KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — “Home Run” is a fictional story set for theatrical release in 2012 about a Big League baseball player forced to confront the outcome of his alcoholic abuse.
Now, baseball movies are as alike as, well, basketball movies or football movies. They are constructed with a similar format usually featuring that last second slo-mo swing, dunk or throw. The better ones often provide a metaphor for life. I’m sure Home Run will stay pretty close to form, but while on the set in Tulsa, Okla., during the filming of a few scenes, I found the production contains something extraordinary.
Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step restoration program launched by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, is a central element to this sports drama. During the location shoot, I was able to talk with not only the makers of the film (which will be in a follow-up article closer to the film’s release), but perhaps more important, with the founder of Celebrate Recovery. It was, to the say the least, a wowing experience.
Home Run is a faith-based production that gives insight into the lives of people struggling with personal as well as professional problems. Featuring Scott Elrod (“Men in Trees”) and Vivica A. Fox (“Independence Day”), the story concerns Cory, a baseball player grappling with alcoholism. When Cory’s out-of-control drinking combines with his rage to create a PR nightmare, his team suspends him, and he ends up in the small Oklahoma town of his youth, coaching Little League. Forced by his suspension to seek help, Cory’s only option is Celebrate Recovery. Ignoring it and its members at first, Cory ultimately hits rock bottom. But as will happen often with people who hit rock bottom, Cory begins to see that there is more to life than just him, and he is rescued by the realization that there is more to life than just the mental and physical.
John Baker, co-founder of Celebrate Recovery, a former businessman and recovering alcoholic, graciously gave me as much time as I wanted to interview him while on location.
PHIL BOATWRIGHT: John, let me get the money issue out of the way so people understand what the sole purpose is of Celebrate Recovery. How is the organization funded?
JOHN BAKER: We’re a ministry of Saddleback Church. I’m on staff and receive a salary from the church. And although there are 19,000 churches that have a Celebrate Recovery program, we only have six people on the Celebrate Recovery headquarters. Our organization is built by volunteers. Some churches have become so big as far as Celebrate Recovery that they have now hired what they call Celebrate Recovery pastors. But they are funded by their own churches. By the way, neither the Saddleback Church nor the Celebrate Recovery organization receives any money from the film production. If I had money I would have paid to get a movie like this made. As far as the Celebrate Recovery churches, they don’t pay a penny to use the Celebrate Recovery program.
BOATWRIGHT: How did the concept for Celebrate Recovery come about? And what exactly is the concept?
BAKER: I had the addiction of alcohol for 19 years. It didn’t start off that way, but it became that way. One of the things secular organizations say of alcoholism is that it’s a disease. I call it the sin disease. The day I would be getting drunk, I was purposely sinning. But there was also a day, and I wish I could tell you the date, when that line got crossed and I could not stop drinking. My disease was sin, but the addiction owned me. And it wasn’t until I fully turned it over to Christ through the 12 steps that the hole in my life was filled. What you discover is that usually with every addiction, the addiction is just the symptom of the problem.
BOATWRIGHT: How do you find what that problem is?
BAKER: That’s what you do in recovery. But back to your question. While recovering through my participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, I began desiring a program centered more on Christ’s teachings. I outlined a 13-page, single-spaced letter to Saddleback Senior Pastor Rick Warren detailing the purpose of the program. Rick’s response was, “John, you do it.” Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered program based on eight principles drawn from the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. These are the foundation of the approach to dealing with a variety of personal issues ranging from substance abuse, alcohol addiction, sexual addiction, child abuse and more.
BOATWRIGHT: For people in cities that don’t have this program, what would you advise them?
BAKER: Start one! And we’ll help you.
BOATWRIGHT: How would they go about that?
BAKER: Go to the website (www.celebraterecovery.com) and find a recovery program close by. There’s a group finder on the site. Go check it out. Each group will have its own personality, so if you don’t like that one, go check out another one. There are representatives who are volunteers, who do training. You’re never left without help.
BOATWRIGHT: They’re given materials?
BAKER: Yes, in fact they can look at the materials on the website. BOATWRIGHT: When you get a handle on your illness or your sin, do you find that another hindrance in your spiritual walk pops up?
BOATWRIGHT: If someone says to you, “Look, brother, God can’t bless you because you’re doing this or that,” that raises the question, when can God ever bless you?
BAKER: I don’t say that, because God takes us just as we are. But He loves us too much to let us stay that way. Everybody who has sin is broken. We’ve all fallen short, all missed the mark — some of us to different extents. Their hurt may not have affected their life as drastically as drugs would. But God will continue to use you as long as you’re useful. And I truly believe that until He takes me home, I will not be fully recovered from sin. But He doesn’t ignore me because I struggle or fail. It’s so hard for us to comprehend that deep of a love. That’s one of the things I learned through the program.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad,” available on Amazon.com. He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org and moviereporter.com. Learn more about the movie at HomeRuntheMovie.com. Learn more about Celebrate Recovery at CelebrateRecovery.com.
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