2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
There is an oral tradition in AA that is a play on the first three words of this step: “Came to believe.…” It turns it into a three-part unfolding.
First, we came. We showed up. Let us not downplay the significance of this first fact: we got ourselves in the door. Now this is more largely felt in Alcoholics Anonymous than it is in church, but the parallel is still there.
Just going to an AA meeting is an admission of a problem. It takes great humility just to get in the door. Some people may start out: “I’m not an alcoholic, I just came to see what this was like.” If you first come with that attitude, you will probably never come back until you can admit that you indeed are an alcoholic.
Would that there was a similar built-in humility when anyone comes to church. When you come to church there should be an immediate realization that you are now among the saved people. Not the good people … the saved people — sinners saved by grace. Unfortunately a lot of this is lost on the fallacy that the church is made up of good people, or at least people trying to be good. Sadly, people in church are more likely to be less welcoming to sinners than they are to fine, upstanding folks in the community.
Phillip Yancey tells story about a friend of his who regularly attends both church and AA meetings. In other words, he worships both upstairs and downstairs in the basement every week. The first thing you notice is that there are usually more AA meetings than church services. That’s because alcoholics need AA more than sinners need church (or at least think they need it). In most cities, there is an AA meeting nearby every day.
Yancey’s friend explains the difference between church and AA meetings by what happens if he is late. When he comes late to church, he feels all eyes are on him. Whether he’s actually being judged by everyone there for his lack of ability to get himself to church on time, he certainly feels that way, and no one does anything to make him feel any differently. But when he’s late to an AA meeting he gets an entirely different reaction. The meeting stops, and everyone gets up and hugs him because they are so glad his need for them won out over his need for alcohol. He came, and that’s more than half the battle.
Secondly, we came to. Like the story of the prodigal son, we came to our senses. We admitted we were powerless against sin and powerless to change ourselves, so we came into the fellowship of others who believe they need help from a higher power which we know to be God. We came to and got ourselves to where we know they welcome sinners. That’s why we call our gospel the Gospel of Welcome. Everyone is welcome.
And finally, we came to believe. The ability to believe may not come right away, but it will come. The environment of acceptance, love and forgiveness will win out over our inability to believe. It’s hard to shake the Gospel of Welcome.