Christian psychologist and author Dr. John Townsend, an expert on Christ-centered recovery for mental and emotional health issues, will be speaking at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., for all five worship services this weekend, just a little more than a week since the death of Pastor Rick Warren's son, Matthew.
Townsend told The Christian Post in an exclusive interview on Friday that he had already been asked to speak at Saddleback prior to the tragedy in order to talk about an upcoming feature-length movie that includes the church's Celebrate Recovery program as part of the film's story. He said he now plans to include some of his thoughts about what the Warren family is going through.
Matthew Warren's death was ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound occurring on Friday, April 5. He was 27-years-old.
Saddleback Church announced Townsend's appearance earlier this week, saying Townsend will share an important message for all, "Everyone Needs Recovery."
Townsend, who is also a leadership consultant and coach, has authored or co-authored 27 books, among them the bestsellers Boundaries (also a book series) and Leadership Beyond Reason.
The interview can be read below.
CP: What were your first thoughts upon hearing the news about the family tragedy, the suicide death of Pastor Rick Warren's son, Matthew?
Townsend: Actually it wasn't a thought I had. It was an emotion of very deep sadness and grief. This is the [type of] loss that there are no words for. It is every parent's worst nightmare.
CP: How did your planned appearance to give the weekend messages during worship service at Saddleback come about?
Townsend: Actually, Pastor Rick had asked me to speak prior to his loss. The movie, "Home Run" that is coming out, showcases the church's Celebrate Recovery program. It will be premiering in theaters all around the country on April 19. Rick and John Baker, who is the founder of Celebrate Recovery, asked me to speak on the topic of "everyone needs recovery" to help promote people seeing that movie. This loss and my [having been scheduled to] speak there are not related. However, when I am doing the preaching I will certainly be talking about what the Warrens have gone through.
CP: How difficult do you believe the grieving process has been for the Saddleback Church congregation?
Townsend: I think it's been very, very difficult and yet at the same time it's been very redemptive because Rick has created a culture of family at Saddleback for all these years. God instituted the Church to help us resolve and deal with losses as one of the functions of the Body of Christ – you look at 2 Corinthians 1 and it tells us to comfort each other with the comfort which we have been comforted. Because Rick has created the culture that he's created, the Saddleback family has responded as a family.
They have grieved openly. They have shown support and love, and it also means that they will heal because Rick has created real family.
CP: You believe everyone needs recovery. Can you please explain that?
Townsend: The Bible teaches that the human race ever since "the Fall" has needed to be in recovery. The word "recover" means to restore to its original state. You recover like a great [damaged] painting – it goes into recovery and it gets restored. People recover their losses in a company. When I'm working as a consultant with a company we work on a company recovery process until it's restored. Leaders recover their self confidence after a loss. So, after the Fall and as a race, we lost God and we lost meaning and purpose, and we also lost ourselves. We are all trying to get back to the Garden and that's what recovery is.
CP: Tell us about the weekend message you have planned for all five worship services at Saddleback Church.
Townsend: I want to help people see that you don't have to be an alcoholic or an addict to need God's system of recovery and that we all struggle in some form or fashion with something. Your recovery issue might be isolation, guilt, or burnout where you can't say "no" to people. Often, people don't understand that the Bible presents, when we struggle, more than just prayer and reading the Bible and going to church. We also have to be with people in the recovery process. I will be showing the steps of how every person, not just the addict and the alcoholic, needs to go through some sort of recovery and what those steps are.
CP: What do you hope people will come away with from your message this weekend?
Townsend: First, is some hope because a lot of people have secret struggles they don't feel like they can talk about and they feel like, "Well, I will just cope with this." I want to show them that God has provided hope for them for anything from an addiction to a problem with a family member, to a problem with guilt, or isolation. The second thing is steps. I have specific steps that people can go through so they will know what to do. Also, I will be showing targeted clips from the "Home Run" movie that will help illustrate my points so that people will get an idea of how the process works based on what the character [in the movie], the professional baseball player, the steps he goes through so that people can see a real life, real time example of what these steps are.