AA indirectly derived much of its inspiration from the Church. Now perhaps the time has come for the church to be re-awakened and re-vitalized by those insights and practices found in AA."
I think some of you may be a little horrified at this suggestion. I fear you will be saying to yourself, "What have we, who have always been decent people, to learn from a lot of reconstructed drunks?" And perhaps you may thereby reveal to yourself how very far you are from the spirit of Christ and the Gospel, and how very much in need of precisely the kind of check-up that may come to us from AA.
If I need a text for what I say to you, there is one ready to hand in I Corinthians 1:26 , "... God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." I need not remind you that there is a good deal of sarcasm in that verse; because it must be evident that anything God can use is neither foolish nor weak, and that if we consider ourselves wise and strong, we may need to go to school to those we have called foolish and weak.
1. Recognition of Need
The first thing I think the Church needs to learn from AA is that nobody gets anywhere till he recognizes a clearly-defined need. These people do not come to AA to get made a little better. They do not come because the best people are doing it. They come because they are desperate. They are not ladies and gentlemen looking for a religion, they are utterly desperate men and women in search of redemption without what AA gives, death stares them in the face
2. Redeemed in Life-Changing Fellowship
The second thing the Church needs to learn from AA is that men are redeemed in a life changing fellowship. AA does not expect to let anybody who comes in stay as he is. They know he is in need and must have help. They live for nothing else but to extend and keep extending that help.
3. Definite Personal Dealing with People
The third thing the Church needs to learn from AA is the necessity for definite personal dealing with people. AA's know all the stock excuses - they've used them themselves and heard them a hundred times. All the blame put on someone else - my temperament is different - I've tried it and it doesn't work for me - I'm not really so bad, I just slip a little sometimes. They've heard them all, and know them for the rationalized pack of lies they are.
Are we in the Church like that? Have you ever been drastically dealt with by anybody? Have you ever dared to be drastic in love with anybody? We are so official, so polite, so ready to accept ourselves and each other at face value. I went for years before ever I met a man that dared get at my real needs, create a situation in which I could be honest with him, and hold me to a specific Christian commitment and decision. One can find kindness and even good advice in the Church. That is not all men need. They need to be helped to face themselves as they really are.
4. Necessity for a Real Change of Heart
The fourth thing the Church needs to learn from AA is the necessity for a real change of heart, a true conversion. As we come Sunday after Sunday, year after year, we are supposed to be in a process of transformation. Are we? The AA's are. At each meeting there are people seeking and in conscious need. Everybody is pulling for the people who speak, and looking for more insight and help. They are pushed by their need. They are pulled by the inspiration of others who are growing. They are a society of the "before and after," with a clear line between the old life and the new. This is not the difference between sinfulness and perfection, but it is the difference between accepted wrongdoing and the genuine beginning of a new way of life.
How about us? Again, I quote Jerome Ellison, in his report to God (p .205): "...I began to see that many of the parishioners did not really want to find You, because finding You would change them from their habitual ways, and they did not want to endure the pain of change...
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