I referred to this on Sunday in my sermon that I preached. I think it bears repeating, so for those who were there it is a bit of “been there, heard that.” Not that it is bad to repeat because I find that people don’t get most of what is said in any one sermon. We pick up bits and pieces and if I were to ask people what I preached on three weeks ago most people would not remember. I wouldn’t remember it myself. So a little repetition is not bad.
On Sunday I was reflecting on a revelation we had when we were praying at our Wednesday night prayer meeting. We are holding weekly prayer meetings throughout the season of Lent. While we were upstairs praying there were about 30 people downstairs at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. That is more than triple the amount of people we had at the prayer meeting. For many of these people they attend an AA meeting every day or night of the week. Some people attend twice a day. I wondered why. Why do these people attend so many meetings? What is the need? What drives them to be so committed to this group and what do they get out of it? So I sent out a text to people who attend these meetings, asked them why do they go to AA meetings and here are some of the responses I got back:
- “To help replace dependence on drinking with dependence on a Higher Power who will help me to live life to the fullest without the need for alcohol.”
- “It is a fellowship of men and women whose experienced strength and hope and help me and other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
- “To regain the lives we’ve lost.”
- “Alcoholism/addiction is a disease of loneliness and isolation; meetings help me overcome loneliness and isolation.”
- “For many, God or a Higher Power is most visible and tangible at meetings.”
- “Meetings provide the opportunity for connections”
- “Meetings are instrumental in helping keep me sober and preventing relapse.”
After reading these responses it struck me…People who attend AA meetings frequently see their need for connection with God or a High Power through shared experience, support and fellowship more deeply and more passionately than most Christians sense their need to connect with God in the same way. As alcohol or drugs have crippled their lives they need AA meetings to help them on their journey to break the chains of addiction. Christians, however, fail to have that same sense of need or urgency. Somehow, we think we can break the chains of sin and the pressures of life on our own…on our own time and in our own way.
I wonder…If we saw our own spiritual need, our need for recovery, our need for transformation, our need for community the same way a recovering alcoholic saw theirs…I wonder if our prayer meetings would be filled, if our church services would have a greater level of commitment and if our gatherings would be things we feel we would “have” to attend. Would we feel driven to attend a prayer meeting, not just as an option but as an essential. “I HAVE to go to prayer meeting, whether I want to or not. I HAVE to go for my survival!” Because people who attend AA meetings know why they are there…They are there for survival. They NEED to be there and everyone is in the same boat together. Everyone there knows, on some level, they need it. And they can’t go a week without a meeting. Most people can’t go a day without a meeting. Even as a preventative, do we see the same need? Are we self aware enough, humble enough, to admit to our need for this time of connection? Do we sense that we have that need every day? That we just can’t do it on our own. I could not imagine people coming to a prayer meeting every night…I just don’t think we see ourselves that desperate for Jesus and His church. And when I say we, I include myself…at the top of the list.
I have often said there is more honesty at an AA meeting than a Bible Study, I think it is because we are afraid to be real, to be authentic. to be that needy. At an AA meeting, they are not judged for their failures. They are supported through them. So, I put the same words of those who responded to the AA question and imagine people attending prayer services or small groups or worship service saying similar things.
- To help replace dependence on………. with dependence on a God who will help me to live life to the fullest without the need for …….”
- “It is a fellowship of men and women whose experienced strength and hope help me and other Christians to follow Jesus.”
- “To regain the lives we’ve lost.”
- “Life is filled with loneliness and isolation; Prayer Meetings help me overcome loneliness and isolation.”
- “For many, God is most visible and tangible at Worship Service.”
- “Small Groups provide the opportunity for connections”
- “Prayer Meetings are instrumental in helping me stay the course and prevent relapse.”
The writer of the book of Hebrews calls us to persevere in our faith by participating in Divine fellowship with one another:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may
spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another -and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25).