We’ve been in our new church building for a year, and many new families are attending. It’s easy for people to get lost in the crowd when that happens, so our church (like many others) encourages newcomers to join a small church group. This month’s column for the December newsletter was one attempt among many to get the message out. Maybe it will encourage you to join a group at your church, too.
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls
for a sincere love of the brethren,
fervently love one another from the heart,
1 Peter 1:22
In my youth, I was one of those weird kids who liked Sunday School. Okay, I loved Sunday school. Really. Even though we didn’t have cool Todd the Builder skits before going to class. Even though the most up-to-date Bible translation was the Revised Standard Version. Because the Living Bible and The Message weren’t around in the Dark Ages.
One Sunday, I was positively blown away when one of the incredibly feisty, outspoken guys in our class – you know the type, and no, I didn’t have a crush on him – had the audacity to say, “I don’t like to read the Bible because it’s hard to understand. Because it uses old-fashioned words kids like us don’t get.”
I waited for a lightning bolt to come down and turn him into a crispy critter. Or for our Sunday school teacher to tell him to leave class and walk straight into the lake of fire and brimstone without passing Go or collecting $200.
Instead, our teacher said, “You’re right. The Bible can be hard for kids to understand.” From then she had us read the Bible stories and paraphrase them in our own words, verse by verse. Sometimes, she even let us act them out. Boy, oh boy, nothing kept me away from Sunday school after that!
To this day, I use that wise teacher’s technique. Not the acting part, which is hard to do alone, and Hiram’s not usually willing to be thrown into the lion’s den. But the paraphrasing part. I do that often. In fact, I did it just the other day while studying 1 Peter:22. I asked two questions to get started: What happens when we purify our soul for a sincere love of the brethren? What happens when we fervently love one another from the heart?
The paraphrase came in a flash. We get smooshed. When we purify our souls to sincerely love other believers, we learn how to smoosh. When we fervently love one another from the heart, we are smooshing.
Ten years ago, when Pastor Tim preached about smooshing, maybe he said it’s a way of obeying God’s truth. Maybe he said it’s a means for growing in holiness as the souls of believers are purified to love one another sincerely and fervently. But if he did, I don’t remember. Maybe you don’t either. Or maybe you weren’t around ten years ago when Tim ended the sermon – and this part I do remember – by urging us to go to small church and get smooshed. But you’re around now. And like every believer, your soul needs some purifying. You need practice in loving other believers from the heart.
So join a small church.
Learn how to smoosh and get smooshed.
You’ll be glad you did.