Walk into a doctor’s office and look around. Why is everyone there? Because they’re sick and they need a physician to get better. Walk into a Toastmasters club and look around you. Why is everyone there? Because they want to get better at speaking in front of people and they need help. Walk into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and look around you? Why is everyone there? Because they are struggling with alcohol and they need help overcoming.
Here is what is interesting about the above organizations. No one tries to hide their sickness in a doctor’s office. No one tries to hide their fear of public speaking in Toastmasters. No one tries to hide their struggles in an A.A. meeting. Why? Because in these settings they all know everyone is there for the same reason and they are all too desperate for help to hide it.
Now, walk into a church’s assembly and look around you? Why is everyone there? The reality is everyone is there because they are all sinners and need a Savior (Romans 3:23-24). They are all there because they’ve learned without God they can’t make it and they need Him to help them win the victory over sin in their lives (Romans 7:14-25).
This is where we start having trouble. Even though that is where every single one of us is. When we come into a church’s assembly, we often perceive something different. Instead of seeing a group of people who are struggling with sin and have gathered to get some help, most of us see ourselves as struggling with sin but see everyone else as really good people who are just coming together because they are so spiritual. When we’re at a doctor’s office, we don’t care if everyone knows we’re sick, but when we’re “at church” we try to cover up any spiritual sickness we have going on. We don’t want others to see. We’re afraid they’ll look down on us.
Sadly, some Christians are like that. Some are like Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50 who actually don’t realize how sick they are. If asked why they are there, they really might say, “Because I’m so spiritual,” while in their mind adding, “Too bad everyone is not as spiritual as I am.” Having met too many of these Christians, many of the rest of us put a lid on our real struggles and try to fight them alone until they become too big to hide. Sadly, in those situations some folks just give up the spiritual fight entirely.
In this situation, the ones who should really be ashamed are not the ones who have continued struggles. Rather, the ones who should be ashamed are the ones who think they’ve got their lives under control on their own and aren’t being honest about how sinful they really are, how much they need a Savior, and how humble they really ought to be as they’re dealing with people whose sins are different. Remember, in the parable of the prodigal son, it wasn’t the prodigal son who was the bad guy. It was the older brother who was too good to go in and celebrate with the returning prodigal and the father.
Please, take a good long look at yourself. Why are you here?
“Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
Since the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping people overcome enslavement to alcohol. Do you know what A.A. has not done? They have not opened orphan’s homes, started hospitals, run day schools. They have not started food kitchens, held clothing drives, hosted parties. They have not made donations to the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, or VA hospitals. They have never endorsed a political candidate. They have never gotten involved in social welfare. Do you know what they have done? They have helped one person at a time be free from the enslavement of alcohol.
A.A. began in 1935 when two men met and began to think about how they could help each other stop drinking alcohol. Now, A.A. has more than 2 million members. Do you know what A.A. never did? They never held a Super Bowl party to invite folks to hang out and maybe join once they felt comfortable. They didn’t set up youth groups to entertain young people into their fellowship. They have never held a concert in hopes of getting people to check them out and maybe become a member. They have never hosted a Mother’s Day Out program to attract female members. Do you know what they have done? They have taught each member to share with other strugglers the freedom from alcohol they have found through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Please, do not misunderstand me. Alcoholics Anonymous is not the model for the church. We find the model for the modern church on the pages of the New Testament. No doubt, there are some things about A.A. Christ’s church must never mimic. However, I do think we can learn something from A.A. That organization has stayed focused on its mission for going on 75 years. They have quietly done their work. They have not worried when people spoke ill of them. They have not changed their mission to be more eclectic. They haven’t tried gimmicks to get people involved. They have simply helped people be free from alcohol. The changes in their lives have been their biggest testimony.
What could a local church do if it took this same approach? What if we remembered that our mission is to free people from the clutches of sin and Satan by the blood, grace, and will of Jesus Christ (cf. II Timothy 2:24-26; Romans 7:15-25; Ephesians 2:1-10; Jude 20-23)? Our mission is not to entertain, feed, educate, politicize, or even just play church. Our mission is not to provide social welfare, medicine, or Thanksgiving dinners. Our mission is to set people free with Jesus’ truth (cf. John 8:32). Certainly, all those other things are good and needed in our society. However, none of them are the church’s mission. Let us focus on our mission of setting folks free through Jesus.