What if The Church were more like AA?

Through our ministry with men in recovery, we’ve been introduced to AA and NA and their many partner groups.

We have become proponents and believers in the Twelve Step program. We see spiritual truths woven through the principles of the steps.  The very core of AA is surrender. It’s what Bill W’s friend told him was the only thing that brought him sobriety: admitting his powerlessness and surrendering to God.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

We’ve sat in an open Narcotics Anonymous meeting surrounded by people who looked nothing like us (I wanted to believe) and listened to rambling words laced with expletives while others in the group patiently listened and said, “thanks for sharing”.

We watched them welcome the newcomer and comfort the struggling. There were no reserved pews or chairs, no seats of honor. This was just a room in an old building used by this group for the weekly meetings.

warehouse chapel


The preaching was the same week after week: read the 12 Steps and the preamble. You might say they are a liturgical group in that way.

AA operates on itinerant ‘speakers’, people shaped more from experience than education. Even the most educated are brought here by the experience of being broken. One chairs the weekly meetings for a month inviting a different speaker to share their story of redemption. After the message is given others are invited to share. If this were church, we’d call it testimonies.

There are no fees or offering collected only a small basket for coffee money. They drink a lot of coffee. A lot. There are no songs sung, no special talents put on display. All have come admitting their need, admitting their brokenness. Never have the words to the old hymn Just As I Am been more accurate than in a 12-Step meeting.

If The Church were more like AA there would be a coffee pot at the back of every sanctuary, people would come as they are, and everyone would be glad you came.

You’d meet in a spare room of a church or hospital, an otherwise empty space with folding chairs and posters on the wall with slogans reminding you to live “One Day At a Time” and “Let Go and Let God”.

If The Church were more like AA you’d be discipled in a one-on-one relationship where you’d meet weekly with someone who would go through the Big Book with you step by step. They’d give you their phone number and say “call me anytime” and mean it. They’d show you grace but not enable you.

If The Church were more like AA everyone would practice radical honesty and work towards spiritual progress not spiritual perfection. They would seek to let go of resentments and make amends with those they’ve wronged.

The adherents of AA start their day praying for God’s help in doing the next right thing and end their day making a moral inventory, praying for God to reveal areas that need correction or change. Their prayer is, “Your will, not mine”.

If The Church were more like AA it would be overflowing with volunteers. Service is expected in AA. You make the coffee, read the steps, lead the Serenity Prayer, chair a meeting, take a meeting into a rehab Center or detox. It fosters gratitude and humility. It’s faith and works.


There are posers and cliques everywhere. In The Church and every AA, NA or CR meeting you will find  hypocrites and pharisees because we are an imperfect, sinful, messed up lot of people. It seems The Church has gotten better at wearing the masks and covering up the mess. It’s easier to lose ourselves in the praise and worship music and pretend all we need is more prayer to fix ourselves.

If Church were more like AA would you go?

Hi. I’m Debby and I’m a sinner.
(and you say, “thanks for sharing”.)

This is part of a monthly series on The Church. Please add your voice to the conversation.


  1. Susan said:

    A lot of valid reasons for sure. Especially for the men of our churches.

    September 14, 2016
    • Debby Hudson said:

      You bring up a good point, Susan. I’ve heard people say a lot of churches seem to design their services for women or have more women staff/volunteers. Maybe we’ve discounted the men more than we realize at times.

      September 14, 2016
  2. I love our church which was started almost 20 years ago for people who don’t go to church. There are many people who have been to church all their lives as well as many who began to come as adults and completely changed their lives. I love the diversity we have and that God has connected us all!

    September 14, 2016
    • Debby Hudson said:

      That’s fantastic Sarah. I listen to Andy Stanley a lot and know that’s exactly how they built their church: for the unchurched. Too often we seem to forget that’s who church is for. We’re not a social club. Thanks for your input.

      September 14, 2016
  3. My Daily Rock said:

    Absolutely! I found my voice in AA (I went to open meetings without an addiction problem of my own). I have never felt such desperation for God anywhere and I LOVED it!

    October 4, 2016
    • Debby Hudson said:

      That’s so true. Thanks for sharing all6kings!

      October 5, 2016

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