Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Twelve Steps

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.

10 comments:

Amy said...

Keith,

It's interesting that you're writing on this right now. Our preaching minister, Larry Locke, is finishing up a sermon series on "12 Steps to a Closer Walk With God".

Each week he will talk through one or two of the steps and apply them spiritually. Also during each sermon he has someone give a testimony dealing with the subject in their own lives.

This has been so powerful and has encouraged transparency in our Bible classes and Life Groups.

I think you're onto something here!

DJG said...

{glad to see you and Amy hooked up}

I have often found myself envious of people who spoke of their AA experiences....it sounded like what I have been looking for. {without the heartache of being an alcholic of course}

David U said...

Keith, I wish you would take the time to talk to somebody at Downtown about how "Celebrate Recovery" is impacting our church and our community. It is AMAZING!
I think Fellowship Bible in LR is part of this same outreach program.
You might want to visit with those folks. Or are you allowed? :)

DU

TCS said...

I have been to some of those meetings with my father, their testamonies (I don't get why we can't use that word)are a huge part of why they are community. But very close to that is that no matter your story, you are accepted and it is simply not an option to look down on anyone else. You start with reminding yourself and everyone else of your brokeness. We could all learn a lot from these folks.

jimps said...

I like it. Where did we lose the idea of sharing our stories with each other? (I guess because "the denominations" do it, we are forbidden.) Isn't that what being part of a community is about?

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Don't you all think that a big part of the "giving testimonies" is that many churches would absolutely NOT want a woman to give her testimony in front of the whole assembly, even if she were to do it just standing up where she was sitting and not even coming up to the podium? Am I off base here?

I don't think it would be a problem in our fellowship, but then again, I haven't seen it done, either. At least by a woman.

I think it's a great idea, myself, and several years ago in the congregation I was in here in Slidell that a group of us started as a new work I stood up (and other women did, too) on a couple of occasions where I was sitting to speak near the end of the service (when requests were made for input by anyone before we finished our time together) about things that were on my heart.

The positive, emotional impact on the group and from the group was wonderful. Very meaningful and rich. I'd tell you about it here, but it would take too long.

But, I definitely think we should be doing all of those things found in the 12 Steps, as Christians. Let us know how it goes and works out there. You're a good one to lead the way, Keith!

DJG said...

It was great to see a woman give her testimony when visiting Otter Creek. But where I am from they would drop their teeth if you started giving a testimony regardless of sex {male & female not frequency}.

I guess it is "one barrier at a time!"

Keith Brenton said...

I thought Mike Cope had a (typically) brilliant way of getting Highland used to the idea of having a woman speak from the pulpit, even when we were there more than five years ago.

He'd interview them, asking questions about their story that led them right into it, so there couldn't be any objection that a woman was teaching or having authority or even controlling the conversation.

Hmmmmm....

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

That sounds cool to me. Perfect.

In my case, the first time I did it, here's how it went. One of our elders always ended the service by asking if anyone had anything else to add or needed to be brought to eveyone's attention.

It was never talked about, as far as I know, about what exactly that meant, but I knew my fellowship well enough to be able to (although very scared inside, admittedly) to take the risk of standing and saying I wanted to say something, and I did.

It was a spiritual tribute to my younger son, Mark (and there's a long, providential story in all of it), on his 28th birthday, and in his presence and Tom's, both of whom I'd wanted in particular to be there, although neither one knew what I'd intended to do (with much prompting from the Lord because of my deep love of my son).

The response of the entire congregation, who all broke into spontaneous applause afterward, and young mothers and many others afterwards, in tears, as I was, was nothing less than phenomenal. And it raised me up more than any of them, I think, to be able to thank God for the life and gift of my son, who by all doctors' best opinions, wouldn't live past his first two days of life.

There's much more, but like I said earlier, it's a long story.

I think we should cultivate such an environment, which blesses everyone involved. Don't you all?

TCS said...

HA! to Donna's frequency comment! Although that might have something to do with it, now that I think about it.