A friend of mine leads a very effective workshop to help people to discover the power to change their lives, for the better. It is a workshop designed for members of AA and it illuminates the discovery and the methods of the prescription which has changed thousands (millions?) of lives over the years. I tag along and help in whatever ways I can. I unlock the room and make the coffee. I chat and mingle with the participants. We laugh and joke and listen and think together.
We have been meeting, as a part of this particular workshop, for three weeks. My friend, Kris, asked me to introduce myself and explain who I was. Most people were surprised that I was in ‘ministry’. Some commented that I seemed like a nice enough guy despite being ‘religious’. I am hoping that my new friends might take a fresh look at spirituality and particularly at Jesus, through our participation together.
This idea of ‘religion’ is the thing that has become a difficulty in many AA meetings. They have the form but not the spirit of the prescription for new life! This is equally true of so much that passes for ‘church life’. It is easy to rattle on in a form that has little meaning outside our worship ‘rooms’.
I have been delighted to learn that the prescription of AA is meant to enable new life in the real world, not just in the meeting room. Christianity is the same. We are not called to go to Church. We are called to follow Jesus in all our life. If he is not Lord of all can he really be Lord at all?
This brings me back to my hobby horse, incarnational and relational living. These new friends might be open to discussing spirituality with me because I have lived authentically in their midst. This provides the two aspects of incarnational strategy: 1) living as an authentic person of faith, and 2) living in the midst of people. This is the stuff of Jesus. This is the way he lived! This is the Way in which we may follow him!
Does this mean that we shouldn’t gather to worship? No more than AA members should stop going to meetings. We ought to fully participate in our Church in the midst of all those gathered with us! But we cannot live our spiritual lives only there. If we claim to follow Jesus we must necessarily live real lives in the midst of the real world.
Being real means that people see us warts and all. People see me lose my temper (though I mostly lose it on inanimate objects or myself) and see how I handle my sin. Do I cover it up? Do I pretend it never happened? Do I blame others? Do I excuse my behaviour as of no consequence? Or Do I face it squarely and make whatever adjustments and amends are called for? When I am living authentically even (or especially) my defects can be used by God for his glory. Perhaps this is the real meaning of Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”
As an aside please do not quote tis verse to people who are suffering terrible losses, I remember like it was yesterday someone saying this to me when our son died. That person can be glad I only lose my temper on inanimate objects!