the aa model: part one

my baby brother died in 2002.  he was an alcoholic/drug addict, and he often proclaimed the virtues of “the big book” and the people in alcoholics anonymous.  he once described the relationships at aa to me this way, “i can go anywhere in the world and if i get in trouble, i’ve got family there…somebody will care about me.”

not long after gary died, i visited an evening meeting at the aa chapter near my church. i determined not to tell them why i was there (“i’m not an alcoholic…i’m just here to see what you guys do”), but just to be one of the crowd and absorb the experience. since that evening, i’ve often said that aa meeting was the best church service i’ve ever been to.  i took away several powerful things that we (the church) ought to incorporate into our gatherings and over the next few days, i plan to share several of them with you, my bloggy buddies.

the first thing i noticed (and appreciated) about the meeting was that there was not a designated leader; at least not as far as i could tell.  perhaps some chapters have a leader, but there wasn’t one at the meeting i attended.  we sat around tables (set up in a square) facing each other, and the meeting began with one guy saying, “okay, i guess i’ll start.  my name is bill and i’m an alcoholic.”

please don’t jump to conclusions.  this post is not a blanket indictment of our methods, and i’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have church leaders–we should.  established church leadership is a scriptural principle (and, besides, i are one).  i would argue, though, that we put far too much emphasis on the pulpit (stage, platform, etc) and this creates a couple of significant problems.

first, we have created (and preachers perpetuate) a “superstar model” where the one who speaks for god should be a dynamic leader, a passionate communicator, and a person of superior intellect (hair like joel osteen helps, too).  these “gospel superstars” seem to command a great following and congregations, quite naturally, seek these kinds of men and women to be their leaders.  but what of the god-called man or woman who might happen to be homely?  or handicapped?  the apostle paul was said to be “A man small in size, with a bald head and crooked legs…with eyebrows that met and a rather prominent nose.” (from The Acts of Paul and Thecla).  obviously, we would never elect paul to lead one of our churches…he could never be a “superstar.”

secondly, having a designated leader who is appointed (and paid) to do ministry actually takes ministry out of the hands of the people who really ought to be doing it. our leaders are charged in scripture (ephesians 4:11-12) with the task of resourcing and equipping us to do ministry.  how frustrating it must be to be gifted and compelled by god to do a certain ministry, only to have the institutional church hire someone else to do it.

finally, our traditional method of having a designated leader who does all the talking prevents conversation.  i want to find a way to create an open forum at our meetings so people with genuine questions can ask them.  yesterday, i showed a powerful video clip on which chonda pierce said, “we’re worried about what kind of cream is on the coffee bar when people are dying in the pews to be heard.”  so true.

it seems to work at alcoholic anonymous…why couldn’t it work at church?

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9 thoughts on “the aa model: part one

  1. You make some powerful arguments Randy and even though, like you I are one (a leader, pastor, etc), I struggle with the inherent “entitlement” that comes to that position. I prefer to not be put on a pedestal and I think, for the most part, the people here know me so well by now they can’t. 🙂 Besides, I don’t have hair that looks like Joel or teeth that look like his. Shoot, I don’t even have any hair and I wear braces.

  2. Randy

    Sorry to hear about your brother. Peace be with you.

    Been to a few AA meetings with friends. Yes… No leaders.

    You write…
    “i’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have church leaders–we should.
    established church leadership is a scriptural principle”

    I have some question’s about “your” use of the word “leader.” 😉
    The word “leader”seems like a “high place.” Yes?
    Jesus always took and recommended the **low place.** Yes?

    Seems Jesus has a different take on “Leadership” for **His Body.**

    Jesus humbled Himself, made himself of NO reputation,
    and took on the form of a **Servant.** Php 2:7-8. 😉

    How do “you” reconcile the use of the word “leader”
    when “Jesus” told **His disciples** NOT to be called “leader?”

    Jesus, in Mat 23:10 KJV, told **His disciples** “NOT” to call themselves
    “Master / Leaders,” for you have “ONE” “Master / Leader” “The Christ.”

    King James Version –
    Neither be ye called masters:
    for “ONE” is your Master, even Christ.

    The Interlinear Bible –
    Nor be called leaders,
    for “ONE” is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English –
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only “ONE” leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version –
    nor should you be called leader.
    your “ONE” and only leader is the Messiah.

    Jesus told **His disciples** NOT to be called **leaders** and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    **His Disciples** all called themselves **Servants.**
    None called themselves “Leaders.” None? None.
    None called themselves “Servant-Leader.” None.

    If Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders”
    and someone calls them self a “leader” or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they NO LONGER a “Disciple of Christ?” Oy Vey!!! 😉
    Or, are they just a **disobedient** “Disciple of Christ?” 😉

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? 😉

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.

    • point taken, amos, and although i will contend with you, i think the difference in our perspectives is largely one of semantics.

      i agree wholeheartedly: the church has one head (or “leader”) and that is christ.

      still, leadership as a function in the new testament church is necessary and biblical.

      paul referred to himself as a servant of christ, but he also said “follow my example as i follow the example of christ” (1 cor 11:1). is that leadership?

      “if a man’s gift is…leadership, let him govern diligently” (romans 12:8)

      paul told titus, “the reason i left you in crete wsa that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as i directed you.” (titus 1:5) leadership on three levels!

      thank you for your comment, amos, and for your perspective. may the lord use each of us to further his purposes.

  3. Randy..

    I think it starts with a willingness to express the fact that we have a need/issue/struggle…. what-have-you. There has to be some level of vulnerability that says – “I am just like you.. no better… no worse… I need saving… every day.”

  4. Pingback: the aa model: part two « your best life later

  5. Randy

    I’m thinking our differences with **Today’s** “leadership” is “Traditions of Men”
    and not semantics. Jesus warned us about the “Traditions of Men” that nullify,
    make void, and cancels out, “The word of God.” Mark 7:13.

    I was in “Leadership.” I’m familiar with the verses you quoted. I also thought they
    pointed to “Leadership” and “Authority” as we know it today.

    I’m the Boss. I’m the Authority. Obey and submit to me, your leader…. 😦

    But, Jesus told “His Disciples” NOT to “Exercise Authority.” Mark 10:41, Mat 20:25.
    Peter, in 1 Pet 5:3, said, Neither as being lords over God’s heritage… but, examples…

    In my experience with **Today’s** “pastor/elder/leader”
    and being in “leadership” shows me…

    Everyone who assumes the Title” and “Position” of “Pastor/Leader,”

    No matter how loving, eventually…
    No matter how humble, eventually…
    No matter how much a servant, eventually…

    Will “exercise authority” and “lord it over” God’s sheep. (Guilty as charged.)
    That’s always the beginning of “Spiritual Abuse.” 😦

    When you assume the “Title” and “Position” of **Today’s** “Pastor/Leader,”
    by default – you are “Exercising Authority” and “lording it over” God’s heritage.

    You mention leadership in Rom 12:8. The KJV reads“…he that ruleth, with diligence…

    Ruleth – is Strongs 4291 – proistemi KJV – rule 5, maintain 2, be over 1; 8
    In Thayer’s – “Ruleth” also means – to be a protector or guardian, to care for.

    Hmmm? Protector, guardian – Or – I’m the Boss, the Authority.

    1Ti 3:4 One that (proistemi) **ruleth** well his own house…(Protect, guard, care for,)
    1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that (proistemi) **rule** well… (Protect, guard, and care for,)
    1Th 5:12 …to know them which labour among you, and are
    (proistemi) **over** you in the Lord, and admonish you;
    (Protecting , guarding, and caring for,) you in the Lord, and admonish you.

    That’s a different “Leader” “ruler” then **Today.** I’m the Boss, The Authority. Yes?

    You mention Paul.. “follow my example as i follow the example of christ” (1 cor 11:1).
    Then you ask – is that leadership? Well, Kinda, Maybe, Maybe NOT, – BUT…
    Did Paul say he was a leader or a “follower.” He said he was a “follower” of Christ.
    And we could follow “his example” of being a “follower” of Christ.

    I would say, “our” following Christ is an “example” we can set for others.
    Don’t follow me – I’m lost too – follow Jesus Christ.
    As man, Jesus humbled Himself and was a “Servant,” Not a “Leader.” Hmmm?

    If I’m a “Leader” then people will want to follow “me.” NO - follow Jesus.

    Jesus said, My sheep hear MY voice, and follow me.
    I desire to follow Jesus, NOT a man. I desire others to follow Jesus, NOT a man.

    Jesus loves me and forgives me all my sin

  6. Pingback: the aa model: part four « your best life later

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