Step 1: We admitted that, in our own strength, we are powerless to rise above our hurts, resentments, unhealthy behaviors and attempts to control. Our lives have become unmanageable.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. – ROMANS 7.18
Step 2: We came to believe that God exists, that He loves us deeply and that, through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we can be healed and fulfill the purposes for which we were created.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – JEREMIAH 29.11
Step 3: We made a conscious decision to turn our lives, our pain and our will over to the care of God and the leadership of Jesus Christ.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. – JOHN 10:10
Step 4: We took an inventory of our lives, facing the truth where we’ve been hurt, how we’ve hurt others and the secrets we carry in our hearts.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me… – PSALMS 139:23-24a
Step 5: We broke the power of shame by confessing to God and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs, the lies we believed and secrets we vowed to take to the grave.
Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. – JAMES 5:16
Step 6: We humbly asked God to forgive our wrongdoings and, based on His forgiveness, chose to also forgive ourselves. We then forgave those who hurt us, releasing our bitterness and trusting God to bring about justice in His way and timing.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. – 2 CORINTHIANS 5.17; LUKE 11:4
Step 7: We admitted our shortcomings, pride, sinful tendencies and selfishness without excuse. We repented and asked God to replace our character defects with His character.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 JOHN 1:9
Step 8: We accepted responsibility for how we have harmed others, made a list of those we’ve offended and became willing to make amends to them all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. – ROMANS 12.18; LUKE 6:31
Step 9: We made specific and direct amends to those we have hurt whenever possible, except when to do so would further injure them or others who are innocent. For such persons, we made specific and indirect amends.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – MATTHEW 5:23-24
Step 10: We entered an authentic relationship with God, learning to hear His voice and understand His will for our lives through Bible reading and personal interaction with the Holy Spirit.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17
Step 11: We determined to live authentically with ourselves, creating a “life plan” to establish priorities, develop integrity and formulate the values by which we will live.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – EPHESIANS 2.10
Step 12: We committed to live authentically with others, taking responsibility for our attitudes, judgments, behaviors and boundaries. Realizing our own shortcomings, we offer the same grace to others that God has extended to us. As God gives opportunity, we will share our story of finding healing, freedom and purpose for life with others.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – ROMANS 12:1-2
A Brief History of the 12-Step Movement:
The original 12 Step recovery movement actually began in a 1930’s church basement and was highly influenced by the Oxford Group who believed that our greatest need was to “find God” and adjust our lives to follow His will. The Oxford Group’s teachings were often summarized by a simple expression: “Sin is the problem. Jesus Christ is the solution. The result is a miracle.”
The original 12 Steps written by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob (1939) reflected this belief and when one was asked to turn their lives and their will over to God, everyone understood this meant God as revealed in the Bible. However, under pressure from an outspoken atheist (Jim Burwell) and a few others, “God’ in Step 2 was replaced with “a Power greater than ourselves” and in Step 3 as “God as we understood him.” Although reducing “God” to whomever I understand / want him to be sounds more inclusive, it ultimately leaves me in control of my life and also responsible for my own healing and solutions. I personally believe AA lost its “divine anointing” for inner healing at this point and was forced to settle on an end goal of recovery and continued dependence in a program as opposed to a personal and growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
That said, I have learned a great deal from the 12 Step community and deeply respect the love and support most groups have for each other. Many who find inner healing through Freedom Session began their freedom journeys in various 12 Step programs. We just believe there is more and, since you are reading this, we suspect you hope we are right.
The Writing of the Freedom Session 12 Steps
Freedom Session began in 2003 with a vision of leading people on a much deeper healing journey than the traditional or even many Christian 12-Step recovery programs offer. At the same time, we could see the value in a step-by-step process and some of the structure offered in the recovery community. When we first published FS in 2005, we used a “Christianized version” of the 12 Steps that other Christian recovery ministries were using. In our 2009 FS revision, we further revised our 12 Steps but kept their basic sequence and format.
Vintage 2008 FS Promo
In Freedom Session 2016, however, I decided to start from scratch without a felt need to keep to any number of steps, sequence or wording we or others had used before. Rather than simply attaching a Scripture to make a step sound biblical, I wanted to make sure I was theologically accurate. For example, Step 1 typically states: “We admitted that we were powerless over our addictions, compulsive behaviors and/or destructive behaviors” but God’s word says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4.13. An even greater problem was that forgiveness, a significant component of Freedom Session, isn’t mentioned in any 12 Step rendition I’d ever read. Jesus wasn’t mentioned either and therefore, neither the concept of His Leadership/Lordship in our lives.
And finally, since I deeply believe FS is part of a discipleship process of discovering and following God’s purpose for our lives, I knew we had to teach participants develop an authentic “life plan” through which they would continue their healing journey after their FS graduation and assimilation into the church community. I also knew we had to teach them how to develop an authentic relationship with God, themselves and others.
And yes, I did say “graduation from FS” which means a participant has completed their initial healing journey and have a reasonable grasp of the disciplines healthy Christ-followers embrace. We don’t want people becoming dependant on Freedom Session or returning year after year after year. Of course, we want them to feel welcome as long as they need the support of the FS community – some have more pain and dysfunction to work through than others and that is OK. Others come back to give back and serve in FS for 1-3 years; some find a life-long calling to serve with us. But ultimately, Jesus asks us to follow Him and that is the end goal of Freedom Session.
Early in my own Christian walk and healing from a dependence on alcohol, my pastor took me out for coffee and challenged me to give my entire life to Jesus Christ, not just the broken parts. He also challenged me to expand my support community to include people of “like faith” versus limiting it to people with people of “like experience.” I never forgot the wisdom in those words and share them whenever I can.
After two years of pondering, thinking and re-thinking, I was left with 13 steps…but that number has a bad reputation so I combined two concepts into one (Step 12) – hence, the 12 steps of Freedom Session. I did keep a resemblance of the sequence others have found helpful in the process of life change but you will notice they are significantly different and more specific. Most importantly, we gave Jesus Christ His rightful place in the journey, because ultimately, any healing that occurs is because of His love and power. Freedom Session is merely the messenger.