What the church can learn from the community of AA

 

 

Alcoholics Anonymous or AA is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. Some people don’t believe in God and sadly instead call on a “higher power”.

**I especially love Celebrate Recovery as a Christ-centered recovery program as well as Teen Challenge. I reference AA today because most people are familiar with it and even though I’d prefer Celebrate Recovery or Teen Challenge as a program I still see something beautiful that is formed inside AA that the church should take notice of. **

I’ve never attended a recovery group so I don’t know firsthand but I’ve repeatedly observed some important things in many people who have. They took the time to share with me and these are things I keep coming away with as a general observation.

  1. A strong commitment to each other in the group – what is shared stays confidential and there’s a respect for that ground rule. There doesn’t seem to be judgment or condemnation. Instead there’s a general understanding of each other. Everyone is at their lowest. Level playing field. The weakness is great. And there’s something in that low, weak place that creates a deep bond with those also in the same place.
  2. An outright acknowledgment of their problem. “Hello, my name is____________ and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s stated at the beginning of every single meeting. Each person states is aloud as they start their meeting. An ownership of their problem publicly. Ironically everyone sitting beside them say the exact same thing. And somehow saying it loud over and over again and hearing it from others solidifies the fact that they’re all in the same boat.
  3. An understanding of just how important their “meeting” is. For some it will be a life long commitment knowing that missing a meeting can be the start of a downward spiral. It’s not the meeting itself that produces some kind of magical moment but the connection and motivation from the group is often what one needs in a weak moment. In a Christ-centered group the Bible is their source of Truth and Comfort. Calling on the Holy Spirit for help and strength is where they turn. And this is crucial in daily sustenance for not only the alcoholic but for the depraved sinful person as well. For me. For you.

What if we as the church recognized our own personal weakness and lowliness for what it truly is. If we viewed our sin and the consequences of our sin as sickening as the effects of an alcohol addiction.  I wonder how that might impact our connectedness and community with each other.

Instead of being tempted to share the latest gossip or negativity about a person I wonder if we might cut each other a break more often. The eye rolls and avoiding certain people might disappear. When tempted to tear down someone with words we might pause and realize they’re actually a fellow brother or sister connected in a deep way. And you don’t do that to your own. Nor should we do it to outsiders. But we treat those in the body of Christ especially well according to Paul. (“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6:10)

If we are convinced we all have the same great massive need and that we have been rescued by the same great, one of a kind, real life hero, Jesus Christ, then I wonder if we’d understand just how important our “meetings” with each other actually are. Whenever they are….. Sundays or midweek.  , These meetings for Christians are critical in our own survival of the world. The “meeting” itself is not magical. It’s the coming together with the presupposition that we’re all in the same great place of desperate need for the only One person who can fill that need. Nobody is better than the other. The need is the same. The solution is Jesus and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that’s why we can go home filled with hope. Hope that even when we slip and mess up we have a place of safety to return. Not only that but it can be a safe place to say out loud, “Hello my name is _______ and I messed up royally this week.” But none of that can happen until we acknowledge our deep depravity and need for grace.

We need the community of Christ-centered brothers and sisters speaking Truth into us. Praying for us. Encouraging us and being there through thick and thin. Relating to and understanding that we have more commonalities than we think. The deep low of sin and the incredible high of being redeemed by our Savior is our common ground as Believers. It’s level ground at the foot of the cross. We’re all in the same state.  If we really see it as this – as being a part of a group of people who have been rescued from  our-sinful-selves then I believe deeper community will take place in our churches. The kind you see in AA and Celebrate Recovery groups.

My prayer is that the local church will see her great need for divine intervention because of our sin on a daily basis. That we will hit rock bottom and see our greatest need for Jesus.

How do we practically cultivate a spirit of deep healthy community within the local church? Because recovery groups, focus groups, prayer groups, theology groups are not the same thing as the church. There’s a very important distinction between Christ-centered groups and church. But we’ll talk about that later. Come back this week for more discussion.