By Serena Ellens
“Everyone who comes to the center is a broken believer. Most of them quit the church, caught in one church fight or another, and hurt by the results. This was their church, and was supposed to be the body of Christ. Everyone who comes here wants a relationship with God, but doesn’t want the church anymore.” These words, from Pastor Daniel Steigman of the Believer’s Spiritual Recovery Center in Corning, California, epitomize one of the greatest struggles the church has ever faced. How can we reach those who have been hurt by the church, and no longer trust in this essential community of believers?
“The role of the Recovery Center is to help broken believers get back on their feet and heal from all that happened at their church. Then, as they recover and heal, they eventually leave the center and become involved in regular churches again. It’s a very redemptive process.” Pastor Steigman, the lead pastor of this unusual church, has experienced more than his fair share of pain from the church, and is the first to identify with the believers that attend the center. In spite of this, however, Steigman understands the importance of the church in a believer’s faith journey. He has made it his goal to walk with broken Christians through the process of healing in order to redeem the potential benefits the encouraging institution can have for the individual. This Church of God in the heart of northern California is called a recovery center because it works like a hospital, with believers entering for a time of healing and restoration before moving on to established churches.
“Most of the time, having people leave the church is a negative thing that discourages the church from continuing. Here, however, it’s the opposite. People are expected to leave; with the center functioning like a hospital, it’s only best that the people who attend eventually leave to find their place back in the realm of regular churches. We don’t like having people leave because we develop relationships with them, but we know it’s part of the process, and ultimately rejoice in the healing that comes in the end. We wouldn’t want people to live at a hospital for the rest of their lives either, so why would we want them to stay here?”
Pastor Steigman and his wife have seen their fair share of quirky people come through the center over the course of its eleven-year existence. One man, in particular, made a significant impact there and truly epitomizes the mission of the center. A bear of a man with a personality to match, Roger was initially introduced to the recovery center with a history of drug-dealing and abusing, and a disposition that defied salvation. The Lord works in mysterious ways, though, and Roger was soon saved and using his widespread influence to preach the gospel. A modern-day Saul-turned-Paul, Roger tragically and unexpectedly passed away in his sleep when he was still quite young, taken to be with the Savior that he came to love. His funeral, held at the Recovery Center, was the biggest funeral the center had ever seen, and proved just how much healing can be accomplished with the Lord’s blessing.
The church doesn’t have a perfect history. In this world, we have the ability to scar and hurt others, even the ones we love.
But healing is available to all.
Serena Ellens is a communication intern for Church of God Ministries from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is currently studying English at Anderson University. Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.