See if you can solve this riddle without looking at the answer.
... more powerful than a VBS?
... more memorable than an object lesson?
... more nourishing than a book?
... more life-changing than a week at camp?
... more meaningful than a Sunday sermon?
... way more influential than a pastor?
And the correct answer is...
[HINT: It's a piece of furniture]
THE FAMILY DINNER TABLE
Obviously, I am not talking about the 4-legged wooden structure that sits in your dining room. I AM however talking about THE MIRACLE that takes place when family members regularly gather around the table.
Family dinners are SPECIAL times.
I would even say, they are SACRED times.
In a world where media over-saturation and activity-overload are disconnecting us from ourselves, others, nature, and God, family dinner is the glue that can hold the family together.
I'm convinced that one of the most important things a church can do for the families is to encourage them to gather around the dinner table more often and teach them how to do it.
I don't have time to cover the numerous benefits of regular family meals (there have been several good books written on this subject already), but I do want you to consider this fascinating pattern.
- When God was about to start a new nation, He gathered around the table with His friend Abraham (Genesis 18)
- When God was about to break the yoke of slavery and tyranny, and set His children free, He gathered with them around the dinner table (Exodus 12)
- When God wanted to give His people an object lesson, a visual representation of what He's like, He commanded them to build a table and fill it food and drink as a constant reminder of God's welcoming heart that celebrates His children and invites them to the feast and NOT the prison yard (Exodus 39:36; Numbers 4:7)
- When God wanted to refresh His worn-out and scared warrior, He set up a feast-table for him right in the middle of the battlefield (Psalm 23:5)
- When God wanted to reveal His glory for the first time in centuries, He did it around the wedding table (John 2)
- When God wanted to start something amazing and fresh (the new covenant), He did it around the dinner table with His closest friends (John 13)
- When God wanted to transform a corrupt scoundrel, He did it over a meal (Luke 19)
- When God wanted to infuse two brokenhearted disciples with hope and joy, He did it around the dinner table (Luke 24:30-31)
- When God wanted to restore His friend who shamelessly betrayed Him 3 times, He did it over a meal (John 21:5-19)
- When God started a brand new breed of people, the table was there right from the start serving as the glue holding them together (Acts 2:42,46)
- And when God is ready to welcome home His weary children, the saints that didn't bow their knees to any other god, He'll do it around the dinner table known as the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9)
You do see a pattern here, don't you?
Could it be that as church leaders, we’ve missed it?
Could it be that instead of putting together yet another program or special event, competing with a dozen other activities on the family calendar, we simply need to encourage people in our church to regularly eat together?
Could it be that they would have more chances of encountering the living Christ around their dinner table than in the walls of our auditoriums?
Could it be that children's faith would blossom immeasurably more around the family dinner table than during the pizza and movie night at church?
And could it be that our own souls, marriages, and families would be better off if we regularly sat down with the people that matter most to us and shared a meal with them?
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus is painting a picture of Him standing outside the door and knocking. Have you ever stopped to think what His agenda is?
What is it that He really wants?
Is it to get us out of the house so we can run around being busy for the Kingdom?
Or is it that He wants to come in so that He can "eat with us AND we with Him?" (Think about this interesting phrasing, indicating something of an intimate exchange taking place.)
Beautiful things start happening when families gather around the dinner table. Could THIS be the very reason why so many families find it so difficult to gather around the dinner table? That there are unseen forces fighting hard to rip the dinner table away from the family fabric?
Perhaps if we truly want the families in our churches to say yes to God's invitations and embrace the mission He has for them, we should encourage them to start setting up the table more often.
After all, it appears that this is where Jesus wants to meet with them.
If you're interested in practical resources and inspiration in helping the families in your church reclaim the incredible power of the dinner table, check out this resource.
This challenge came out of my personal desire to see the families in my church gather around the table more regularly and to make the most of the time they spent there. I’m making it available to you with the hopes that it will empower the families in your church to grow closer to each other and to encounter Jesus in an new and impactful way.