I still remember the smell, the food and the sounds of my childhood and formative years growing up at First Baptist Church in Orlando. The interactions at our Wednesday night dinners were transformative to me as a kid.
Although it’s been almost 40 years since I was introduced to Wednesday night dinner, I still speak to many of the people I ate dinner with on Wednesday nights.
When I asked Natalie Runion, author of Why I Stayed, what she loved about the local church, she mentioned “potluck dinners and the food that goes along with it.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
In a country where 50% of the population has reported being lonely, it’s time to bring back the tradition of gathering and having meals with one another. Yes, I will admit the food may not be the best, but it’s the community and fellowship and everything else that goes along with it that matters the most.
“In a country where 50% of the population has reported being lonely, it’s time to bring back the tradition of gathering and having meals with one another.”
Potluck dinners or Wednesday night fellowships — or whatever tradition of church food you’ve known — teach us that people matter. When we eat together, we must look at one another and engage with one another in the flesh.
Everywhere, it’s become a lost art for people to eat together, to put down the phone and look at people in the eyes and communicate in person. The church can help.
At the church we currently attend, my wife and I try to make it a habit to attend any event that involves food, not because I love food but because we want to pass down the tradition to our daughter that when we eat together something transformative takes place.
I still remember my Wednesday night dinner friends in the Fellowship Hall of my youth. I remember their names like it was yesterday: Adriane, Joy, James, Brittany and Chris Vaughn, who has now gone to be with the Lord. Those were some special memories and I’m thankful I am still friends with every one of them.
They were the first ones to welcome me into the church at the time. In fact, I still make fun of Joy to this day for listening to the music of Sandi Patty. Church dinners give us the chance to meet new people. And right now, our country needs a season of meeting new people.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Matt Moore, author of Butcher on the Block. He spent a season traveling the country meeting the butchers who prepare our meat and vegetables. He walked away with a sense of awe and wonder.
“The ultimate sign of remembrance is having a meal with someone,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.
When we eat together, we set up traditions and relationships that may last a lifetime.
Some of the best times in my life have been in church Fellowship Halls. My mom will probably scold me for repeating this out loud, but she has been known to skip Wednesday night Bible studies just to attend the dinner hour at our home church. She reminded me that one of the reasons why she loves the fellowship hour is you get to hear what people are going through. You also get to sing Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to them.
We can change the world by having potluck dinners and Wednesday fellowship meals in our churches. When we sit across the table from one another, the Holy Spirit is in the room and can bring about life change in us and others.
Matt Moore says it best: “We can actually create change just one by one, by reaching across and having people come over to dinner.”
When we invite people to come over to dinner in our church Fellowship Halls, we are inviting them into a deeper community, something Jesus calls us to do in Acts 2:46-47: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer who lives in the Metro Atlanta area.