‘Our World Lost a Giant of a Man Today’: Celebrate Recovery Founder John Baker Dies

Pastor John Baker, founder of the faith-based Celebrate Recovery ministry designed to help people break free from their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” has passed away.

Baker’s death was announced Tuesday via his ministry’s Facebook page.

There are times in life when words are totally inadequate in sharing how you feel, this morning is one of those days. My…

Posted by Celebrate Recovery on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

“To say this took us by surprise would be an understatement,” wrote Mac Owen, national director for Celebrate Recovery. “John touched more people with the healing power and grace of Jesus Christ than anyone else that I have ever known personally and one of those lives was mine.”

Owen and his wife, Mary, described Baker as their “dearest friend and brother.”

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12-step program based out of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Baker and his wife, Cheryl, founded the ministry in 1991 as a result of his own struggle with alcoholism.

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According to the ministry’s FAQs page, Baker, a “functioning alcoholic” who had lost connection with his wife and children, initially found help through Alcoholics Anonymous and began healing. However, over time, “he found emptiness in AA because he could not refer to his personal higher power, Jesus Christ.”

Baker ultimately — and famously — sent Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren a 13-page letter in which he outlined his vision for Celebrate Recovery.

He explained the 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.”

Warren was so moved by the correspondence, he helped start the ministry, which now boasts some 35,000 local groups in churches, recovery houses, rescue missions, and prisons around the world.

“All of us have several things in common,” Baker said of his testimony and ministry. “We love Christ, we’re willing to turn our lives over to Him, and we’re praying that we can begin to break the cycle of dysfunction for our families.”

In a Facebook post, Warren’s wife, Kay, described Baker as a “giant of a man.”

Our world lost a giant of a man today, and our family lost a dear friend and brother in the Lord. Thirty years ago John…

Posted by Kay Warren on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

“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,” Kay Warren wrote, noting more than 7 million people have “found hope, a new start, and the God who made them through the program he co-founded with his precious wife Cheryl and Rick — Celebrate Recovery.”

She went on to say she will miss “this kind, creative, brilliant, and faithful man.”

The Celebrate Recovery team plans to reveal the details of Baker’s death “in the days to come,” according to a statement.

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