In the preamble for Alcoholics Anonymous, read at every meeting I’ve ever attended, we hear again that “our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” The preamble builds up to this by stating that AA neither endorses nor opposes any causes, is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution…each meeting is self-sufficient — clear messages that nothing is to get in the way of staying sober and helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety. No one is particularly in charge – volunteers from within the rooms lead meetings and the newcomer is always the most important person in the room. Imagine facing your fears, your shame, and coming into a room either alone or perhaps with a friend, and folks immediately trying to put you at ease, telling you they know what you’re going through, and there’s a way out. Maybe you distrust them, but maybe you are listening with just a shred of hope.
In a previous post I wrote about “double listening”, listening to someone and also listening for the voice of God, verifying or maybe the opposite, learning to listen for and learning to recognize truth. Sometimes the truth is facing the reality.
In most meetings if a newcomer arrives the topic switches to the first step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable. That’s a reality that has to be faced if true recovery is going to take place. Folks then begin to share about what brought them into the rooms for the first time — family, conscience, circumstances or courts. The honesty is overwhelming; perhaps it’s because there are no last names used; perhaps it is the truth that Jesus said would set us free. (John 8:32) Once you admit certain things, the secrets have less hold over you.
The newcomer is encouraged to find a sponsor, to get some names and numbers of folks to call and to begin to work the 12 steps of recovery — and told to “keep coming back!” Every meeting I’ve attended in Texas has ended with the Lord’s Prayer.
There’s a freedom in purpose. Further, there is a freedom in brokenness, in acknowledging your need for help.
From what I understand, the early church meetings were closer to this. “Salvation” is rooted in the same word for “healing”.
I love the Church, and I am privileged to still be a pastor. What would you say is the primary purpose of the Church? How do we go about fulfilling it? I think these are interesting questions, and we’ll look at them as we go along. Kind and thoughtful comments and discussions are welcome. We can share our “experience, strength and hope.”