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12 Steps and the Church

After reading the responses to my last post, it’s clear that a lot of us agree about the need to be realistic about the predictable downsides and disappointments of church life. But at the same time we don’t think that lowering our expectations of one another is the way to go. We share a vision for what growing together in the values, attitudes, and mission of Christ could mean.

So here’s something I’ve been thinking about. To address the need for more realism and spiritual idealism, what if we learned back from 12 step groups what the founders of AA originally learned from the the Church? I’m not saying that our church meetings should mirror a 12 step group. But what if we had the same sense of brokenness, urgency, and life-long commitment as those who hit bottom and then find ways of helping one another to rise above our inclination to live self-centered, faithless, hopeless, and loveless lives? What if we built back into 12 steps the Christ-centered roots they came from so that we could honestly and repeatedly say–through our church experience– for the rest of our lives:

1. We admitted we were powerless over our inclination live for ourselves at the expense of others.

2. Came to believe that Jesus could restore us to spiritual sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as he has revealed himself in his written and living word.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God develop within us the attitudes of Christ.

7. Humbly asked him to do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation in the Scriptures to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of our shared accountability, we committed ourselves, with God’s help to carry this message to those who are still as hopeless as we once were without Christ, and to practice his principles in all of our affairs.

My question to you is this: Is there something about these “refurbished” 12 Steps that could help us to be more realistic about ourselves, while at the same time raising our expectations and hopes for one another? Do you see anything here that might have been lost along the way? Or would you see the suggestion as the equivalent of 12 Steps backward– as far as the church is concerned?

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6 Responses to “12 Steps and the Church”

  1. joanneu says:

    Living our lives both in the church setting and out of it is a daily ongoing and growing experience. The twelve steps can help us in directing our lives in a more orderly manner but first and foremost we must put the Lord first last and always the centre of our lives

  2. B Murphy says:

    Thank you for the beautiful 12 step program. Seems to me that this is a plan to bring heaven here to earth. If we really practiced this kind of humility and faith, charity and love, who could resist joning us?

  3. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Mart i believe i must examine myself quite often so that i will not be judged.
    Having read the Daily Bread before i came to your Blog, I know our generation is being overwhelmed with information about every thing but the Lord in order to keep our minds occupied with useless information.
    Even though these 12 steps are great tools to check ourselves out as to where we stand, and what we need to do, i believe these 12 steps could be replaced with the one thing the Lord asks me to do if i am His child and that is to Love each one He puts in my life every day, even my enemies, this has been my yard stick to judge myself with.
    Judging ourselves is a hard task if our mindset is not on pleasing God at all times, but when we have understood what God the Creator went through to show me how much He loved me, it has not been a task, but a desire.
    Many times even a child of God without examining themselves often, must hit rock bottom as the Prodical son did, and i have been there done that, and it is so hard to get back, much easier to desire to stay close, by self examination often.

  4. brownsfan1642 says:

    In a day where, even in the church, we look for, expect, and even demand, omnicompetent leaders, it is so vital to be constantly reminded that our hope is not in people—no matter how gifted they may be. The thread that seems to run through all 12 steps you offer, Mart, is that our hope is, and must always be, in the Lord. We are grateful for gifted, Christ-honoring pastors and leaders, it is really vital to remember Jesus’ words, that, “Without me, you can do nothing.” (John 15). Especially in the church, we will never be effective in our mission unless all we do is under His direction.

  5. misterb says:

    I am in total agreement that these 12 steps are beautifully laid out for our own edification. Anyone reading and understanding the messages within have to also agree that placing these 12 steps into practice is a strong commitment to immediately and completely turn our life around by stepping out of our “comfort zone.” Retreating to our “comfort zone” when challenging times march in, breaks the promises to ourselves and hurt others as we have often done in the past, even after asking for their forgiveness. The bottom line to these 12 steps reveals the push to do what is right, however, making the commitment is a very difficult decision and scary at best. Breaking the promises and commitment to ourselves is self-deceptive, destructive, and petrifying. Tomorrow is Communion Sunday for many of us and another opportunity for self-examination. I am certain that these 12 steps you have written will surface in our mind and cause us to think about where we are today and where we want to be in the future and base our decision on the results of our thoughts. We have to take a step forward in advancing to the future. These 12 steps frame a beautiful pathway. As one of many favorite songs reveals: “All We Have To Do Is Take One Step and He Will Do The Rest!” Thanks!

  6. alxhaight says:

    Having been involved with a 12 step program, I can tell you that it only worked when you sought the Lord’s help and guidance. Originally, the founders used God a lot more in the BB(Big Book) and all the literature, but they realized there were a lot of agnostics and atheists that had drinking problems, so they changed the wording to “a higher power” instead of God so they wouldn’t drive people away that desperately needed help.I agree with Mart. If we incorporate Jesus and His ways into the 12 steps, we all could become closer to Him and be more obedient. Tha Big Book says if you fix your spiritual problems,all the rest of the physical will come around and be healed. I believe that. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added.

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