Why the Early Church Had More in Common with AA Than Today’s Churches


October 12, 2019

Acts 21:1-6 (NIV)

After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.


Two observations today.

  1. The early days of the church looked a lot more like Alcoholics Anonymous than it looks like what we commonly consider the church today.

What do I mean by that? It doesn’t really have anything to do with alcohol but with an identifiable group of people who did real life together in small communities almost everywhere. It’s like Paul said, “We sought out a meeting there and stayed with them seven days.”

Think about it. What if a perfect stranger comes into our town this week looking for “the disciples”? We don’t exactly have a category for that, strangely enough. And what if they wanted to stay with “the disciples” for seven days? Would we translate that to mean something like, say, sleeping on the floor of the fellowship hall? Remember, this wasn’t just Paul, the apostolic celeb. He had a crew of at least seven others with him. I think I would have probably sent them down to the local Hampton Inn with my credit card.

In those days, the only equivalent of a “Fellowship Hall” would have been a hospitable home. “The disciples” in those days actually hosted fellow believers, even if they happened to be perfect strangers in their homes. In this case it was seven straight days. So much for Ben Franklin’s advice about house guests and fish starting to smell after three days. These early disciples teach us that hospitality is not about how we treat the people we invited but how we roll out the red carpet for the people we didn’t invite.

If you don’t get what I’m talking about, go visit an open AA meeting. You will be astonished.

It brings me to my second observation.

  1. These early Christians cultivated an apostolic culture of “sending.”

Just seven days ago we knelt with Paul and Co. on another shoreline where we witnessed a tearful sending ceremony conducted by the elders of Ephesus. Today, we stand with the apostolic band on the beach of Tyre surrounded by “the disciples” including their wives and children; everyone kneeling in prayer. It was a “sending” moment.

Jesus said it best: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 

Now it lies to us to say, “As Jesus has sent us, we are sending you.”

We need to find ways to do this more simply, more meaningfully and more regularly. We need to recapture an apostolic culture of sending.

Church leaders: no more, “Have a great week” or “See you next time” empty closing words at the end of Sunday service. Send us out.

Parents: no more, “Have a good day at school today” or “See you this afternoon” empty parting words as the kids get out of the car to go to school. Send them out.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to the world will be to recover our sense of “sentness.” We must learn to simply, meaningfully, and regularly send one another out into the mission of the gospel. Jesus is counting on it. The Holy Spirit stands ready.




When is the last time you hosted disciples you didn’t know and invited them into your home for seven days? Aright, how about for one night?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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