Zak, our recovery minister, about this risk. I wondered how it would be to appoint leaders who had potential to fall to temptation. He said, "Is it any different than appointing elders who hold back a church or aren't relational with people?"
I see his point.
I look forward to going to more birthday parties like this.