Once a congregation of Christians (a church) gets to a certain size, there are more and more needs that need to be filled (or, at least, there are more people who can help serve, since there always seems to be enough need to go around, in this fallen world where we live). While the work of a given congregation depends on the people, resources, and opportunities that God has placed within it, usually “ministries” of some kind start to develop in a growing, healthy Christian community. For instance:
- A food or clothing ministry provides for those who are in physical need (see James 2:15-16).
- A recovery ministry supports those who have gone through troubled times.
- A motorcycle ministry makes a special outreach to those who would prefer to ride in the open air, rather than be cooped up in a car (or minivan).
For someone to serve in a ministry, the ideal combination is for him or her to 1) be available to help out, 2) be equipped and qualified to serve, and 3) be passionate about helping in this way. Don’t get me wrong, many have honored God by serving in places where they didn’t meet any of these criteria, and only had His help to rely upon. But, when you find someone who is in the “sweet spot” of doing what he or she is gifted and called to do, it can be a pretty amazing confluence to marvel at.
So, one day when I was thinking about this, I told some friends – jokingly – that I could be part of the “Snack Ministry”. After all, snacks are often well-loved by others, and I have plenty of experience in snacking (although the primary purpose of ministry is probably to serve others, I guess…).
But, let’s take a little bit to study this idea: While I have difficulty imagining Jesus eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut, he did spend quality time with others over food and drink:
- Matthew (Levi), one of Jesus’ disciples, hosted a dinner (Luke 5:29-30).
- Jesus went to a wedding (John 2:1-2), which – in those days – meant a party.
- Jesus was invited to eat at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36), which he accepted.
- He ate with His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 12:1-3).
- At the Last Supper, Jesus was sharing a ceremonial meal with his disciples (see John 13).
And, given how much he probably walked from place to place, he probably needed a lot of calories, especially compared to me and my desk job.
Having said this, I know that food can also be an addiction, and that more food is not always the answer (despite my jokes about a “snack ministry”). There is also a time for fasting. However, God clearly created us with a need to eat periodically, and given the variety of foods that He created for us, it certainly seems that He wanted us to enjoy eating in a reasonable manner.
Here’s the point: Since we have to eat, let’s make the most of our meal times. For example:
- Spend meals with others. The classic family dinner is threatened by soccer schedules and late working hours, but be creative. Many schools will let you join your child for lunch, if you don’t mind sitting at those plastic cafeteria tables. Or, some of us can sit with colleagues at lunch, rather than eating at our respective desks. You might even meet someone new…if you can do so without being creepy.
- Talk. You don’t have to monologue for an hour if your tablemates don’t want to engage in much conversation. But, one of the best conversationalists I ever met rarely seemed to talk about herself. Instead, she had a lot of really great questions that she would ask others, and then listen.
- Listen. (Duh.) It may seem obvious to listen to those around you (if they are the conversationalist type), but don’t just listen long enough to fit in your own stories – really listen (even if you don’t get to say anything). And, listen to God’s promptings. He may have very well placed you at a table for a specific reason (see Esther 4:14).
- Be genuine. You don’t have to convince everyone around you that you’re awesome. Be willing to share your challenges and your shortcomings.
- Eat in Jesus’ name. This may sound a little weird, but here’s what I mean: make your meal count for Christ. Be thankful for not just your food, but for those eating with you, along with those who may have prepared the food or are serving it to you. Make your conversation gracious (see Colossians 4:6), and one that glorifies God. This doesn’t mean that you preach every moment you’re not chewing. It just means that what you say is consistent with what God wants from you.
- Think about what you eat. This isn’t a health-food directive (believe me, I have no room to talk). Rather, consider that God gives us the ability to eat only a limited amount in a day, so enjoy what He has created for you. Don’t just get fries with your meal, if you’re not hungry for them. Don’t settle for your usual if there’s something better on the menu. Don’t eat and run if you have the time to spend with others. I know that fast food is sometimes the only choice because it’s…fast. However, when you have choices, why eat bad food?
So, bring a plate of cookies over to a neighbor, invite another family over to your place for dinner, or just join a friend for a sandwich. Then, use that time to honor God. Maybe someone needs to hear about Jesus, or maybe they just need you to listen for a while. However you may choose to join others over food, make it count, and know that you are in good company.