the aa model: conclusion

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.


4 thoughts on “the aa model: conclusion

  1. I don’t think it is a pipe dream. I think it happens. Just not as much as we would like it to.

    I think it happens in churches but at a small and almost hidden level. Where people are invested in each others lives, it happens.

    Wouldn’t it be ‘fun’ to stand in front of a congregation on Sunday morning and ask some of the following questions:

    How many of you shared a meal with somebody from this congregation this week that wasn’t your relative?

    Who here gathered with someone to pray this week?

    How many of you have an accountability partner that you actually confess your sins to?

    How many of you cried with a friend this week because they needed some compassion?

    Who here cried with a friend because you need the compassion?

    I think we would see hands go up. Maybe not as many as we would like but there would be positive responses. I think what happens is that by the time we get to the doors on the church, we are ‘supposed’ to have it all together. So where we are successful in small we are failures in large.

    Maybe the next question is why are we this way?

    • Dang it all if I can’t get away from my own question.

      I think part of the reason that we are not that way in large is because we live in a ‘make it better’ society. We are sold products that make our lives better, more enjoyable, or whatever other adjective you want to throw at it.

      Maybe our gatherings have become too much about selling Jesus to the poor lost individual in our midst than they are about worship and edification. And how can we sell a product that doesn’t have apparent results to make your life better.

      I bet you can think of at least one church where the pastor sells the best methodology now and it is having the expected results of gathering consumers who want a better life through Jesus.

      So now I will be thinking through this for a good part of the day. Thanks 🙂

  2. It’s not a pipe dream simply because Jesus said His churh would prevail and I’m holding out to see a true pattern of the new testament church…I fear that sounds a little “old fashioned” to some but my heart longs for the world, my world to see Jesus as He really is…Savior, Lord, Healer, Provider, Lover of my soul. So, what do I do until I see it? I do my best to live it… Tony is right, it does exist on a small scale…but truthfully my heart desires it on a much, much larger scale and I believe it is coming….I BELIEVE…

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