“We joined that church because they have the best food!”

“The Lord richly gives us all good things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17).

If that verse doesn’t apply to food, it doesn’t mean anything.

This morning, as I write, a minister was telling me about a conversation with a senior adult in his church. They were discussing the last associational senior adult revival and the fellow just couldn’t say too much about it. It was great. The minister asked what made it so special, expecting to hear about souls saved and lives changed.

“The food!” he said. “On Tuesday they had chicken and dressing to die for! And the next day the gumbo and jambalaya was as good as anything I’ve ever put in my mouth!”

I posted that cute little story on Facebook.

Guess what happened.

My preacher friends jumped all over the guy.

“That’s why revival tarries.” “This kind of carnality.”  “Their appetites is their god.”

That sort of over-the-top spirituality.

A couple of women FB friends took all they could stand and entered the conversation to say those church ladies worked long and hard on that meal, no doubt, and they had presented it as an offering to Christ as surely as the preacher’s sermon or the singer’s songs were such.

One sent a private note that those people need to see Babette’s Feast, a movie about food with a message that endures. The link to information about the movie is http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/babettes_feast/.

At one point, I commented that the old man may have been pointing out the unusual in that revival–which was the food, of course–and that “souls saved and lives changed” may have been the norm for those meetings.

Some were not buying that, and accused me of wearing rose-tinted glasses, of not living in the real world.

Such is the character of Facebook discussions these days.

Can we talk about food and the Kingdom of God?

My sister Patricia lives across the road from the farmhouse where we were raised. She gardens and gathers, she cans and cooks and then a couple of times a year, when the New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church holds revivals, she and husband James invite Pastor Mickey Crane to bring the guest singers and preachers for dinner.  And, may I say, Trish does lay on a feed. No one leaves her house hungry.

Perhaps having two preacher-brothers has a little to do with it, but she gets a special blessing from hosting the ministers.

I will go so far as to say, based on good scriptural evidence, that when Patricia Phelps feeds the men of God and their families, she is feeding Jesus. It’s part of her service to the Lord, and He takes it personally. (See Matthew 10:40-42 and Hebrews 6:10.)

A few years ago, when I was the new director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association, Pastor David Brown sat in my office telling of his attempts to get things going at Lakeview Baptist Church.  As long as I had known it, that lovely church in the midst of a prosperous neighborhood had not grown beyond 75 or 100 on Sundays.  David said, “I don’t know if you are aware of this, but my wife Melinda is a chef in a New Orleans restaurant.”

“She works three nights a week, filling in for the regular chef.”

He said, “We decided to start doing Wednesday night meals at the church. Melinda and her helpers put it on, and it’s really going over. We’re now running Sunday morning crowds on Wednesday night. You ought to come out.”

I said, “Today is Wednesday. What time?”

That night, I joined the 50 or 60 people in Lakeview’s fellowship hall. White tablecloths and candles adorned the tables. “Everyone be seated!”

Melinda and her workers served salad and a lasagna she had made that day, then bread pudding for dessert, as fine as anything you will eat in any New Orleans restaurant. Then, Pastor David welcomed everyone, made some promotions, took prayer requests, led a prayer time, and brought a scripture lesson.

The next morning I phoned to say how successful the evening had been. He said, “I know they’re just coming for the food.”

I said, “David, I don’t know many of your people. But let me tell you what I saw last night.”

“Some of your people were hugging each other, they were having great conversation, and a few were praying together.”

I said, “David, I guarantee you that for most of your people, Wednesday night is the only time of the week they share a meal with Christian people.”

“It would be worth all the trouble of providing that meal even if you didn’t even have a prayer. Just for the ministry it is to your people.”

The early church had a problem.  That morning, their membership was comprised of 120 people. By bedtime, it had exploded to 3,120.  The small group would have to disciple the larger body of newcomers in a hurry.  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).”  And then we read….

“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (2:46-47).

Don’t miss this.

A huge aspect of the discipleship of the thousands saved on the Day of Pentecost was to share meals together.

Eating together can be a holy experience. The disciples of Luke 24 shared a meal with the risen Christ and were forever changed.

It’s a false spirituality that drives some of us to disparage God’s people coming together in His house to share a meal.

In my last pastorate, a couple of our men asked if they could start a once-a-month men’s breakfast. I said, “As long as you’re going to do something worthwhile. But if it’s just to ‘eat and meet,’ as the saying goes, don’t do it.”  They assured me the men would be productive, and they were.

In time, however, I changed my tune.  The meal, which continues to this day, perhaps 15 years later, is attended by anywhere from 25 to 40 men and boys. The men cook the meal, pay for it, and clean up afterwards. Sometimes they have a speaker and sometimes they do projects. From time to time, they do nothing but eat together. And, in my opinion, the times when they do nothing but sit around the table and fellowship over thick bacon, scrambled eggs, and huge biscuits is as good as it gets.

It’s a false spirituality that insists fellowship has to produce, otherwise it’s useless.

How little we know what a relaxed meal with godly friends can accomplish.

To sum up….

Food is good.

Good food is great.

Sharing good food with God’s people is godly. (I seem to remember something in Scripture about a marriage feast thrown by Heaven for believers on our arrival in the Kingdom. See Revelation 19:9, among other places.)

So, let’s quit treating eating as though it were a necessary evil, and enjoy God’s blessings while we live in this world.

The injunction against overdoing eating in God’s house, found in I Corinthians 11:34, refers to a specific type of abuse of this privilege and should not be misapplied.

By the way, if food is good and eating with believers is godly, where does fasting fit in?  Answer: it’s a necessary discipline to focus the heart and mind for a brief time on God. Fasting is an instrument, and not a way of life.

Bottom line:  “Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.