i don’t know what i expected when i visited the alcoholics anonymous meeting in my town, but i discovered a group of ruthlessly honest people and a meeting i wished the church could emulate. in the last few posts, i’ve been talking about some of the things i saw in that meeting that i admired. so far, we’ve discussed that 1.) their meetings do not have a designated leader, 2.) they own their problem, and 3.) they expect failure and change.
today, i celebrate their lack of pretension.
these days a lot of people are moving from church to church. i hear stories of local churches that act like closed societies. not only are they unfriendly, they are aloof (even hostile) toward people who are unlike them. here’s my question:
if church people visit other churches and find us unfriendly, what do unchurched people find?
in the church, we have a well-deserved reputation for being judgmental and self-righteous. initially, we hold everyone at arm’s length and then, after a visit or two, we tend to embrace people who look like us, and we look down our collective noses at those with issues.
when the aa meeting ended, people gathered in groups and began to chat. i had a couple of people approach me and ask me about my life. no one asked my if i had a substance problem, but i think they assumed that i did. i was not able recognize any pressure to separate people into groups (“we’ve been here longer” or “we’re successful on ‘the outside'”) and i saw no one being ignored or celebrated. they seemed to accept me.
i attribute their lack of pretension to the carefully crafted process to which they submit themselves. consider step four of “the twelve steps“:
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
i love that language–a “searching and fearless” self-examination. that’s not the type of thing we talk about in the church. and we would resent the suggestion that we need a “moral inventory of ourselves.” after all, we’re king’s kids.
steps five through seven are just as implacable:
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
i suppose it’s nearly impossible to be pretentious after progressing through the twelve steps.
but in church, we go to the altar to confess our sins. from time-to-time, we even see genuine brokenness. but confess “to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs“?
you must be drunk.