I was nervous the night I went. Maybe it was the unfamiliar territory. I was going to my first AA meeting. That night, I went with a friend, a recovering alcoholic. He had invited me to this meeting. This, he said, was one of his "favorite groups." I stepped inside and there were a lot of people there. There might have been thirty five people in all.
"This is a special night", I was told. After all, one member of the group was celebrating a year’s sobriety. I could see the birthday cake in the an adjacent room. Then the meeting came to order and each person introduced themselves. "Hi I’m Mike and I’m an alcoholic." Then a chorus of voices in the room would say, "Hi Mike." This would take place as each person in the room introduced themselves.
I have always been impressed with the honesty of recovering alcoholics. I was once a part of a church that had a strong recovering ministry and that honesty came through loud and clear.
I just wonder , what would a church be like if we practiced more honesty? Imagine the following:
A preacher who said, "I really don’t understand this Scripture. Maybe someone else here does."
A group of elders who say, "We don’t know what to do. But–"Doug" has a good idea and we would like to try it."
Life groups where prayer times take on a new dimension. One says, "Please pray for me. I blew up at my co-worker last week. I need to try to make amends tomorrow." Another says, "Please pray for me. I am struggling with depression and am taking a new anti-depressant."
Someone who says. "I’ve sinned. I’ve not been on speaking terms with the Smith’s for several years. I haven’t even tried to reconcile. Please pray for me."
A guy meets with some other guys whom he prays with each week. "Guys, I feel so defeated. All week long, I’ve been thinking about the new secretary down the hall. I guess I enjoy the attention she gives me. I feel so guilty when I think about my wife and children. I need you guys to help me."
Let’s be truthful. Do we want this kind of church? Do we want this kind of honesty? Do we want to know what the preacher really thinks this text teaches (and doesn’t teach)? Do we want to hear honest confession of our sin? Do we want a church where people seek one another out to deal with differences in a spirit of reconciliation or would we rather have a group that talks behind one anothers backs?
So often in church, we are not even honest about what we believe. Instead, we just remain silent. "Leave well enough alone" somebody says. I suspect our diversity makes us nervous. Maybe we just don’t know what to do with it.
Yesterday, we visited a church while we were out of town. Neither Charlotte or myself had ever been to this church before. We arrived in time for the Sunday morning Bible classes. We chose a particular class because the teacher is a good friend of mine. The class began with the class leader asking for prayer requests. He did a particularly good job of expressing concern to various ones who asked for prayer. Usually it was a health issue. A job concern. A son or daughter in the military serving in Iraq.
Then a women at the back of the room said, "I need prayer. My husband of 21 years just left me…" I could just sense the concern in that room for that woman. I saw another woman immediately bow her head. I like to think that she was in prayer for this woman speaking. The class leader then responded by gently asking, "How are you doing with all of this…"
I sat there thinking, "THIS is church. This is what it means to be church." This is a place where we can deal with real life as it is. Now maybe it would be good to open the windows and let a little honesty in.