A week ago today I had the privilege of visiting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. My purpose for going was to learn. I have been told on several occasions that the church could learn some things from AA, especially in small group settings. I attended the meetings with my uncle Chris who has been clean and sober for 20 years now. Chris was the “old friend” I referred to in this post. When I was a kid, I thought Chris was the coolest guy in the world, because he could play just about every Tom Petty song ever written on his guitar. Hey, I’m old now, and I still think that’s pretty cool! 🙂
Here we go, 4 things we, the local church, can learn from AA meetings. I’m sure there are a lot more than this. But these came to mind.
- A culture of humility and gratitude in a group setting. You may know that in AA, attendees begin sharing by saying “My name’s ________ and I’m an alcoholic” and then everyone says “Hi ________.” Quite a humbling statement,right? But did you know that when a person is finished sharing they say “thanks for letting me share” and then the group responds “thanks for sharing”??? When someone finishes reading aloud they say “thanks for letting me read” and the group responds “thanks for reading.” What if our church small groups included an opening (true) statement “I’m Roy and I’m a sinner saved by grace alone”? And when we share a thought or experience in small group Bible study, wouldn’t it be encouraging to hear someone say “thanks for sharing” rather than having to wonder if we are being criticized in the minds of your group? Humility and gratitude are powerful things. The opposite of these would pride and entitlement. Ugly words.
- Authenticity. People in AA meetings are REAL. It’s sad that such bold transparency caught me off guard! But I very quickly appreciated it. Oddly enough, even as an outsider, I felt pretty relaxed in the meetings I attended! It’s not only that people are REAL, it’s that it’s OK to be REAL. Like a breath of fresh air.
- Unity amid diversity. Addiction knows no boundaries. It affects people from all different backgrounds, races, and walks of life. People seeking to walk in recovery need other people to walk the journey with them. They don’t care what color they are, or their annual income. Their common bond is their need. I pray that our churches would see our common need as our point of unity. We are all sinners in need of Christ. Part of the beauty of the church ought to be different people coming together with a common goal, fleeing sin, and pursuing Christ.
- Commitment, not only to personal sobriety, but the sobriety of others. People in recovery don’t just go to meetings for themselves, they go to support others. They know how much the shared experiences of others have helped them, and they don’t want to withhold their knowledge, encouragement, and experience from others. Church has become a bit consumer driven. Many times we have a, “what’s in it for me?” attitude. We would do well to see the value in going to a small group or church worship service, simply to encourage others in their walk. After all, even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45)
I hope I get to the opportunity to attend more AA meetings. I still have a lot to learn.