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Why Can't Church Be More Like an AA Meeting?
And Other Questions Christians Ask about Recovery
PAPERBACK; Published: 10/26/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7885-4
Price: $ 19.99
240 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Do Christians need recovery? Or is recovery something needed by the church itself? 

Addiction—whether to a substance or to a behavior—is a problem within faith communities, just like it is everywhere else. But because churches are rarely experienced as safe places for dealing with addiction, co-addiction, or the legacy of family dysfunction, Christians tend to seek recovery from these conditions in Twelve-Step fellowships. Once they become accustomed to the ethos of vulnerability, acceptance, and healing that these fellowships provide, however, they are often left feeling that the church has failed them, with many asking: why can’t church be more like an AA meeting? 

Inspired by his own quest to find in church the sort of mutual support and healing he discovered in Twelve-Step fellowships, Stephen Haynes explores the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and its relationship to American Christianity. He shows that, while AA eventually separated from the Christian parachurch movement out of which it emerged, it retained aspects of Christian experience that the church itself has largely lost: comfort with brokenness and vulnerability, an emphasis on honesty and transparency, and suspicion toward claims to piety and respectability. Haynes encourages Christians to reclaim these distinctive elements of the Twelve-Step movement in the process of “recovering church.” He argues that this process must begin with he calls “Step 0,” which, as he knows from personal experience, can be the hardest step: the admission that, despite appearances, we are not fine.

Table of Contents

1. Why Can’t Sunday Be More Like Saturday? (it’s not what you think)
2. What Can the Church Learn from AA? (quite a bit)
3. Do Christians Need Recovery? (not until they do)
4. Are AA and the Church Allies or Competitors? (maybe both)
5. What Is Recovery Anyway? (it’s complicated)
6. Is Recovery Anti-Christian? (nope)
7. Is Recovery Biblical? (sort of)
8. Can Christians Embrace Recovery? (apparently)
9. How Are Christians Reclaiming What the Church Gave AA? (let us count the ways)
10. What Does the Church Bring to Recovery? (in a word, theology)
11. Does Twelve-Step Recovery Work? (define work)
12. What about Sex Addiction? (is that even a thing?)
Epilogue: When Is Recovery Finished? (when you are)

“If you’ve attended a Twelve-Step recovery meeting, you’ve likely come to a simple conclusion: If church were more like this, no one would ever leave. In this book, Stephen Haynes highlights the hallmarks of programs like AA—the nonjudgmental curiosity, unmitigated acceptance, and unfailing support of the members—and casts a new vision for the church, one that sees brokenness as the first step in a miraculous healing journey. This book is a must for every pastor, priest, deacon, or lay leader. Do not pick it up lightly.”
— Seth Haines
author of The Book of Waking Up: Experiencing the Divine Love That Reorders a Life
“Stephen Haynes’s book is both an introduction to Twelve-Step culture and to the influence that Twelve-Step wisdom has had on Christian communities, including recovery programs, recovery ministries, self-help groups, and even recovery churches. For those Christians who are curious or suspicious about the Twelve-Step model, this book offers a balanced introduction to Twelve-Step recovery, including the Christian influence behind Alcoholics Anonymous and the many ways contemporary Christian groups have critiqued, adapted, or embraced Twelve-Step recovery. Haynes also reviews theologies of addiction, providing a primer for students to develop their own theologies of addiction and recovery. Informed and thoughtful, Haynes views the whole landscape of Twelve-Step and Christian recovery but also challenges Christians to consider how we might reclaim the humility, honesty, and mutual caring that rests at the center of the Twelve-Step culture.”
— Sonia E. Waters
associate professor of pastoral theology at Princeton Theological Seminary
author of Addiction and Pastoral Care
The Living Church
“People die of addiction. Lives around the addict are shattered. The human costs are incalculable. This book is an important resource for raising awareness, taking action, and equipping faith communities to make a difference.”