Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chefs the new worship leaders in missional communities?

Increasingly I find myself mulling over the idea of food in missional communities. As we seek to grow and reach out to those around us the idea of the communal meal is one that grows in me. People like food. Obviously with an awareness that there are many in the world who don't have enough food to survive I am struck that within our western culture food is the best medium for connecting with people.

People aren't impressed by our music, most of it is mediocre and nearly all of it is specifically targeted at a ready made christian audience. I believe in sung worship and enjoy it immensely but our services are not the greatest way to connect with people, they are a great tool for inspiring and teaching those already walking in the faith but not so valid when it comes to reaching out.

On the other hand I look at an initiative like Alpha and see that one of the key factors to it's initial success is food. I was at the 217 boiler room in Essex last week and they did a meal once a week it has become so popular they now have to do it twice a week. It's not always fancy they occasionally do soup weeks. There was an article in the times about students meeting together on Sundays just to cook a big roast dinner. Even if we look at our own family times and festivals they all involve food. I had the joy of celebrating Canadian thanksgiving with the Jones family a few weeks ago and it was a wonderful way of connecting with and getting to know new people around the focus of a meal.

Throughout the summer we invited many people back to our home for meals, workers who did not have a kitchen greatly appreciated a large roast dinner. To put before them a well prepared meal was a joy for us as a community, it felt like an act of worship.

Look at the rise of celebrity chefs, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey to name but a few cooking is popular. Also with the credit crunch starting to bite it is cheaper and easier to eat at home than go out to a restaurant.

So in the birth of new communities the chef will become more important than the musical worship leader. After all a well prepared meal set in front of many people for feasting and fellowship is an act of worship. More emphasis should be put on food within our gatherings. When I led a church in England one of our most successful mornings was when we shut down our main service cooked bacon sandwiches and watched the football world cup, it was a little male dominated and the football helped but bacon sandwiches for me are the way forward.

There is power in food, power in sitting in a circle, power in drinking wine together, power in inviting others in to share what we have prepared.

We welcome others in, they don't feel alienated and unsure of what to do or how to act, food makes people comfortable. Maybe discipleship training schools should do a whole section on cooking?

Bruce is our main worship leader when it comes to cooking.


Carla said...

Food and sleep are two of the things that make me most thankful to God. I've been a big believer in the power of a shared meal for some time now :) xc

DJ Friar said...

Amen to that. Food and the dinner table are a big part of Transit. Wouldn't have it any other way!

Mie said...

haha good idea, I could certainly do with a cooking course! My worship skills in that area need honing!

Adri said...

I agree!
Love.Eat.Live.Forever: the slogan of Giraffe restaurants. There's some truth in that!

Mark G said...

Couldn't agree more. Jesus sets the example of the table as the centre of fellowship and life. Its a much better setting for really building something lasting and relational than the purely singing/preaching culture. Also

Mark G said...

Can I also ask a question, Brian: do you also think that the table provides the best setting for reflection upon how we live and act as followers of Jesus?

The reason behind the question is that we were sent into the local prison by our church last year, but have been left to get on with it mainly by ourselves. On Sundays we sit through 40 minutes of singing and then 40 minutes of sermon, and then go home with the same questions buzzing in our heads, about situations we have lived through during the week, which would be better "chewed over" in an open setting(around a table?). Fortunately sharing the role with my wife enables us to do some of this at home, but do you this would be helpful in a wider context?

Mission can also challenge many of our preconceived ideas, so we need a setting in which to talk and pray through things honestly?