i’m not sure what i expected going in, but i walked out of my local alcoholics anonymous meeting a deeply affected man. and i smelled like smoke (man, they really smoke).
like everybody else, our local fellowship aspires to emulate the new testament church of acts 2. the weekend after my visit to aa, i told my church family about “the most authentic church service i’d ever been to.” that’s literally the way i felt, and i’ve done my best to describe that aa meeting in this space. we sat around folding tables, a man (not a designated leader, as far as i could tell) began the conversation by confessing his weakness, and we went around the table as, one-by-one, each of us introduced ourselves (first name only) and took ownership of the carnage our self-centeredness had caused.
since i started writing this series, i’ve talked to a couple of recovering alcoholics. one sang the programs praises. the other pointed out weaknesses in the program, and explained why he would never go back. while i am in no way trying to “recruit” for aa, and i am certainly not suggesting that their methods are sacrosanct, i would argue that the church would be markedly more effective if we would adopt some of the aa principles in our gatherings.
my buddy, kevin, said it well in a comment on yesterday’s post:
Pharisee’s Anonymous. Taking a fearless moral inventory requires us to dig around in the genuine depravity of our own hearts. It requires of us not only to admit we are weak, but to name our weakness. Those who label themselves “alcoholics” have one advantage over those of us who label ourselves “Christian.” They have seen the effects their depravity can cause in their lives, and the lives of those closest to them. We most likely have not. There is something powerful that can happen when – God forbid – your life really does fall apart and all of your illusions have been busted to pieces. Truth happens. And when all you have is the truth, you are more likely to embrace it, no matter how ugly it is.
the most powerful argument for adopting these principlces is this: people in trouble seem to come to alcoholics anonymous for help. in my experience, that just doesn’t happen much in the church anymore. but what if we revisited our charter? what if we collectively renewed our commitment to our mandate? god told his people (through the prophet isaiah) that they are responsible…
…to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke.
…to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.
if the church would embrace that command (and francine assures me it is not just a pipe dream), then the rewards will be assured and extraordinary…
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.