I am surely the least introspective person you know. Something happens to me, I find it a little odd, I move on. Anyone else would analyze it and dig out whatever messages or lessons the event contained and learn from it.
I ignore it, go forward, and make the same mistakes the next day.
One day after many years in the ministry it finally dawned on me that when all those friends or co-workers or colleagues in various denominational offices invite me to lunch where we can a) work on a problem, b) settle a difference, or c) plan a meeting, there is a reason my spirit drags its feet. (Does a spirit have feet?)
I hate working lunches.
Let’s do lunch or have a working meeting, but not both please.
Most definitely, I do not want to go to lunch to work on a problem in our relationship. If I have offended you or you have trod on my sensibilities, then let’s get together and clear the air. But not over lunch.
Lunch is a time to enjoy food and relax. It is an event that calls for happy chatter and good fellowship.
What it does not call for–what intrudes as obviously as a stomach-ache at a banquet or gossip at a concert–is work. We spread out our notebooks, stress out our minds, slave over the problem–all while a waiter is asking whether we want a salad or soup.
There is a reason for this dislike of mine for working mealtimes. A few horror stories in fact.
I will go to my grave remembering the time Luke invited me to lunch. “I have something exciting I want to talk with you about,” he said.
And, because I was newly arrived as his pastor and wanted to build relationships in every direction, because Luke was one of our deacons and respected among the membership, and because I enjoy a good meal, we put it on the calendar. I went unsuspecting.
What we ate that day, I have no memory of whatsoever. But I’ll never forget our meeting. It lasted four hours. I could not get away from the man.
Luke had a scheme, something he called “a plan from God” for revolutionizing the churches of this area. I’ll spare you the details, but they had nothing to do with reality. This man was off the chart. He was a manipulator of the first order–and I had been sent from God to be his pastor.
I couldn’t just brush him off. I had to see him and his family every week, deal with him in deacons meetings, and accompany him at church visitation. What’s more, no one in the congregation seemed to see anything odd in his behavior or his mannerisms. I was alone in my concern and he had me in his sights. I was–he stated unequivocably–God’s man for this church, the Lord’s instrument for this city, and, wouldn’t you know, God’s answer for Luke’s scheme.
Long story short, I finally was able to respond that, “As soon as the Lord gives me the go-ahead on that, I’ll participate. But not until.”
He was not a happy camper. Soon his unhappiness was spreading like an infection throughout the congregation.
The next time someone called inviting me to lunch because “I have something to share with you,” I said, “Can I make a suggestion.”
“Let’s meet in my office and you share it. Then we’ll decide whether we want to go to lunch. Let’s not try to do both.”
Early in that same pastorate, I invited a man to lunch so we could talk about the Christian faith. His wife and daughters were members of our church, but he seemed to have some resistance to the gospel and I wanted to see if I could help him through it. He chose the restaurant, one I was not familiar with, and told me how to get there.
It’s one lunch-time I will not soon forget.
We settled into the booths and gave our order to the waiter. We began talking, moving quickly into the serious “God-stuff.” Then it happened.
A young woman wearing next-to-nothing walked up to our table. I was stunned. What in the world?
We had chosen “lingerie Friday” to have lunch there. The restaurant was literally crawling with lovely young models wearing skimpy outfits, flitting from table to table, chatting with diners.
Have you ever tried to witness to someone when you can’t keep their attention? Then you know my problem.
I was never able–then or any time in the future–to get through spiritually to the man I took to lunch that day. My guess is every time he thought of me, he burst out laughing, remembering my discomfort that day. It’s funny now; it was awful then.
That was 18 years ago and I’ve never been back to that restaurant. Can’t take the chance. (Or maybe it’s because I hate to return to the scene of the crime.)
I’m not one of these people who require a biblical precedent or scriptural sanction for every thing I do. However, I don’t find anyone having a working lunch (or supper or breakfast!) in the Bible. When they ate, they seemed to relax and let the fellowship be the centerpiece.
In Luke 24, the risen Christ appeared to the disciples. While they were overdosing on the joy of seeing Him, Jesus brought them back to reality in a hurry with the simple question, “Anyone got anything to eat here?” They did.
Then, while they ate–or maybe He was the only one eating–He spoke to them of the various scriptures that explain what He had just gone through and what it meant. A working meal? Perhaps, but of the good kind.
I’m all in favor of the pastor inviting a group of people to the church for lunch, after which he does a Bible study. And, for that matter, I’m just as in favor of a group of us meeting for lunch when no Bible study is held and the sole point is to enjoy each other’s company.
It was said of the first Christians, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:46)
How in the world did we fall into the abyss of thinking it wrong to have lunch together unless we were working on problems, the relationship, or our differences. Spare me, please.
I would love to go to lunch with you. In fact, I’ll even pick up the tab and me on a retirement income. But not if you want to tell me about a problem. For that, let’s meet in my office or living room.
When we go to lunch, let’s just enjoy each other’s presence and savor the food. After all, this is New Orleans where the food is as good as anywhere in the world.
I can’t find it in the Bible, but something inside me wonders if it might just be a sin to scarf down such delicacies with scarcely a thought while problem-solving, calendar-scheduling, or difference-settling.
Some things are so against the natural order, they must be sinful. A working lunch is one of them.