Come to the Table
According to a recent book, leaders are supposed to start with why. Before a leader suggests what you should do, he or she should establish why that something needs doing–the purpose it serves, the goal it meets, the transformation it fosters, etc. So here's the why first. We are called to make disciples of all nations. We are called to show the world what God has shown us in Jesus. Our churches believe in the authority of our God-given mission as communicated in our God-inspired Bible. But I am constantly amazed by the number of Christians who are uncomfortable discussing the truth of God's Word in conversations with other believers, let alone an unbelieving world.
Think about it. We have more study materials accessible to us than any previous generation of Christians. Just three generations ago, owning a personal copy of the Bible was rare–there was usually a family or community Bible. Now many homes have more Bibles than people. But wait, there's more! Bible studies galore. Scores of different translations and study Bibles with maps and footnotes. Commentaries. Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries. We have Sunday school classes and small group gatherings throughout the week. And so on.
A generation ago, many evangelical churches grew in part from taking a stand on the authority of God's Word. Because of this, evangelical churches centered on Bible teaching as the chief means of discipleship within the Church. Before I continue, please don't misunderstand me. I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I LOVE to study the Bible. But I believe something is wrong. We have so many opportunities to study the Bible individually and with our churches. And yet the number one reason I hear for why believers aren't bolder in sharing their witness is that they don't feel like they know the Bible well enough. I am convinced that there is more to the Bible than any of us will learn in a lifetime. But I believe that our desired knowledge of God's Word is shortsighted if we are not committed to sharing its truth in word and deed. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that they searched the Scriptures seeking to find eternal life in them, but the Scriptures ultimately bear witness to Jesus (John 5:39–40). If our study of the Scriptures does not lead us to find eternal life in Jesus and share that life with others, we are missing something of vital importance.
Our churches have not stopped believing the truth of God's Word. But we have lost the spiritual discipline of talking about it. And if we can't discuss the insights and impact of God's Word with other believers, we almost certainly will not discuss these things with an unbelieving world.
We want to take steps as a church to remedy this. A few weeks ago, we started a new format for worship on Sunday nights called "Table Talk." We meet in the Fellowship Hall, sit at tables representing multiple generations in our church family, and discuss God's Word together. The first week, I noticed some discomfort. Not everyone is a "talker" in that format. But listeners are just as needed. Many people didn't know several of the people at their table. We are creatures of habit and prefer to sit among those with whom we are most familiar. Several faces in the room nonverbally communicated "Why is he making us do this?"
But last week, I saw what Table Talk could be. The room was abuzz with people sharing. I actually cut some of the conversations off so that we could get through most (not all) of the discussion prompts. At the end of the day (Haley and I usually have a Sunday-evening rundown on the day's events), my wife had little to say about my sermon that morning (OUCH!)–but she went on an on about some of the discussions she had around the table that evening. Personally, I have learned things in two weeks around the table that I had not learned in two years as pastor. Ways that I can pray for people. Ways that God is working in the lives of those around me. Ways that I can encourage others in the ministries through which God is using them. Struggles that I share with other believers. Lessons I can learn from them. There's nothing fancy or brilliant to Table Talk. The idea is as old as the early church in Acts 2. But there is something powerful about God's Spirit working among God's people discussing God's Word in preparation to live out God's mission.
Our next Table Talk will be Sunday night, March 5, in the Fellowship Hall at 6 PM. Our Student Minister, Marshall Henderson, will be facilitating the discussion on Sin and Shame (if you want a head start, check out Genesis 3 and Romans 8). My hope as your pastor is that you will join the conversation. I hope to see and hear from you there. Get to know your church family. Invite others to join us. Come to the table.
Pastor, FBC Fort Payne