Five years ago, we started a free Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the Phoenix-Camelback church. It began simply with signs out in front of the parking lot advertising free open meetings Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon.
The goal was to reach the community. What surprised us the most was that the community included not just those individuals who were driving past our church but also our wealthy neighbors living in the mansions around the church.
For years we've been trying to get past the doors of our neighbors on the hill surrounding the church with pamphlets for evangelistic meetings. But the “walls” were too high. Imagine our surprise as the expensive cars started pulling up to the church at noon each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The room slowly started to fill on a weekly basis. Five years later, we have 30 to 40 people in attendance each meeting, every week, every month.
By lowering our own walls and taking a risk, we created a ministry for both the community and our church—primarily for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and secondarily for our own members to not only be able to reach out and share Christ but also to have a safe haven where they are able to share some of their own silent struggles.
Amazing ministries can begin in places that we may not have fully comprehended. As Christ told us, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40, NIV). This AA outreach has become one of the most successful ministries we have had at the church. We believe that if other churches opened their doors to the unknown and served their communities in a way they never dreamed possible, the walls in their community might also come crashing down.
By Mark Sulger