I'm Richard Mouw, and I'm an alcoholic.”

How to become a safe and helpful place for recovery

Matthew Schuler | Jun 18, 2015

One of the bravest things a leader can do is drop the fig leaves. To be the “naked and unashamed” of Genesis 2, instead of the “covered” of Genesis 3.

It’s terrifying.

No, I could never tell you that, because you might judge me. No way, I’ll never share that, because he might not respect me, or they might fire me, or she might not love me.

So we cover up, and continue to lead our students and congregations quite happily from behind our fig leaf armor.

Dr. Richard J. Mouw served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary for 20 years, and he just made a 10 minute video detailing his struggle with addiction. “I’m an alcoholic. We moved to Princeton and all I did was drink. It got really bad, in the first three weeks I realized this could be the year in which I died.” *Drops fig leaves* *Walks offstage*

One theologian says it this way: "Contrary to what people often think, the key to easing people's suffering is not in offering some insidious theodicy, but in allowing a place for people to mourn, and to meet others who know what it is to have been burned by that same black sun. This is not about providing an answer, but rather offering a site where we can speak our suffering. This may seem a little depressing, but such spaces are really sites of liberation and light."[1]

A church is a group of people who have stopped pretending. How can we create churches where it is safe for our young people, and our adults, and even our leaders, to drop the fig leaves and be naked and unashamed about who we really are and what we’re really like?

1. Explore the Fuller Institute for Recovery Ministry site.

There are countless books, videos, and stories that will help your community become a safe and helpful place for people in recovery.

2. Explore the The National Association for Christian Recovery site.

This is a virtual Mecca for anything regarding recovery ministry: topically organized articles, online training courses, referral lists, even video workshops.

3. Read Bridges to Grace: Innovative Approaches to Recovery Ministry (Leadership Network Innovation Series).

If you are a youth leader or senior pastor and want to be better equipped to think systematically and organizationally about recovery ministry, this book is a brilliant place to start. It highlights what’s actually working in innovative churches across the country, weaving personal accounts with practical steps.

We’d love to know:

  • What other resources have helped you drop the fig leaves, whether it’s about addiction or some other struggle?
  • What have you done to help teenagers and emerging adults share their struggles with you?

[1] Peter Rollins in a 2008 blog post. http://bit.ly/1QC3O7x

Matthew Schuler

Matthew is an education technology entrepreneur and Creative Director.

At age 18 Matthew launched his first startup, Roshambo Industries, to provide communications support for the United States Armed Forces oversees and domestically. In 2009 he founded Snowtone Ltd, a venture to assist companies implementing social revenue models. He expanded to Cape Town, South Africa where he deployed social business models alongside Floyd McClung and constructed two intercultural training facilities located in the the poorest townships of the region. Matthew also served as a consultant to the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa on decriminalization reform and anti-human trafficking legislation, and as an advisor for the Traffick Proof coalition and Media Village in Muizenberg.

In 2007 Matthew founded The Well Church with lead singers Lance and Layne Stafford of Cloverton and served as Lead Pastor until 2009. The Well Church became a hallmark for creative ministry practices and a springboard for experimental ministry projects around the globe.

Matthew lives in Silver Lake, California with his wife Irene Cho.

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