Why do we love Thanksgiving so much? Is it the turkey? Is it the time spent with love ones? Is it watching football games? These things are all good, but I believe that embedded in our image there is a deeper impulse that points us to something much more.
Have you ever noticed that every significant event in the Bible happened at a meal or on a mountaintop? These are the two venues where God works in special ways. Think of when God makes a covenant – every single ceremony includes a meal. Think of what God made Israel do right before they had to run for their lives and escape their slavery in Egypt – they ate the Passover Meal. Think of what Jesus said before celebrating the Last Supper: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I have to suffer” (Luke 22:15).
Meals Embody Family
A profound truth is communicated at a meal: we belong to a family. It is not a coincidence that the word “companion” comes from the Latin words cum (together) and panis (bread). Companions are your true family that you eat with. Can you imagine a healthy family that does not regularly eat together? “A meal is not the only way to build community (i.e. service, trips, and outreach), but it is the number one on the list” (Tim Chester, Meals with Jesus).
Food is not merely fuel; food is a bond between brothers. Have you noticed how difficult it is to eat in silence? Meals create space for unhurried conversation, for talking and being heard. It helps us drop our defenses so that we can be who we really are with others. Meals prove that we are truly part of a family.
Meals Embody Mission
Meals are also the most natural context for mission. I completely relate to Tim Chester observation: “If I pull down books on missions and church planting from my shelves, I can read about contextualization, evangelism matrices, postmodern apologetics, and cultural hermeneutics. I can look at diagrams that tells me how people can be converted or discover the steps required to plant a church. It all sounds impressive, cutting edge, and sophisticated. But this is how Luke describes Jesus’ mission strategy: ‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking’” (Meals with Jesus, pp. 14-15).
This type of evangelism is not complicated. It might be messy and up our grocery budget, but it’s a lob ball. Meals bring mission into the ordinary. If we love Jesus, love non-Christians, and love food, then all it takes is having them over to eat. We’ll eventually talk about Jesus. It’s as simple as that. We might not get through an entire evangelistic outline in one setting – that’s why we need to have them over again! Hospitality and eating meals is the lost art of evangelism.
Eating together has been one of our main ways we have attempted to do evangelism through our missional cell groups. The healthiest cell groups among us are the ones that eat most frequently together. We look for any reason to eat together. Birthdays and holidays have been our top reasons. At our last meal we celebrated Wes Baker’s birthday. As I looked around the room that night and noticed the very diverse group, I thought, “Only the gospel could have united this unlikely family.”
It sounds really simple. And you know what? It kind-of is. God is throwing us a lob-ball, so let’s hit it out of the park!