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Aug 17, 2001


Church Development

Making Disciples At Tables

By Dr. Roger K. Swanson,
Director of Operation Evangelization

Dr. Roger K. Swanson, Director of Operation EvangelizationSome years ago during Lent my wife and I attempted a weekly 24-hour fast together. Breakfast and lunch were easy, as we usually ate those on our own. What we missed were our moments together at the evening table, sharing not only a meal, but also our day with each other. We missed it so much that, after a week, we tried another model that allowed us our evening meal together.

I recently heard a speaker cite a statistic indicating that most American families do not sit down daily at one table at one time to share a meal. What is lost is spiritual and relational, if not nutritional. Sharing food together around a common table is an act of intimacy that nurtures community—of the family of faith, as well as one’s personal family. In a word, mealtime can be spiritually formative. Kitchens and dining rooms offer sanctuary for busy families to touch one another. In such circumstances any food shared becomes “soul food.”

As we know, so much of Christian spirituality originated in a table fellowship—in the Upper Room and at the supper table at Emmaus. It was when Jesus sat at table as the guest of Cleopas and the other disciple that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus.

The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. That mission is pursued in every congregation in a mosaic of methods. The emphasis may be on worship, small groups, stewardship or evangelism. But we might all miss the point if we forget the kitchen and dining room tables in our congregations and the potential for making disciples around them. Christian leaders need never be so busy that they are not themselves nourished at such tables. Congregations should not be so activity-obsessed that people spend more of their time in church than in family.

How about this: in addition to Wednesday night at church, each congregation declares a weekly family night. The church building is locked up for the night, all lights are off, and folks are home, sitting at table, renewing the relationships from which faith so often grows! Congregations might also try their hand at preparing family devotion booklets to use around the table and prayer guides. Timothy, Paul’s young companion, might well be the patron saint of such meals. Remember that he was a third generation Christian (2Tim.1:5) who might well have been made a disciple around the table at which his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, sat.

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