Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs help turn people’s lives around and keep them pointed in the right direction. They try to help people to keep getting better, take responsibility for themselves, and work to help others change their lives too.
Wow. That sounds a lot like what the church should be doing too.
A Baptist youth minister recently wrote about one of his youth needing to get involved in AA. What the minister ended up learning was that AA is doing what the church should be doing, while the church is slacking off.
In AA, everyone gets a sponsor who invests in your life, checks up on you, and is available for any kind of help at any time of day. What if the church did that to help people become better followers of Jesus? “A whole family on mission of love and support for each other.” But it begs the question: “How much are we really willing to be involved in each other’s lives?”
The first hurdle is we’re not even that involved in our own lives. In AA, folks are encouraged to take a “moral inventory” of themselves, remove all “defects of character,” and “make direct amends” with anyone they’ve wronged. Are we honest enough with ourselves to do that?
At recovery meetings, before you talk, you introduce yourself: “Hi. I’m Stuart. And I’m an addict.” The rest of the group responds, “Hi Stuart.” It almost sounds like the Opening Invitation reading/response we say in worship every week; it’s just a lot more honest. And it’s also welcoming. The fact that the person is an addict doesn’t stop the group from greeting them; in fact, it’s what sparks the group to greet them.
What if in the church, everyone who talked had to first say, “Hi. I’m John. And I’m a sinner.” Then the rest of the congregation said, “Hi John.” And there was no judgment, only welcome and support.
Many would be wary to do that out of a fear “that our transparency, honesty, and accountability might be too much and could drive people away from us, but in a world filled with the fake and phony, it might just do the opposite.”
What is the church if not a group of people who are sinners, trying to turn their lives around and keep them pointing in the right direction: toward God, in the way of Jesus.
We are all in need of recovery.