The people who walk into a 12-step recovery meeting or church service are looking for something. A new church visitor may be looking for a faith community and relationship with God. An addict may have no interest in God but they are hurting and need help getting sober.
Neither are perfect communities—there is no ideal or utopian gathering of people—because no matter where two or more are gathered there will be conflict and chaos. The difference in the two communities is the practice of telling and hearing the truth.
A traditional church member would be shocked if they sat through a 12-step meeting. They would hear recovery people tell stories of being abusive, adulterous, liars, cheats, and thieves. While they are sharing, you will see other people around the circle nodding their heads, they understand, they have done the very same things.
Even though the church is inching towards greater transparency and vulnerability, a great number of our members are hoping that no one finds out that they are liars, cheats and thieves. Some are still living a life of appearances, fearful of what people will think if they know the truth of who they are and what they do.
Another distinction between the two communities is theological. Our churches are tragically being torn apart by theological divide—each side losing sight of our common mission—to love and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. Here’s the good news—we can seek God and serve our neighbor without agreeing one bit on theology or any other issue; in fact, it is possible never to even talk about. This is true because it happens every day in the recovery world. You will never hear a theological debate over someone’s higher power—nobody cares. If your understanding of God is keeping you sober—that’s all that matters.
A last distinction is the practice of hearing the truth. A recovering addict has a sponsor whose main role is to walk them through the 12-steps and tell them the truth that either they cannot or will not see on their own.
This is a scary space for the church and its members. Not everyone is interested in hearing the truth about themselves.
The result of this impacts the church greatly. We have members who are hurting. A lot of them have experienced trauma and abuse. Some are untreated addicts and codependents. Because hurting people hurt people—they cause harm in the church and, when confronted, will tragically leave or cause chaos.
One of our greatest ministries is to care for the people who are hurting within the church. We love them best by telling them the truth of what it is like to be in relationship with them—how their hurt affects others. We do this with great love and affirmation. We are all human and can walk side by side as we heal—this is everyone’s journey. By doing this, we are offering healing to the people within the church. A healing that will transform their lives and positively impact their family, work and church.
What IF…Church was like 12-Step Recovery
Then…people will be engaged in healing from their hurts
Then…people will seek to know God in a transformative relationship
Then…people will seek to pass along their healing through service
Then…truth can be spoken while remaining in relationship
Then…our Churches will become a safer place for hurting people
Then…our Churches will be revitalized