Jesus in the 12 Step fellowships?

Hi, @DeanW! I am unfamiliar with the philosophy and structure of 12-Step Fellowships, so I’ve appreciated your insight here. :slight_smile: I was really struck when I read what you wrote here…

I am convinced I would benefit by beginning my mornings with the confession: I admit I am powerless over… I live in so much denial in my own life over many aspects of my sin! I often think it’s manageable. Ohhhh, how deluded I am!

Do you find that the openness and honesty that is fostered in the 12-Steps culture is transferable to any parts of life where sin has its hooks?


@DeanW, thank you for bringing such a topic into our attention! I’ve really enjoyed reading through what you wrote. And I admire the sentiment behind it. I want to share a couple of passages without reflecting too much on it.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Matthew 5:44‭-‬46 ESV

I think God provides for all of us, those who love Him and those who don’t. He is demonstrating that very same principle He is urging us to follow!

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.
Mark 9:38‭-‬40 NIV

I believe that beauty, art, healing, freedom, goodness and all things of light, are not just provisions from God, they do not exist apart from Him. Althought some people are not “with” Him, they are not totally separated from Him yet. They are away from the light, still, traces of that light can be found. There is still a chance for them to move along that spectrum further towards the Source.
We have someone here in a nearby church who practices exorcism. And non-christians actually go and get healed! I am not sure if the spirits come back or not, but that’s another matter; for when it comes, it won’t find the house swept and put in order!
(Luke 11:25)

The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.
John 6:63 NIV

Maybe someone who follows the teachings of Christ would some day be a follower of Christ! It usually happens the other way around, but I believe that His words are not empty.
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11 NIV

I have heard stories about those who came to know God following their recovery. So you never know!
Thank you again Dean for sharing your insights with us. It has been really enriching!

Hi Sara-

If I may weigh in here with a question to your statement below.

“Maybe someone who follows the teachings of Christ would some day be a follower of Christ! It usually happens the other way around”

Did the 12 Disciples follow Jesus before they believed? Or was it the other way around?

Food for thought…

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Hi Nathan! Interesting point! I wonder if you have watched a recent movie called “Mary Magdelene”. It’s an adaptation of Jesus’ life. It got some stuff right and some stuff wrong but one of the most interesting things it tried to depict is how, to the very last moment, the disciples didn’t really understand who Jesus was. They expected His glorification here on earth and thought of Him as conquerer waiting for the right moment to throw off the Romans. So, either way, their belief must have been developed, pruned, matured and upgraded, one might say, after the resurrection. On the road to Emmaus, He started to explain to them all things in scripture concerning Himself.
But if we are to take the question as it is, we don’t have enough information to guide us. But there are there 3 examples of the first disciples that I remember at the moment which are:
1-In John 1:35-42 it says that two of the Baptist’s disciples saw Jesus and he told them: Behold, the lamb of God, so they followed Jesus. They must have heard about Him without really knowing who he was until this journey began by John’s finger pointing towards Jesus.
2-In Luke 5:27, it speaks of Jesus’ most brief encounter. He just told Levi, “Follow me!” And Levi left everything and followed him!!! That part makes me reconsider our nowadays apologetics, we speak a lot more than Jesus did and yield less! Lol :sweat_smile: That makes me think that the Holy Spirit was working on Him long before a real encounter took place that he was readily willing to leave everything behind and follow Him.
3-Nathanael, Peter, John and James all saw something extraordinary about Jesus that drew them.
We don’t have an account on how Jesus invited the others and what their backgrounds were.

That is actually a hard question to answer! What do you think Nathan? Do you think that someone can follow Jesus without knowing Jesus subjectively?
Were those in Athens (Acts 17: 22-31) with the altar of inscription “the unknown god” of whom said their poets: “for we are indeed his offspring”, were worshipping the true God?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts Nathan!
God bless you and your beautiful family in that picture! What a photo!

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Did you know that Alcoholics Anonymous started off as a group called “The James club”. (The biblical book of James that is…)

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Hi Sara-

I haven’t seen the movie but I will check it out. Sounds interesting. I “get things right and things wrong” all the time so I’m sure I’ll be able to relate. :wink: Jesus disciples did and still do get things right and wrong all the time. I only have to look in the mirror if I need a reminder of how patient and merciful he is. The problem is always staring back at me. Good news the Solution is too. “Losing ones life and finding it” start to blur the edges in a really good way. One day at a time that mirror is less dim and that Face on the other side is getting clearer. Following Jesus before believing in Jesus… is it possible? Oh yeah its possible. More than that, probable. Jesus is there waiting with a loving gaze long before honest belief, trust, Faith show up.

Matthew 28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

He is waiting for all the followers… Patiently…

Ps my daughter due in October is named Levi!! So pumped. “Everyone a Levite”
Thank you for admiring my family. What a good giver of gifts God is, even to a slow follower like myself.

In Spirit and in Truth


I see that a “Dick B.” wrote a book centered on that idea, but i can’t seem to find anything about it on the main AA website. Could you try to find if there for me? I’m not denying the claim, just wanting to be careful. Lots of folks write books to sell books, more than to be factually accurate. Thank you, though, Timotto. It will be exciting if we can find verification outside of Dick B., from an official source.

Hey, Nathan, i like your way of expressing “the essence of spirituality”! Like when looking in the mirror Believers get to see both the problem and the Solution. That’s much better than the old “look in the mirror and then go away forgetting what we saw there”, like James said (in 1:23-24). As far as Him believing in me long before i could return the favor – Yes, it seems so obvious now.

Have you ever heard the saying i’ve often heard in meetings (usually cause i’m saying it): “God loves each of us exactly as we are…and too much to let us stay the way that we are”? Another saying i really value is, “Our perfect Dad loves each of us as if we were His only Child in the entire universe!” Agree?


Yes I do agree that God loves all his children today. Nice to be one among many. He is the potter and we are his clay. I trust infinite God more than finite self to shape me as he sees fit. If I have ears to hear and eyes to see that the “essence of spirituality” is service, I need look no further than the life of the Master Teacher Jesus to verify that truth.

One of my spiritual advisers is Brennan Manning. I value this quote below from him immensely.

Mr. Manning was convinced that when he stood face to face with The Creator of all things there would be only one question. “Did you ever really believe that I just loved you?”

Takes me to my knees in gratitude and wonder every time

I believe God does not make to hard of terms for those that seek him.

Just one among many loved by the Father

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Hi Nathan!

I just love this! It reminds me of what Paul said:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

Amen brother!

Wowwww! Congratssss! May all things go smoothly for you guys. Lovely name!!
May the grace and truth of our Lord embrace your family. Stay blessed!

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Agreed. And yet another way to put the same idea: our Perfect Dad is looking for those kids who want to be His forever, in intimate joy-full union, beyond what we can now comprehend. He will not force anyone to return His great love for us, yet continually encourages and inspires us to do so, if we will only come to receive His eternal gift of Himself, by the power of His grace.

But those who would truly hate to be with Him for eternity will be given what they will most desire on Judgement Day, complete separation from the only Source of Life. He takes no delight in the Second Death of the lost, even as Jesus wept over the destruction He knew would be coming to the Jerusalem that rejected Him. Still, He values our freedom as a necessary ingredient in the kind of love He wants us to experience with Him.

One thing, among many, that i appreciate about “the fellowships” is the amazing “freeness” we are given to grow in our understanding of God, within an environment that encourages trust in Him, without requiring a rigid outward conformity of beliefs. That way He can continually reveal Himself to those He makes ready to accept deeper contact with Him, through many and various religious/spiritual organizations, with the on-going support of those who have had past backgrounds roughly similar to our own.

Does that “connect” with what you are seeing / experiencing Nathan?

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It was shared with me by those who were quick to see where religious people are right… that prayer, meditation, and self reflection are keys to an ever growing conscious contact with God. In connection to that Power, which today I trust in Faith is the Holy Spirit, I have found a new freedom and a new happiness. I can comprehend serenity and I know Peace. I am still learning “H.O.W.” to have true relationships through Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness. Today I am learning forward but understanding backward. Turns out the “W.H.O.” has been with me all along my journey and those I journey with. For me…Jesus is coming into focus sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly but He and His promises always materialize, if I continue to work for them.

“Grace is not opposed to effort, but it is opposed to earning.” Dallas Willard


Hi. I find the 12 step groups absolutely Great for any Christian wanting to grow in God’s Will. It keeps me reviewing my sins/issues & letting them go to God where He wants them.
I work/minister in a Christ centered recovery group every week. We deal with all life issues, we call hurts, habits & hangups. All people are welcome!
I love to watch God working in people’s lives.
I don’t know if RZIM allows me to say their name. Please let me know. I would love to promote this Great ministry.


Hi there, Cheryl. Is that a paid position you have there, or more a regular “meeting”? I’m retired now so it is like i get paid by SocSec to go to meetings and do “step work” with new friends. It’s a great life! Yea, God!

As far as your question, i don’t know the answer exactly, but i suppose we should keep some degree of anonimity here. On the other hand, if you work for a non-12-step recovery organization i imagine you could mention their corporate name.

And i agree with you that it is a great blessing to watch our Heavenly Dad ever at work, transforming lives. Have you ever heard the saying, “The King of kings. and Lord of lords. has humbled Himself to become, for us, the Sponsor of sponsors, and Trusted Servant of trusted servants”? That has a lot of meaning to me, personally. You, too?

No, it’s not a money paid position, but the blessings are more then any money i could receive. I’m retired & on SS too.
I’m still going to wait for admin to answer the ‘organization nane’ question, don’t want to get kicked off here.
No, I’ve never heard that saying before.
Have a good day & ttyl.

Next i wanted to share a little-known (or little talked about at least) aspect of AA (and to some degree the other brands of 12 Step groups). And that has to do with the underlying “God concept” that is implicitly suggested by the literature.

For example, as noted above, the 2nd Tradition (guideline for the success of groups) points to “a loving God”, who “expresses Himself through the group conscience”. He is “the One who has all power”. And the AA Big Book gets more specific on pages 62 and 63.

In preparation for Step 3, which is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”, there are some suggestions regarding what God is to be like to us.

In my own words, He is the Heavenly Father, the perfect Dad, and we are His kids. He is the flawless employer / boss, ever wanting to develop the best in us in whatever positions that will satisfy our basic natures and gifts – we are His willing workers. And He is the Divine director / owner of all – we are His agents or representatives.

Once again, these concepts can ultimately point only to Jesus Christ, as i see it. So here’s the question i want to raise here: is that “another Gospel” as some would say, or could it be these are concepts that will lead us to Him as we grow spiritually, relying more and more on Him, and less and less on our own abilities and will?

What say U’all?


It’s interesting, @DeanW… I would say that it all depends on what one means by (big G) Gospel. It seems to me that the Gospel (big G) must communicate certain components/tenets for it to be considered as the Gospel in its fulness.

What I would say you (or the AA Big Book) are communicating is a partial Gospel. It seems that one is committing to submitting to God ‘as one understands Him/Her/It/Them’. There are key elements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that are present, but it is not there in its fulness.

So, no, I wouldn’t consider it ‘another’ Gospel so-to-speak like Paul would reference in 2 Corinthians 11 and Galatians 1, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the full Gospel.

And that’s by design, I imagine? There seems to be much more a trust that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth of Jesus Christ to them in their journey of recovery. Would you say that’s accurate or would you push back? :slight_smile:


Hi, Kathleen. No, i have no push back – you have seen correctly that the full Gospel cannot be a standard part of the 12 Step fellowships, since most people coming in have a distrust of religion and much confusion about God being a demanding, hostile, vengeful kind of being. Most of these folks had a broken home and only a very few had a good church experience as part of their up-bringing.

So first the newcomer needs to begin to come to trust their fellow recovering addicts, then see that there is almost no “self-righteousness” among us, yet we have found workable relationships with the “God of our understanding”. Then, as they begin to relate to us more and hear/see the changes in us, they can begin to believe that there is an accepting, caring, “Higher Power” that wants to help them in their specific-substance recovery, and later in all aspects of their lives.

Given more meetings and time away from their active addiction, they will normally get into the Step process, which i understand to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, who then leads them (sometimes very gradually/slowly) to Christ. Not all people will come to know Jesus this way, of course, but a lot of folks do, Me included, and i was a confused, militant atheist when i got into recovery.

It is a “partial Gospel”, definitely, yet the environment is conducive to wanting to know more and more about this Power that helps us stay sober/clean/abstinent. Naturally there is a heavy emphasis on “gradual-grace” rather than “instant-righteousness”, since many of us have been rejected and “burned” by highly critical, judgmental religious groups, and rebelled against “the pharisees”, so to speak, who misrepresented the true God of infinite goodness.

I will plan to write some more about the way Jesus reveals it is Him who is healing us, soon. I appreciate your thoughtful interaction – thank you.


Wow. This is amazing! I love being reminded that God can reveal Himself in whatever way He wishes!

“gradual grace” – a very apt description! Like a sort of slow warming process… I find grace often operates in my life like that too…melting down my self-righteousness. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all your reflections on this!


I like that, “melting down my self-righteousness”. Like “softening up our forzen-hard hearts”. Must be the Son-God , the God of the Sun Source. Sounds like a poem in the making…

Thanks, Kathleen. By the way, you probably know that your name derives from a word meaning “pure, virginal”? I guess we are all that, in Christ. One big kathleen-clean Family.


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