What if Church was more like an AA Meeting?

Imagine for a moment what church would be like if the Pastor or Announcer began church with, “Hello my name is ___ (fill in with name) and I’m a recovering sinner of ____ (fill in the sin)”.  Would he or she be so bold to admit to their church not the mildest of sins such as a white lie but the grander sins of adultery, stealing, or a pornography addiction? Or perhaps he or she would admit to a personality disorder such as narcissism, borderline, or dependant.  How different would church be if everyone was expected to be honest about their past and present and not pretend to have it all together?

Record numbers of youth are leaving the church for precisely this reason with some estimates as high as 70% of America’s youth who was brought up in church does not return as an adult.  For the youth, they know that they do not have it all together and they do not want to go to a place that expects everyone to act as if they do have it all together.  This trend can be changed but it requires honesty at very deep levels with friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers.  Here are four things spelling CARE which AA does well in their meetings and could improve the atmosphere of any church.

Confessing sin.  One of the essential elements of AA meetings is for an addict to admit their addiction and also admit if they have been tempted recently or given into temptation.  Admitting your sin in front of others is hard but by doing so it holds you accountable to everyone in the room.  This would be quite a moment in the church if everyone knew of your personal struggles with a particular sin.  Just imagine a person struggled with gossip who admits it to the whole congregation, now the whole congregation can work on not gossiping with this person, talk about accountability!

Admitting sin is a life-long battle.  Another essential element of AA is admitting that once you are an addict you will continue to be an addict.  Yes God can and often does remove the desire for an addiction but He sometimes allows it to continue as a reminder that His grace is sufficient.  We are all born with a sinful nature so trying to pretend that we don’t continue to struggle with sin is futile.  Instead if everyone in church openly admitted to their sinful struggles, those struggling with the same sin could feel empathy instead of judgment.

Recognizing God’s grace.  “I have been sober for 1203 days” is a standard statement at an AA meeting.  This statement is designed as a continual reminder that each day is to be lived one day at a time and a reminder of the day they made a decision to do something different with their life.  What if every believer said, “I have been saved by God’s grace for 2678 days”?  How inspiring it would be for those just starting on their journey.

Exemplifying God’s love and forgiveness.  Even when someone falls back into addiction, they are always welcomed back with open arms at an AA meeting.  There are no new expectations, no turning away from a person who has fallen, or refusing to forgive someone who has hurt you.  At an AA meeting, all is forgiven and asking for forgiveness is the only expectation.  After all, we are all sinners and who among us does not need to be forgiven?  What a difference it would be in church if everyone forgave one another.

What if church was more like an AA meeting?  Most would respond by saying what makes AA works so well and for so long is that the people are anonymous, just first names are used.  But as believers of the same God in the same church, should we not desire to show the world a different standard?  A standard that welcomes sinners of all kinds, cares for the needs of it’s’ members, and unites even the strangest members.  Then and only then will we have a church that embraces honesty, rejects falsehood and truly brings glory to God.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Did You Keep Your Last Year’s New Year’s Resolution?

I did.  Not to brag, but I can truly say that not only did I keep it but it has benefited me beyond my expectations.  My last year’s resolution was daily so it involved me being active in remembering it which in turn produced daily benefits to not only my life but the lives around me.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will be doing it again this year however with slight differences to keep it fresh and new.  What was it you ask?  It was to read the Bible, both the New and Old Testament, cover to cover in chronological order.

This is not the first time I have had this resolution, however, it was the first time that I read the Bible in chronological order which is enormously helpful to those of us who think in terms of storylines.  Many years ago, I was impressed not by a Pastor, sadly enough, but by Oprah to read the Bible cover to cover.  Her valid point was that as a Christian I should know for myself what the Bible says and be able to speak with confidence about my understanding not because someone else told me about it but because I had studied it for myself.  After all, is this not what higher education is all about?  We major in a field of study and read volumes of books coupled with lectures from those more knowledgeable than ourselves.  Yet the very book that defines Christianity and embodies the whole nature of Jesus Christ, many have never read to completion.

How sad.  I equate it to marrying only part of a person and not the whole person.  Wedding vows often include the lines, “for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health” but what if the vow only said “for richer and in health” and left out the other parts?  How is that commitment?  Anyone can be committed to the good in a marriage but it takes a person of character and conviction to be married during the “poorer and sickness”.  The same is true for studying the Bible, if we only read the parts that are easy, fun, satisfying for the moment, or applicable to our lives right now, then we miss part of who Christ is.

So, many years ago, I read the Bible cover to cover for the first time and it has rewarded me beyond my initial expectation and now I continue to read and reread it while gaining deeper understanding and wisdom well beyond my natural abilities and talents.  There are many websites to assist you with this endeavor, you can even download an APP for free “YouVersion” Bible which has many reading plans to select from.  Or here is a favorite website:  http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/.

However you choose to read the Bible, just read it.  Come with an open heart and mind to what God is saying in His word about Himself and about your life and you will be blessed.  Embrace the whole nature of Christ through the reading of His word and your relationship with Him will deepen to levels beyond your understanding.  Just as the difficult moments in your marriage fostered a deeper commitment and understanding of your spouse, so reading the difficult parts of the Bible will strengthen your faith and love of Jesus.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Is Your Storm More Like Jonah, Job or Jerusalem?

Our recent economic times have hit many people hard with more people homeless, in the process of foreclosure, without jobs, working jobs well beneath their skill level or filing for bankruptcy than I have seen in my lifetime.  While it is easy to blame others for our troubles and in this economic climate, there are certainly factors beyond our control; we also must look at the actions we have taken to contribute to the problem.  Jonah, Job and Jerusalem all faced overwhelming difficulties and while we may not be swallowed by a great fish, have our home and family destroyed in a day, or have our king assassinate every family member in a feuding family, we can apply the lessons learned from their lives to ours today.

Jonah.  Jonah knew what God wanted him to do, he just did not want to do it so he took a ride on a ship headed for the opposite direction of what God wanted.  The result was a great storm nearly sank the ship, the crew confronted Jonah, Jonah confessed he was the problem and told them to throw him overboard.  Still defiant, Jonah would rather face death then do what God wanted.  The crew reluctantly did as Jonah asked and God in his mercy caused a great fish to swallow him alive.  He remained in the fish for three days until he repented and then God released him.

Sound familiar?  Have you ever known what God wanted you to do but you refused to do it and as a result were punished for disobedience?  Maybe you are in this place right now and are realizing that the storm you are in is a direct result of not being obedient to God’s commandments.  The good news is that it is not too late to do the right thing.  Perhaps your economic situation is the result spending more than you have or wanting things that are out of your price range (also known as envy, lust or covetousness).  Take a lesson from Jonah, only though do not wait until a fish swallows you up, and repent.  Decided to live a life based on being grateful for what God has provided instead of always looking over the fence to see what others have and wanting it instead.

Job.  Unlike Jonah, Job did not do anything to deserve losing all he had.  Instead Job found himself in the middle of spiritual warfare between God and Satan.  God knowing and trusting Job’s faithfulness allowed Satan to take his home, his wealth, his family and finally his health.  Job was left with three friends who questioned his every action and provided little comfort in his time of need.  In the end, God answers Job’s questions as to why He allowed such tragedy to happen by reminding Job that He is the creator of all things, the giver of all life, the designer of all forces of nature, the author of all wisdom, the provider of judgment, the source of all strength, the owner of all things, and the defeater of all evil.

Sound familiar?  Have you had everything taken from you and then turned to God to ask why He would allow such a thing to happen?  Maybe this describes you better than Jonah and you have searched your heart and actions for what you have done wrong and found nothing.  The temptation is to then blame God for the state you find yourself in and question His divine nature.  Instead recognize that there are spiritual factors beyond your control and influence.  What you can control in this environment is your reaction, your continued commitment to God, your faithfulness to His word, and your love of His commandments.

Jerusalem.  After the split of the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom following the reign of King Solomon, Jerusalem had a series of Kings both good and bad.  Repeatedly in Scripture we learn that God was displeased with the people and their continued offering of sacrifices to idols.  The idols took different forms and required different sacrifices from small tokens of money to live people.  Even the good Kings failed to completely remove all of the idols from the people and as a result God allowed the evil Kings to take over the land.  The evil kings would frequently assassinate to gain power, murder family members of previous Kings, and rule through intimidation and fear.  The people who were promised protection by God if they followed His commandments were left without protection from both their own Kings and neighboring nations.

Sound familiar?  Have you ever wondered about how our nation has fallen so far from the original design of the Constitution of the United States and why we seem to be in constant battle with other nations?  One of the mistakes the people of Jerusalem made was looking for the King to do the right thing and then to follow him.  The people had access to the Prophets of the time who willing spoke God’s truth to anyone who would listen from Kings to servants.  As a people we too can look into our own lives and recognize how we are part of the problem our nation faces.  Instead of waiting for the politicians to get it right, we need to get it right in our own homes.  Idols take different forms today but the concept is the same, it is anything that we trust for security or worship more than God.  It can be TV, video games, money, house, job, car, 401K, computer, news, internet, family or friends.  This is not an exclusive list as the point is to evaluate your own life and see if you have an idol you need to remove.

Tough times are difficult to weather.  Reflection into your personal life for potential causes of the tough times is even harder.  But if you evaluate your life using the lessons learned from Jonah, Job and Jerusalem by acknowledging the problems, repenting from the problems and renewing your faith and commitment, the blessings and promises of God will stand in the end.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.