Chris McDaniel is the worship pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton and the ministry leader for their Celebrate Recovery ministry. He was formerly with the award-winning, multi-platinum-selling country group Confederate Railroad. He spent 16 years with the group until 2000, where he found himself in the middle of a $70,000 a year cocaine addiction.
McDaniel went into rehab, admitted he had a problem, and realized his need for a Higher Power. He got out of rehab and found himself in a Baptist church where he heard a message of hope and redemption and surrendered his life to Christ.
He testified, “I thought God was through with me. I had to literally peel my face off of the carpet from a drug binge. I have been to the top of what the world calls fame and success. [I had] money, women, and even a Grammy award, yet it left me empty, because I was trying to fill a hole that can only be filled by God.
“The more the church is exposed to the eight principles and twelve steps of CR, the more we all realize that in some way we are all in recovery.”
“God placed me in a small church that allowed me to play the piano and God just led me from there on. There are Celebrate Recoveries all over the world; and God is doing something in this one that I’ve never seen done anywhere else.”
Celebrate Recovery is a Bible-based ministry that offers people struggling with a variety of issues the atmosphere and opportunity to heal and overcome their personal conflicts in life.
CR is a Christ-based approach to recovery that was a response to twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It was founded in 1990 by pastors John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who felt that AA was too vague in referring to God as a “higher power.” They wanted a Christ-based program aimed at all hurts, habits, and hang-ups that people encounter in the struggles of life.
‘A ministry for everyone’
Many churches in Georgia offer Celebrate Recovery to those in their community who need a special touch of love and grace. At Dalton’s Liberty Baptist Church this ministry has been a blessing to those who need a healing touch, but the ministry has blessed Liberty and other churches with new life and new believers.
Pastor Brian Branham explains, “Celebrate Recovery has created a vital connection between our church and the community. It is an unmistakable front door that welcomes the hurting.
“The biggest surprise about Celebrate Recovery is that it is not a ministry for certain ones, but it has become a ministry for everyone. The more the church is exposed to the eight principles and twelve steps of CR, the more we all realize that in some way we are all in recovery. There is recovery for everyone who makes Christ a priority.
“The unique thing about CR is that we have seen it grow every congregation that has been a part of the program. Liberty is the host site, but there have been churches from East Brainerd to Benton, from Fort Oglethorpe to Chickamauga who have been impacted by what God is doing through CR. We are thankful to be a part.”
“The Lord is allowing a group of us to come together as one team to use it to build a discipleship pipeline straight into the church.”
Jeff Lewis, who provides leadership for CR, declares, “What makes the Celebrate Recovery special at Liberty is the lives that are being changed throughout it. The Lord is allowing a group of us to come together as one team to use it to build a discipleship pipeline straight into the church.
“People are getting real and taking their masks off, so much so that the CR ministry has already influenced the overall church culture at Liberty. In the course of a year we have doubled in size from 35-40 on a Thursday night to 125-175 on just about any given Thursday night. God is using it in a powerful way to reach many people’s lives. It has become a highly effective side door for church growth for Liberty as well.”
Walking with others
Some of the struggles that Celebrate Recovery seeks to address are: chemical dependency, alcohol, anger, codependency, eating disorders, marriage issues, pornography, sexual addiction, self-discipline, depression, living with a serious or life-threatening illness, etc.
At Liberty these issues are addressed in a “safe, loving, and festive environment.” The church asserts, “You will not get any judgment here. We do not try to ‘fix’ people; we come alongside you through your life and your hurts. We incorporate praise, worship, food, lessons, testimonials, fellowship and most importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Brent Coffee had been on a methamphetamine binge for quite sometime and was in the process of losing his wife Amanda, his family, job, house, and likely everything in his life when he saw the lights on at the church one night. In desperation he stopped by the church to see if the pastor would pray for him.
What he encountered was a Celebrate Recovery gathering, which was the beginning of a genuine spiritual renewal. The group provided support and accountability. Amanda started attending the CR meetings with Brent. Their relationship was restored and God gave him back his family, his house, and even a better job. Brent and Amanda were remarried during a Celebrate Recovery Thursday night at Liberty. They are now both leaders in the ministry.
Brent exclaimed, “CR has impacted my life by God restoring everything that I had let Satan destroy – my mind, family, health, heart, home, and marriage. Joel 2:25 says, ‘I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.’ To God be the glory!”
Lewis, who also serves as a counselor/ministry coordinator for Providence Ministries in Dalton, added, “I am seeing God do things in this church that I have never seen before. Walls are coming down, masks are coming off, and families are being put back together. This ministry has become a well-oiled and streamlined disciple-making machine.”