Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Churches Can Learn from AA Meetings

My "talking doctor" said, "Mike, either go to Celebrate Recovery at a nearby church or go to an AA meeting!" I went to a Celebrate Recovery meeting at a church. I almost went insane listening to nearly 20 woman talking about being "enablers". That was not my cup of tea. Since last Friday I have been to two AA meetings. Now that's my cup of tea or should I say "coffee"? Man, they drink a ton of coffee at AA meetings. I've only been to a couple of AA meetings but I think ALL of us church folks could learn a thing or two from them.

Honesty, Transparency and Being Real
Let's admit it. We church folks are not known for being real. As a matter of fact, we can be downright fake and phony. I've done it myself. My wife and I get into a major fight in the car on the way to church. We park. We put on our "we've got it all together masks" and walk into church like nothing has happened. What do you hear at church on Sunday morning?

"How are you doing brother?" "Fine brother, how about you?" "Terrific, my perfect brother in Christ!"

That kind of fake and phony crap doesn't happen at AA meetings. Just like church you'll hear people talking about God. Except at AA meetings you'll hear the "F" bomb and the "S" word mixed into the same sentence as God. Example?

"I can't believe the F_ _ _ing things God is doing in my life since I started coming to AA meetings!" "Thank God I am coming to these meetings! I can't believe the S_ _ _ I'm dealing with this week!"

At AA meetings every person who opens their mouth is real, gritty, dirty, messy and honest about what is going on in their life. After doing the small group "let's stay extremely close to the surface" church thing, these type of raw and down to earth conversations are extremely refreshing. Going to AA meetings reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.

"The truly holy people I've met in my life are really interesting people. They're a mix of the most incredible godliness and at the same time, the most unbelievable earthiness. I know a woman who curses like a sailor, but she's the most holy woman I know. She is! I'm not kidding. We've created this image of what holiness looks like that's just nonsense. Good holy people probably drink too much some times, and have colorful language, and there's plenty of room in the Bible to see people like that. We have to see life for what it is, entirely more complicated then simple. Spirituality is not simple; it's complicated. It gets messy sometimes." - Mike Yaconelli

The Greatest Greeters
Okay church folks. How many of you can guarantee that everyone who came to your church for the first time on Sunday felt like they were greeted, welcomed and thanked for coming? Be honest. We all know that some or all newcomers slip in and slip out of our churches without at least one person acknowledging their presence. That doesn't happen at AA meetings. At the end of my first AA meeting I was ready to run out the door like an Olympic sprinter. It didn't work. A large older man stood in front of me, reached out his hand and said, "Thanks for coming. Glad to see you. What's your name? Can I give you some advice? How can I help you?"

At both of the AA meetings several people greeted me, made me feel welcome, offered their help and called me by my first name.

My suggestion? Each and every church leader should go to an AA meeting to see how total transparency and great greeting is done.

"When people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus who are real, they see a Jesus who is real." - Mike Yaconelli


  1. You're right, Mike. We want people to fit into a certain mold when they step through the doors of our 'churches'.

    I'm glad AA is going well thus far. Stick with it, bro.

  2. This is why I will not stop going to meetings and just go to church...

  3. Good to hear you had a good experience with AA. Do yourself a favor and get a Big Book and read it. Stick with the old-timers - the ones with 15 and 20 and 30 years of sobriety. The AA secret: The steps actually work. We just have to actually do them.

    Eventually you'll run into people who are trying to fake it in AA just like you would find such people in church or anywhere else. However, in AA they're easily identified over time by their not staying sober. You can't fake recovery any more than you can fake a good meal. (I tried, so I know for sure!)

    If you have found a meeting where they won't let a newcomer escape unnoticed, you have found a good meeting. Stick with it. It really does work.