Every year I pick a subject that I am going to study for the whole year. It varies across five categories: Biblical, Theological, Practical, Historical, and Cultural. 2016’s study project is going to be a bit different in that I’ve been studying it for a while now, but next year’s focus on it will be different. For many years now I have had the itch to write a book, but I’ve struggled with narrowing my many interests. This year I finally narrowed my topic and am ready to begin the process. Next year’s study project is on Recovery Culture Churches.
I have spent a lot of time now thinking about, reading, and writing small articles about this subject (see this one, or this one for examples). Recovery ministry has become a serious passion of mine over the last several years, in no small part because of those dear folks I know who are struggling with addictions. Increasingly, I see the absolute need for recovery ministry not simply to be an aspect of church programs, but to be the very heart of church culture. We all know what it means to struggle with sin and sorrow and a church that truly gets this can be the community of healing and hope for those who struggle with a life-dominating addiction. If “change is a community project,” as so many in the Biblical counseling community attest, then we need to be the community of change for those struggling with addiction. They can’t recover on their own, and we are all in this together.
As part of my research for this book I am going to be looking in three areas relevant interest: (1) addiction counseling, (2) Biblical counseling, and (3) corporate discipleship. I want to understand better both the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary addiction therapy. While there are tons of assumptions that undergird current models of counseling, I also recognize that there are some important discoveries that have been made and are worth taking into consideration. I also believe that Biblical counseling offers the most holistic care, but I need to refresh myself on current BC approaches to addiction counseling. Ed Welch, Mark Shaw, and Brad Hambrick will be some of the important go-to authors for me in this realm. I want to see too where Biblical Counseling might need further development as it relates to helping those struggling with addiction, and particularly as it relates to integration into the corporate life of the church. The final category of research, corporate discipleship, is where I hope most to be able to advance the conversation. I am interested in what models of church-wide discipleship and corporate care there are out there, and how I can utilize those to help develop an approach to cultivating a recovery culture within the church.
Across the process of writing I will need to define my terms clearly. I’ll be thinking carefully about what I do and do not mean by the term “recovery,” which comes loaded with all kinds of cultural baggage (some good and some not). I will also want to clarify what I mean by “culture.” Lots of churches have “recovery” programs, but I have something more essential in mind with my book. I want to see a church that is a recovery ministry, not simply a church that has a recovery ministry. I hope to flesh that out in more detail over the course of the work. In addition I want to demonstrate how the church can be the community of hope and healing for those with addictions. This will involve discussing a more holistic model of discipleship, and I intend to tap a number of more experienced practitioners and scholars as I approach this model.
Here at the blog I will be posting regularly next year about my research, my ideas, and my proposals. I hope you’ll check back, contribute to the conversation, and pray that this project proves fruitful. I have no assumptions that this work will be picked up by a publisher, but that is not what is driving me at this point. The goal is to do good research for the church’s health and the people I love. If God so ordains that I get my worked published and it can be useful to others, than that would be great, but I want to keep my eyes fixed on the real goal. You can pray that I do that as I study and write in 2016 as well.
I am super excited about this project. It is the first step in what has long been a dream and passion of mine and it’s aim is to be exceedingly useful to the church and to those people I love. Recovery Culture Churches are important and vital, and I will argue reflect best what it means to be the church.