With 80 churches closing every week in our nation, more and more leaders are concluding that the traditional way of doing church has become ill fit for many Americans. A surprisingly large percentage of our population are now living in various forms of isolation. Whether it is the financially challenged, the lonely senior, the second-life single, or the ethnic minority, isolated people are all around us. However, these neighbors are not worshipping in most of our churches.
This is where the historic Dinner Church thrives. This approach to church originated with Jesus himself – who used the dinner table to befriend the stranger and the sinner to talk about the Kingdom of God. At the Last Supper he instructed his disciples to take the rescue theme of the Passover meal and re-enact it whenever they gathered. In this way Jesus embedded the Gospel into the dinner table sociology. What this meant to these first followers, whether the house churches of the Jewish Christians or the Agape’ feasts of the Gentile Christians, was to gather the poor and the strangers to an abundant table, eat a meal together, and talk about Jesus.
We believe that Jesus’ dinner table theology still works today. There is something very powerful that occurs in lonely people when they are invited to a table full of food that Christ paid for. Many church leaders are finding that when they start serving a Jesus dinner, the room starts to fill up with more isolated people, strangers, and seculars types than they have seen in decades. In so doing, a divine spark starts to occur that can only be explained by Revelation 3:20 (“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”), which makes it clear that Jesus still likes having dinner with sinners. He just needs his followers to set the table.
Central has received a grant of $10,000 from the Conference to begin this new worship opportunity with the sacrament of Holy Communion at its center. Starting July 1, Rev. Taylor Crawford will serve as an associate pastor at Central to lead The Jesus Table. Her new husband, Daniel, is an accomplished musician (guitar) with experience playing and singing in local gospel groups and will be perfect to add music to this unique worship experience. Presently, we are in talks with The Olive Branch in the River Square Center on Franklin to meet in their restaurant one night a week. Our goal is simple – to make disciples of Jesus Christ – not members, not Methodists, but disciples and followers of Jesus.
For more information on the Dinner Church model, click Simple Church.