James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful God, gives a great metaphor about transformation in the Christian life. If you take cucumber and put it in pickling brine, then pull it out, what do you have? A baptized cucumber! For a cucumber to become a pickle, it has to stay immersed in the brine long enough for it to fully soak in. The same is true for the Christian life. Being a 'baptized cumber' is not enough. We have to be immersed in the presence of God in the Christian community for a long period of time to become all that God has called us to be. There are two ways we can do this.
First, we stay connected with God through weekly worship. Just as the first Christians 'continued to meet together in the temple courts'; (Acts 2:46) God invites us to meet him in corporate worship. Looking back at Genesis, we see that people were made to stroll with God in the garden. We are meant to be in an intimate, open dialogue with our creator. Sunday worship helps us to do this. This is why we choose, as individuals and families, to make it a priority. We don't decide each Sunday morning if we are going to go to worship, that decision was made, once and for all, when we decided to follow Christ. It isn't an option; it is a necessity for our souls. When we join together, we are lifted up. No matter how difficult your week may be, or how far from God you may feel, the strength of the congregation with its songs, prayers, and message lifts you up and keeps you going. When someone is baptized, we renew our own vows. When we take Holy Communion, are reminded of the love of God, the sacrifice and victory of his Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This worshiping rhythm of life keeps us connected with our Creator and heading in the right direction.
Second, we stay connected to one another through small groups. John Wesley was the master of small groups. He understood that small groups provide what worship cannot: an ability to ask questions, dig deeper into Scripture, have individual care and accountability, share burdens, and add prayer and personal encouragement into our individual lives. The writer of Hebrews tells us to, 'consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another...' (Hebrews 10:24-25). I have always enjoyed the learning, sharing, and joy of small groups. Everywhere I have gone I have started small groups - in college, in Mexico City, on a boat in Alaska, and every church I have been in. God does amazing things when two or three are gathered in His name; just imagine how much more will be accomplished when eight or twelve are gathered to spur one another on toward love and good deeds?!
Deep connection with God and fellow Christians is not just something we may want to do, we need it. Brene Brown, a Professor at the University of Houston, writes, 'A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.' So I encourage you to make worship a priority for you and your family, and find a Sunday School class or small group where you can learn to love and be loved.
Blessed to be a Blessing, Jonathan