“The beginning of wisdom is this:
Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
We’re going to survey “The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.” This is for my benefit, but you may find wisdom in it as well. First, let’s talk a bit about AA. I’m going to give this from memory, so please grant me some liberty if you know this material well.
AA was started at the end of the 1930s by two men who were powerfully impacted by the gospel. This is usually left out of the literature and only comes to light when one studies the history of AA. In fact, Bill, the first guy, experienced a powerful conversion after hearing the gospel from an evangelic bunch called The Oxford Group. The draft of the first book, Alcoholics Anonymous, has Jesus as the core source of salvation. However, all references to Him were dropped after the initial “committee” felt that He would be too divisive. People would reject the message if it included Jesus. It will be interesting to find out how God judged that decision.
Even so, the whole program is about giving over self to a higher power whom the literature often refers to as God. Here’s my beef. Take Step 3, for example. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” Now, no one is able to fully comprehend God, so all of us see him only as we understand him. I get that. But, a large percentage of those who first come to meetings won’t tolerate any reference to God. To appease that, you will commonly hear this step to include the group itself as that which we turn to for support. It is also in this same thinking that you will hear someone say that god can be a doorknob, if that’s what it takes to keep you coming to meetings and stay sober. So, you see, idolatry becomes the price we pay for sobriety. That’s a problem.
At the same time, they do have a very nice framework that was originally designed for Jesus. When we put him back, we have something that church-as-usual could learn from. Having said that, let’s look at the Steps.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Do you see something there? It is in the word “we.” AA is a collective, not individualistic. There is great power in coming together as a community united in thought and mission. In fact, I think this is the primary factor that the church misses. Sure, we gather together as a group, but our lives don’t intertwine like they do in an AA meeting. Church is individualistic when compared.
So, let’s look at the next word – admitted. This is where the person starts to refer to himself as an alcoholic. There is a sting to that, a known reputation that the one with a drinking problem does not like to admit. In fact, denial has been the primary tool used to get people off his/her back, including himself. By admitting the problem and giving it a label, one can keep everything in proper perspective. Otherwise, denial will once again focus on something else – anything other than the problem.
Powerless is another power word. Is there anything that you are powerless over? Is there anything that you indulge in that will quickly get out of control and take a great deal of effort to reign in? I’ll bet you do. Yet, how difficult is it to grasp this concept? Listen, we’re talking about sin. Anyone who has read Romans 7 can see that even the Apostle Paul struggled intensely with sin. Why is this so difficult for us to do the same? What sin of yours gets out of control? You might be surprised that you aren’t alone in your struggle. Might you then find comradery if everyone was honest about their sin? I think you know that answer to be true.
Yet, nothing changes unless someone takes a risk, and admitting our sin is risky. We have a reputation to defend. We can’t admit we have problems, other than to say we’re not perfect – like everyone else – and that our problems are normal – like everyone else’s. Therefore, we reason, we don’t need to talk about it, so we don’t. Furthermore, one can reason, the risk is too great. My reputation can be easily harmed by someone who isn’t trustworthy. That’s why you never hear of a pastor talk about his problem with pornography.
Let’s stop to think about this for one minute.
We keep our sin secret. Why? Because we don’t trust others in the church.
Stop right there.
Folks, if this doesn’t mess you up, then I don’t know what will. Hear me. If you can’t trust the Body of Christ with knowledge of your sin, then either you aren’t of the Body or you aren’t in it. Unless I have this all wrong, Jesus came specifically to deal with sin and to gather those who need him in a group that he calls the church and his bride. Yet, we don’t trust those people. Yes, I would agree that there are far too many untrustworthy people in church. Maybe I am not trustworthy, either. That’s a huge problem, folks. Or, there simply are people in the flock that are not of the flock and should not be trusted with any sensitive information. Then, I say, why are they there? If we have too many “goats” that we can’t openly share our struggles, then Satan has effectively shut our church down.
And thus, you see the primary problem I have with church.
Well, it’s time to stop. We only got through the first two words of Step 1. I have to figure out how to shorten this up. Not sure how to do that.
Father, I pray that we might seriously look at our situation. Who is “we”? How can we get to “we admitted”? Father, pierce our spirits with this. We need to know. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers