In Memoriam: John Baker, Founder of Celebrate Recovery

John Baker, the originator and co-founder of Celebrate Recovery, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
Photo credit Celebrate Recovery Henderson, YouTube

LAKE FOREST, CA – Imagine what life is like being a follower of Christ, even called to ministry, but trapped by an addiction that will not let you out of its grasp. It may not be all that difficult to imagine. Tens of thousands of born-again believers already know first-hand. Some may read this article. If you are one of them, I urge you to consider finding a Celebrate Recovery Group near you. You will find the love, compassion, acceptance, and strength you need to break free from your bondage. John Baker, the originator and co-founder of Celebrate Recovery, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 23. Thirty years ago, he was a successful businessman who had become a functional alcoholic. Functional, that is, to the extent that he could accomplish his daily responsibilities while his addiction was destroying his relationships with his family and his Savior.

Photo credit: Celebrate Recovery Henderson, YouTube

John trusted Christ as his personal Savior when he was 13. His faithfulness to following Christ, however, was tested when he joined a fraternity of the University of Missouri. The consumption of alcoholic beverages allowed him to become a part of the “in crowd,” something that raised his low self-esteem.

He joined the Air Force after graduation, finding similar camaraderie among other pilots at Officers Training School. There, he learned how to “act like an officer and drink like a gentleman.”

He graduated from college, he completed his commitment to the Air Force, but he kept on drinking. It became a constant amongst all the other variables in his life.

“The only things my hurts, hang-ups, and habits cost me were my close relationship with the Lord and my family. You see, what I had considered the solution for my life’s problem – alcohol – became the problem of my life! And finally, my drinking cost me all purpose and reason for living. I was dying physically, emotionally, mentally, and most importantly spiritually!”

Eventually, John sought help at Alcoholics Anonymous and hope at a men’s group at Saddleback Church, where Rick Warren was pastor. Unfortunately, he found himself in the same difficult place in which so many Christians find themselves. He wrote to Warren:

“In my men’s small group, I couldn’t talk about my struggle, and at AA, I couldn’t talk about my Savior.”

Out of that despair and desire for healing, Baker wrote a 13-page proposal outlining his vision for what would become Celebrate Recovery. Warren encouraged him, and the dream became a reality.

Today, not only is Celebrate Recovery the largest outreach ministry at Saddleback, there are Celebrate Recovery affiliates in more than 35,000 churches, recovery centers, prisons, and rescue missions. One U.S. prison has an entire pod for inmates enrolled in Celebrate Recovery.

Regardless of where CR operates, it is a place where participants can not only recover from their addictions but also discover the freedom and peace that is available only through an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I can think of no better way to pay tribute to how the Lord blessed and used John Baker than to share what Mrs. Rick (Kay) Warren had to say following news of John’s demise.

Thirty years ago John Baker turned the ruins of his life over to Jesus Christ, and God transformed him from a driven businessman with an addiction to alcohol, a failing marriage, and alienated children to a Christ-follower with a passion to help others with their ‘hurts, habits, and hang ups’ through the principles of recovery.

“More than 7 million men and women around the world have found hope, a new start, and the God who made them [through] the program he co-founded with his precious wife Cheryl and [my husband] Rick – Celebrate Recovery. There is simply no way to put into words how I love John and will miss this kind, creative, brilliant, and faithful man.”

If you need help breaking out of the bondage of an addiction, please find a CR Group near you and learn how to contact them on this page of the CR website.

Read more news on Faith Based Organizations and Christian Ministry on Missions Box.

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