Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eating Together Builds Relationships--and can be missional

This week, I have had a breakfast, lunch, or dinner appointment every day, some twice a day. On Friday, I am booked for three meals. Someone suggested to me today that I might need to start watching my waistline.

Why so many meals? Because that is how you build relationships--through food. Food draws people together, and it generates conversation. You want to encourage fellowship? Bring on the potato salad! You want to kill fellowship? Drop the food and drink from any event or gathering. Sine I am trying to get to know different members and build relationships, this means that I am eating a lot.

Sharing meals with others (eating together) is a common pasttime of preachers. It was also a common pasttime of Jesus. In his book, Come to the Table, John Mark Hicks highlights the many meals that Jesus shared with others. He points out that food was a major part of Jesus' ministry. Note the passages that he lists from the book of Luke in which Jesus shares a meal with others, along with the purpose that he assigns to each meal.

5:27-32 Banquet at Levi's house - Evangelism
7:36-50 Dinner at Simon the Pharisee's house - Reconciliation
9:10-17 Breaking bread at Bethsaida - Mission/service
10:38-42 Hospitality at the home of Martha - Discipleship
11:37-54 Noon meal at a Pharisee's house - Inner life
14:1-24 Sabbath dinner at a Pharisee's house - Invitation to all
19:1-10 Hospitality at the house of Zacchaeus - Salvation for all
22:7-38 Last Supper--a Passover meal - Thanksgiving
24:13-35 Breaking bread at Emmaus - The Living One
24:36-53 Supper with the disciples - The missionary community

When we share meals with non-Christians, these meals become a missional activity. One of the missional practices that I seek to have (but do not always succeed at) is to share 3 meals a week with others--1 a Christian, 1 a non-Christian, and 1 can be either. Imagine if a whole church were doing this! When we share meals with non-Christians, we tell them that we care about them and that we take them where they are. These meals open up conversations about real life, God, and our faith. Then when the church does have an event, the church can invite friends whom we have eaten with, not total strangers.

How often do you share meals with other Christians? How about non-Christians? What would happen if we all ate with both of these groups each week?


Anonymous said...

Amen brother. Since outreach is based on relationships, and relationships are built on rapport, rapport is established while eating and sharing, hence meal time. Jesus continued to think and speak globally, but he was always involved locally. We need to immulate that model.

Mr. E said...

There is nothing like a church pot-luck or going over to a brother/sister's home to eat. It is a great time to fellowship and share your relationships with Jesus!

By the way -- Have you read about the "Church of Oprah"? If not you should check on this. Read my blog for more info about this "new" religion of Oprah's. I want to hear your blog thoughts about it.

James said...

To our anonymous friend - You mention both global and local. Tnere is a new word being coined right now called "glocal" that speaks to capture exactly what you have described.

Mt. E, I have read and watched videos on the Church of Oprah. It is definitely new age. I'll check out your site on this.

brad brisco said...

Right on! I think other cultures do much better with this than do most Americans.