What is the difference between a healthy and unhealthy group?
The Bible belt is an interesting place to live. There seems to be a church on every corner fit for every preference: contemporary or traditional, large or small, formal or relaxed, enthusiastic or somber, old or young, near or far. It seems the options are endless. And with endless options comes the desire to find the “perfect” fit. If a church does not quite satisfy the “itch”, it is easy enough to try another that may have what I am looking for.
This excess of options is also becoming true for recovery groups. Numerous groups are starting, as churches recognize the need for a safe place to deal with darker personal issues. To accomplish this, many popular and publicly available structures are utilized, such as Celebrate Recovery, Promise Keepers, Every Man’s Battle, Pure Desire and others. The result: endless options and the desire to find the perfect fit. But this time, the stakes are much higher.
Choosing a recovery group is a very serious pursuit that should not be taken lightly. The differences between groups are rarely so simple as mere preference, and a recovery group is more than a place to share. It is to this group that I will commit my time and allow them to influence my most intimate ideas and thus influence much of my life, all this for the sake of finding health. With so much at stake, especially when dealing with addiction, it is important that I make a wise decision.
1 Corinthians 15:33
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
To help address this serious but necessary decision, I offer four criteria that a healthy group will include. To be clear, God is the author of all change; and, as such, the primary responsibility of the addict is to be faithful to what God calls him to do. But, if you find yourself examining multiple options, I hope these will help in making a wise decision. The criteria I use and will expound upon are: Christ centered, truth focused, dialog oriented, and commitment based.
The only power capable of changing the heart is God. As such, this must be at the center of any location that professes to be a place of change. The only thing that can change me is a supernatural power acting upon my innermost being. It is not a program, process nor group that produces change of the heart; it is Christ alone. Unless I acknowledge this truth, there is no means to be sane. The goal of recovery is a restoration of sanity, and a healthy group must understand that this sanity is only found in Christ.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
In our reliance on Christ, His prescription for transformation is truth. It is the truth of Christ within our lives that set us free from sin, and it is truth that sets us free from the chains of addiction. If there is to be real change, truth must enter into me. Thus, truth must be the focus of the group, a goal that the group aspires to achieve: the discovery and understanding of truth in regard to our behaviors. This focus on truth should be great enough that we are willing to sacrifice the comfort and ease of friendly relations for the sake of helping others see reality. It is an emphasis on discovering my personal worldview and comparing that to the realities established and revealed by God.
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
For truth to be imparted and fully understood, I must have the opportunity to not only receive it but also to examine it. The greatest method for accomplishing this is dialogue. Over and over again, Scripture says we are to encourage one another, rebuke one another, pray for one another, and confess to one another. Simply put, we are called to be in dialogue with one another.
A dialogue is not a one-way interaction. It is a two-way communication where questions and concerns are addressed with respect and clarity. A strong group will be oriented around this practice, enabling the healthy back-and-forth dialogue that is so essential to fully understanding truth. Its importance is so great and so clearly commanded within Scripture, especially in regard to handling sin, that there is no space given to treat dialogue as secondary or to relegate it to be handled outside the group.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
My habitual sin is serious and cannot be treated lightly. In the growth of truth, there is always the potential for treating truth as a “light” thing. Sin produces a hardness in us that is not easily dealt with. But God gives us no room to treat our habitual sin lightly. As such, a healthy group will have an expectation that each leader and member is committed to doing what is necessary in dealing with sin.
This is a joint commitment of both leaders and members. The leaders commit to share the truth in love, no matter the cost; whereas, the members commit to pursuit the truth, no matter the destination. Together, this union of commitment produces awesome strength.
This commitment is fundamental to growth, for long-term addictive patterns only change through strain and struggle against my natural inclinations. Such a change requires a commitment to do what is right regardless of the discomfort and difficulty faced. However, this commitment is not done alone, as men of God are willing to commit themselves to my personal growth. This leaves me without excuse for any lesser commitment.
If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.