This morning I did a funeral for a family in our congregation whose daughter died. We had a memorial service at her AA house on Saturday as well. The whole weekend was very enlightening.
First, the Alcoholics Anonymous people do grace very well. The people I spoke with over the weekend seem to be very aware that they are sick and need God's power to help them. The fellowship practices a wonderful commitment to community that I would love to see in those who are more evangelical.
One major lesson I learned was how we, and myself acutely, need to learn to let people know God with the grace they have. A person "not knowing God like I know God" has to be OK with me for now. When the Lord is working on a person, they begin to see their need for Grace and help and power. They want their story to be changed. All we have to do is help them see that getting help is exactly what the gospel is about. The reality is that most of us evangelicals jump right to trying to either help the person's theology or we try to get them to repent of some sin that they are not interested at this time to change. In other words, we turn the Gospel into law or philosophy neither of which is the point of the Gospel. For example, we try to get people to see that Jesus is "the only name under heaven by which a person can be saved" (which is truth), or we try to get them to stop having some sexual relationship. But the reality is that these things that we think they need are not what the Lord is telling them at that time. They just want to end some life controlling self-destructive problem. If that is the bread they want, then give them that bread in Jesus name.
It is like healing the sick. We pray for the sick whether or not the sick believe in Jesus or not. Jesus healed them all. Then, in time, they came to understand the Gospel or at least some did. If Jesus had tried to preach the Gospel and say he was the Messiah before helping the people get well, they would never have come to faith.
This “heal the people first” or “give the people the bread they ask for first” is the key to ministering in Grace.