Monday, October 4, 2010

Are Supper Clubs in the Bible?

By Sarah Neimitz

Well, not exactly.  However, there is a strong Biblical basis for sharing life and faith together over meals in our homes.  As Lagniappe begins our “small group supper clubs” it is critical to understand the Biblical foundation for any ministry initiatives and the context in which they should take place.  

Acts is a biblical book devoted to the life of the early church.  Note what is says in chapter 2:42-47 “And they [believers] devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking food in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” 

The passage highlights three important components to the life of the early Christians. First, “they were devoted to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (v.1).  In other words, the teaching of God’s word, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.  If you think this sounds like our church service today, you are correct! The word “devoted” in the text suggests that they considered this paramount—the well from which the rest of their life and ministry flowed.

Secondly, “they were selling their belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  Early believers were taking care of the poor within the church, and presumably outside as well.  The apostles teaching about God’s generosity towards his people and his desire for justice prompted the early Christians to share their earthly belongings with one another.  This could be an essay in itself about poverty alleviation but I will not go there.  Suffice it to say--these believers considered it part of their Christian duty and worship to give generously to poor as there was need.
 
Thirdly, the believers were “attending the temple together and breaking food in their homes [...] with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.”  Breaking bread in their homes is in the same list as the preaching of the Word and ministries of mercy!  The context of the passage suggests that the gathering of believers in homes flowed directly from the apostles’ teachings and from their ministries of mercy. The early church understood that their Christianity affected every area of their life. Therefore inviting neighbors into their home, or selling their possessions to give to the poor, or meeting together for worship services all ran together.  Sharing food in their homes was one way to connect more intimately both with fellow Christians, and a wonderfully safe place to share the joy of the Gospel with non-believing friends and neighbors.  Notice what it says at the end of the passage, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  No one activity-be it preaching, or mercy ministry, or having people in their homes-is credited with success.  Rather, God added to their number daily through all three means of outreach and worship.

It is relatively safe to serve lunch at a homeless shelter, saying “hello, God bless” as a line of people pass.  It is comfortable to have an all-church picnic and tell everyone we are “doing well and how about you?”  But what happens if we invite one of these individuals, homeless or not, to have dinner with our family?  Usher in fear, discomfort, and the reality that “Hello, God bless” will only get us 3 seconds into an hour and a half meal.  When we have people in our home we open up our life to them.  They see our messy kitchen or our misbehaving kids. Suddenly, the “put together” volunteer from the soup kitchen becomes the crazy mother trying to hold life together and frankly more approachable.  The hour and a half meal affords us the opportunity to really learn about the other person.  When we invite people into our home over time we move further into relationship with them and have the opportunity to share the Gospel through both our words and our life.   Relational development through small group dinners is NOT the solitary goal of the church.   The goal of the Church is to see the God’s Kingdom extended to the farthest corners of the earth by every means at our disposal.  It just so happens that sometimes the most strategic campaign for the farthest corners begins at our kitchen tables.