A.A., Christian AAs, and the Bible in Recovery Today
The Contemporary Efforts by a Handful of Christians to Keep Christianity, Christians, and the Bible out of Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 Step Fellowships
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The thing that catches your ear when you listen to Christian AA Speaker and Attorney Russell S. of Miami, Florida is his bold, instructive, reassuring talk of why and how it is OK to talk about God Almighty, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible in A.A. and other Christian Recovery meetings today.
And, of course, it is! But there are many reasons why. And there is a way to do it, as Russell recently explained in his radio interview on Christian Recovery Radio.
Consider these points made by Russell:
As he puts it, “The Lord wants us to make disciples of people.” There is a reason why Joe and Charlie and their Big Book Seminars are special in A.A. But they shouldn’t be considered special. The reason their skilled talks were considered especially valuable was this. They were conveying basic information about the Big Book and Steps that most AAs don’t get or do forget.
The same should be the case when it comes to speaking out about God, Scriptures, and Jesus and not faltering merely because you are an AA or are speaking to AAs. The treatment industry shoved people into treatment, he says, and from there to AA where newcomers were expected to attend and hear “discussion meetings” and “war stories” (I drank and drank and drank). But A.A., he says, is not secular at all.
The reason for reticence among Christians in AA is quite often fear, intimidation, and a pent-up desire to be liked by others.
Let’s talk about what the Bible says to Christians about fear:
The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe (Proverbs 29:23).
In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me (Psalm 56:11).
I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Now let’s talk about the growing handful of anti-A.A. Christians who seem determined to champion the idea that the Twelve Steps are “Twelve Steps to Destruction,” that Christians who set foot in the rooms of A.A. are hell-bent for sure, and that A.A. is not “Of the Lord.”
Most alcoholics and drug addicts who seek recovery with God’s help are riddled with fear, shame, guilt, and despair. At first! But, from the Bible, they can learn how conquer these problems. In early Akron A.A.’s Christian Fellowship founded in 1935, they heard lots about the solution to fear—trust in God. For example, they frequently studied and discussed The Runner’s Bible, which pointed them to God for love, for power, for help, for healing, for guidance, and for deliverance, as well as the abundant life and everlasting life.
I did not enter the rooms of A.A. anything but a Christian. I was not afraid of A.A. I was not mindful of those few who tried to silence Christians. This, despite babble from a few about nonsense gods and absurd names for “higher powers” (light bulbs, chairs, radiators, “something,” Ralph, or a rock). And I certainly didn’t need to hear or read from the words of outside, anti-A.A. Christian writers that I was on my way to hell if I participated in A.A., listened to AAs, or helped still suffering AAs.
I was just not bound or fettered or enslaved to fear as the antidote to deliverance by reliance on God and standing firmly on the fact that I had established a relationship with God through accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Now back to Russell S. and his powerful and persuasive call for Christians to stand and witness wherever they might be.
Russell declares that there is no reason to fear, to become intimidated, and to think that silence breeds approbation. AAs most certainly can and should express their faith and talk about what God has done for them. Stories about how people established their relationship with God are part and parcel of the A.A. Big Book text. Informed, experienced, long-term sobriety people in AA have a responsibility to talk about what God has done for them that they could not do for themselves, Russell declares.
Inexperienced newcomers need to hear about A.A.’s Christian roots and history, about God, about how the Steps incorporate Scripture. And they need to hear it from those AAs who are informed, who are experienced in carrying the message, and who easily establish credibility with others by reason of their own extended and continuing victory over alcoholism. Victory that can and should be achieved by an alcoholic newcomer through AA and by learning AA history and maturing in their understanding that the victory can be achieved by reliance on God.
Russell gave his life to the Lord on December 25, 1980. He did it in his bedroom while watching an evangelist. He got sober on, and has remained continuously sober since, January 25, 1981. In A.A., he found “incredible fellowship.” But there was a thrust to go deeper. He discovered that from reading the story in the Big Book on page 191 about A.A. Number Three—attorney Bill Dotson.
Dotson exclaimed, “There was something more. A freedom I hadn’t got.” And Russell was able to identify the appropriate direction by listening to long-sober AAs with between twenty and thirty-five years of sobriety. They were abiding Christians in Jesus Christ. They read the Bible. Theirs was a twenty-four hour program with which they were in lock-step daily. And Russell then began Bible studies, reading the Dick B. history books, and enabling himself then to connect the dots like a hand in a glove.
He pointed to the prevalence in Florida of strong A.A. Step meetings with strong, long-sober speakers. The step study meetings were numerous and commonplace in his part of Florida. Russell developed his manner of presenting the Steps and incorporating his own Christian walk from the old-timers and those meetings. “I do my deal and am blessed,” he stated.
And he teamed with a Christian pastor who started “Alive Again” meetings. They show the relationship between the Steps and the Bible. Those in Celebrate Recovery are welcome. Many churches have their own recovery meetings, but the central focus is on faith in Jesus Christ. There is much cross-pollination, and little worry about denominations.
His audience in the many A.A. meetings is well received by many who are believers, want to investigate, and who are then amazed. He is very excited today about the power of the internet and receives calls from all over from people who didn’t know but are listening to talks. They hear the recordings, give them away, and things go viral. And there are many places to hear the materials: (1) His own website. (2) Our website Christian Recovery Radio, and Joe and Charlie talks on the net.
Many in our International Christian Recovery Coalition, and many many others will thoroughly appreciate listening to these materials, learning from them, adopting from them, and disseminating them. And Russell is thankful for the grace of Almighty God and Jesus Christ in his life. He states he is blessed with fellowship and thirst.