There are those who make fun of twelve-step programs. My guess is that they haven’t tried one, or haven’t felt they needed to try one.
Some decry them because so many of them express an unabashed faith in God.
Others would say that their biblical five-step program should be good enough for anyone – you know: hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized and the occasional vocal proponent of remain faithful.
The original twelve-step program, as nearly as I can tell, is that of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I think you’d find by clicking the link that it’s pretty biblical, too. I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest substituting “sin” for “alcohol” and “fellow-sinner” for “alcoholic” in its wording and having a pretty reliable set of guidelines for living a more Christ-like life.
But I did suggest it at a meeting that began at 7:00 this morning of ministry staffers and elders who meet to cast a vision for our church. We’re pretty adept at painting the challenge: creating a more accessible environment for those who are new to our church and new to faith in Christ.
We’re in a wealthy part of town. We’re mostly white. We don’t look like sinners. But looks can be deceiving, and they are in this case. We sin like everybody else.
What’s difficult is meeting the challenge: finding ways to be transparent, and encourage transparency. Being willing to admit we’re all messups – just messups who have been willing for Jesus to let our guilt be nailed to His cross with Him.
And be willing to make amends where we can. It’s not a tough concept, and each of us has a story about how it is happening in our lives.
Since our fellowship is a little edgy about the concept of “testimony,” I suggested calling it what it really is: the ongoing Story of Christ. It’s not really our story, but His; about Him working in our lives. It’s not like His Story begins or ends between the covers of our Bibles; that’s just as much of it as He chooses to reveal in a biblical way.
And who can resist taking in a good Story?
Every person who comes to an A.A. meeting – C.E.O. or gutter-dwelling wino – eventually shares his or hers. They share a personal truth about who they are and why and how long or short they’ve been dry. They depend on each other for support. They are accountable to each other. They care … sometimes to extraordinary extremes.
Because each one of them has experienced the hell-on-earth of alcoholism, wants to be free of it, and to help others be free of it.
At my preaching minister’s request, I’m going to provide to all of us Tuesday-morning visionaries a copy of the twelve steps of AA as a starting place for discussion of methodology.
It’s not a complete answer – but it’s a good start.