(Editor's Note: Before I could respond to Sam Hill's first letter this letter had come. It appears that Sam has gotten himself into a real learning situation with Joe Bob. Both may benefit and find out what it means to be a Christian only. I believe that I had better stay out of this interesting situation. They are pursuing the right course and have gone to the right source - God's word. I am sure Sam will write again.)
Dear Preacher Charles,
Well, I know that you haven't had time to reply to my last letter, but things are happening so fast around here that I thought I better bring you up to date.
You remember that I told you that Joe Bob Farnsworthy had been giving me a hard time because (he said) that I don't know the meaning of the word Church. Well now he's decided that he don't know what it means either. The other day I was in town and I saw him coming to meet me. I almost crossed the street to avoid him, because I didn't want to take anymore of his teasing but he called to me before I could get away. Well, would you believe that he was real nice and was serious for a change? He said all this to do about Church made him curious and he decided to do some studying and he had decided that just about everybody uses the word Church wrong. He said that he never had studied the Bible any and he wanted me to come over to his house and help him!
Well, that kind of scared me, because I never have helped anybody study the Bible. I wanted to get the preacher to do it but Joe Bob said no he wanted to study with me. So you see I was trapped. I couldn't say no and yet I sure was afraid I was getting in over my head. Well, when I got over there, I found out that he had a bunch of books that his wife (Molly Bea) inherited from her Grandpa who was some kind of a preacher. Those books had been on the shelf for years and nobody had paid any attention to them. When Joe Bob told Molly Bea about all the fun he was having over the word Church she thought about the books and said that he could probably find something in them. That was all Joe Bob needed because he is educated and likes to read and understands how to use reference books and all. Anyway, I've been going over there every night to study for two or three hours. I even went on Wednesday night and the preacher got mad at me and told me I was violating Hebrews 10:25. It sure does have me confused because I know you aren't supposed to say no to someone who wants to study and Joe Bob insisted we study every night. Charles, how do you decide which to do in a situation like that?
Well, anyway Joe Bob showed me in a Bible Dictionary that the Greek word that they translated Church really does mean "called out" or at least that's what the two root words mean. As we went on with our research we found that it really means a gathering, company, group, crowd or something like that but because of its root meanings it seems to indicate a group gathered, called or invited to a place or for a particular reason. Then we found something that really shocked me. Over there in the nineteenth chapter of Acts that same word (ekklesia) is used three times and they don't even translate it Church. Of course, it wouldn't fit there because you can see that it isn't talking about a religious meeting. That was just a bunch of townspeople called together to discuss a problem they had in the town and it certainly wasn't a Church like we know it. It does kind of go along with the other things we found out though because they was "invited or called together for a particular reason." Joe Bob keeps asking me why they translated it Church everywhere else but didn't there in Acts? Can you help me with that one? I don't have any idea what to tell Joe Bob and I sure don't want to say the wrong thing so if you have any suggestions I sure would like to hear them.
Charles, I need your advice because I sure don't want to mess this thing up. You see, I think I just might be able to get Joe Bob off of this Church kick and get him to study what he needs to do about his own soul. The other night he told me that the Bible was the most interesting book he had ever read and he sure was unhappy that he had gone this far in life without ever even opening it. Well, last night I just got up the nerve to try something and I asked him what all his reference books said baptism means (I already knew but I just wanted to get him to study it) and he said he never had given it much thought but he would look into it. I told him to be sure to study in Acts and he said he would.
I haven't been able to get any sleep to speak of since this whole thing started so I sure need your help. I told my Daddy (Big Sam) what was going on and he just grinned and said, "Sammy Boy, it sounds like you are about to find out what it means to be a Christian." He never does say anything that helps. Anyway, I am real excited and just know I should keep working with Joe Bob but the Preacher and the Elders are beginning to get pretty upset with me. They said I better watch out or Joe Bob was going to lead me off into something "kooky" but I think they are wrong because he is just trying to find out what the Bible says and besides, he might obey the gospel and I sure don't want to mess that up.
I hope you will get me some answers soon! In the meantime, I remain
Your faithful friend,
Sam Hill, Jr.