For many homes, dinnertime has been revisioned as TV time. We have lost the power of the dinner table to shape society. Even the church has lost how powerful a dinner table can be, especially when it comes to reaching unchurched people.
With the majority of churches and Christians lagging in confidence when it comes to sharing their faith, perhaps now is the time to remember the power of a Jesus table.
If you’ve been exposed to the Dinner Church movement, or are thinking through how your church can be present at different tables in your neighborhood, consider how Jesus himself hosted.
Eat Like Jesus
Jesus spent a lot of His time around tables. J. Crossan suggests that to watch a day in the life of Jesus would be to watch him mostly healing and eating. Other scholars, like Christine Pohl agree, and Pohl points out that Jesus’ supper times were a consistent and prominent part of His mission.
It doesn’t take long to see in the Gospels how many times Jesus reclined at dinner tables with scurrilous people. This happened so much so that in Luke 7:34, he garnered the reputation of being a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners.
Eating with people like this was part of our Lord’s divine strategy to download the kingdom of God onto the earth and into the hearts of the irreligious. Pohl goes on to say that these dinners were intended by Jesus to be an invitation to faith. In this way, Jesus embedded the gospel into the dinner table sociology.
Eating with people and inviting them into the kingdom is a significant reason the church grew from hundreds to millions while it was using the dinner table theology. These meals are our history and our heritage.
Any time you prepare a dinner table in the likeness of Christ, you are preparing a colorful vision of the Gospel.
Hosting tip #1: Serve the food in a way that reveals the abundance and generosity of the gospel, and expect people to be drawn to Christ.With the majority of churches and Christians lagging in confidence when it comes to sharing their faith, perhaps now is the time to remember the power of a Jesus table. Click To Tweet
Invite the Unlikely
The warmth of Christ in our hearts gives us a wonderful sense of fellowship. So warm is that feeling that some never want to leave their Christian friends to reach others.
It is a good thing that the people who invited you and me into the God’s family did not think that way!
Every church must be reminded from time to time to include people who have little to offer back. Inviting outsiders is supposed to be at the heart of Christian food events.
In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus instructed the hearers not to invite people for a banquet who can return the favor, but instead to invite those who could not pay them back. We see such an important interchange in Luke 19:5, where Jesus saw Zacchaeus up in a tree and invited himself over for dinner.
There are a couple of key ideas to note from this story of Zacchaeus. First, while Zaccheus was not poor, he was definitely isolated. As you prayerfully seek people to invite into your table, keep an eye out for all types of isolated people. Second, it was as they ate together that Zacchaeus opened up his heart and changed his life. When Jesus, or Jesus people, come to a table, it’s transformational.
Hosting tip #2: Invite some people to your dinner who are not likely to be invited to other tables, and eat with them rather than serving them.
When Jesus Shows Up
Jesus loved the dinner table. The Early Church understood that, but we seem to have forgotten. In fact, the Early Church held that Jesus might even show up in a physical form during their dinners, like he did to the guys on the road to Emmaus and the disciples behind locked doors in an upper chamber.
There was a sense among the Early Church that Jesus might just do it again. Some of those Agape Feast events went so far as to set an empty chair for Him. That anticipation lasted clear until long after the church took its Constantinian turn. I would even argue that this eventually led to the formation of the doctrine of transubstantiation.
The American church needs to recover the idea that Christ will show up if we set up a Jesus table. Many Christ followers give learned assent to the theology of Omnipresence, but do not grasp the promise of an increased presence at a Jesus table. What will happen in any room which is being hosted by Christ followers is on a far higher level than food and fellowship. It is a divine invite to come and have dinner with Jesus.The American church needs to recover the idea that Christ will show up if we set up a Jesus table. #DinnerChurch Click To Tweet
Stop and consider how compelling of an offer that is.
To have dinner with Jesus is to have dinner with the Healer, the Comforter, the Savior, and the Provider. In short, a Jesus table is a portal between the house of God and the house of man. That is no small opportunity.
Hosting tip #3: Expect Jesus to show up and do some unexplainable things for your guests; He would not miss it for the world.
Not Your Dinner
A Jesus dinner table is a powerful thing. Not only is it the ultimate image of inclusion in God’s generous family, but it is also an invitation to restart our lives while eating with Christ and Christ’s people. Properly understood, we can change the world with a dinner table.
Revelation 3:20 reveals a picture of Jesus knocking on the door of peoples lives, and whoever opens that door will find that our Lord still wants to simply have dinner with them. That is heartbeat of a Jesus table: the divine spark that will be present in your banquet room. Have your group set an abundant table; invite the unlikely, sit to eat with them, and Jesus will show up.
After all, your dinner is His dinner.
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God dinner church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when eighty churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 85-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.