Last Sunday I attended a new church with my roommate and his girlfriend. It has four campuses and a church planted in Honduras. I had seen the crowded parking lots on many occasions as it sits almost directly across from our Toyota and Hyundai dealerships and thought since it was just a few miles from home, why not find out what all the excitement is about?
Before I go any further let me write a disclaimer. I am not here to sit in judgement of any man, woman or church, just to provide the facts and let us all decide for ourselves what we think. But because of my background, and all the things folks have shared with me about other churches, there is something specific I look for in a church I would like to attend.
Where Are All The Notorious Sinners And Tax Collectors?
This church had a fabulous presentation. People in the parking lot directing you to an open spot then greeting you personally. Folks opening the doors and welcoming you in to a thoroughly modern atrium and a worship center with the latest in modern technology. Probably sat about 3000-4000 people and this was the second service. The singing was entertaining, professional grade with inflections of music that added drama to each. Then a very talented woman sang an Adele song that was later referred to in the message.
As the associate pastor spoke I thought back to the review I read on Google when looking for directions, "Great church body, unfortunately the pastors are detached from the people." One spoke about a record attendance on Easter and how almost 200 people had given their lives to the Lord. He added that next Sunday would be a Baptism Sunday party and how believers needed to do this to fulfill their commitment to Christ.
The main speaker, a young minister who was eloquent, entertaining and totally on point with scripture, delivered a well thought out and inspiring message. So I decided to approach him afterward, thank him for the message, and ask about any recovery ministries they might have. I had asked this question at several churches I had visited before and only one had answered positively.
His response, "We refer those people to the churches that handle that sort of thing -who do Celebrate Recovery."
I remember reading in the Book of Revelation that no church was perfect, and I certainly understand and thank God that at Campus, North Atlanta and First City in Pensacola, I have been spoiled by some incredible people who totally get what it means when that question is asked. But I left there a little stunned that despite their growth and obvious desire to bring people to Christ, they seemed to be missing an open door to a significant piece of society.
Realizing that we who were addicted created our own chaos and sins, but understanding how AA and NA have made such a difference in society, it hurts my spirit to think that most churches frankly consider "addicts" as outcasts for someone else to deal with. When in fact so many "normal" people have confided in me about their addictions, who are well placed within our churches, that it would seem just absolutely natural to at least have a room where our kind of folks could assemble and share.
My conclusion- no church people should ever criticize AA, NA or any other kind of A until we answer the question, Where Are All The Tax Collectors And Sinners? Usually you will find them in those groups because they felt unwelcome in a church.
This brings up the question, would Jesus go to Church or to a meeting? Selah!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.