Apr 27, 2022
The spiritual content pastors and Christian speakers use today flows from the Bible, and that is a wonderful thing. However, the spiritual content of the First Church flowed from the stories about the life of Jesus. How would a solid diet of Jesus Stories shape disciples differently than what we do? Interesting question.
#JesusStories: Preaching, teaching, proclaiming, and testifying in the First Century centralized on Jesus’ life. Rather than giving a specific JesusStory today, I want to focus on an entire gospel – the Book of Mark. This is the first gospel ever written, and was done by a young 16 year-old named John Mark. He was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus as he was too young. However, he was from a well-to-do home that afforded him an education, which meant he was literate. So when Peter came to preach each week at Mark’s mothers upper room, arguably the first church in Jerusalem, young John Mark sat around that New Passover table and took notes on papyrus of pastor Peters’ preaching. And what did Peter’s preaching sound like? It was the stories about Jesus and the stories Jesus told. In other words, the book of Mark is the best elongated example of what preaching sounded like from that time period.
I fear we have made a huge mistake in thinking that our present-day preaching is similar to the preaching of the First Apostles. Teachings based on the fullness of scripture is a great thing, but it is not the same thing the First Church used. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, I love the scriptures, and I teach from them often in my Christian leadership. However, I find it a worthy meditation to consider the difference of Apostolic Era teaching. Especially if we are going to use an Apostolic Era ecclesial form – the Dinner Church. If we are going to recover their socio-form of church, we would do well to understand their preaching-form as well. If you want an interesting Bible study idea, take out your bible app and look up the words: proclaim, preach, testify, and teach that appear from Acts through the last Epistle. Read each verse carefully to see ‘what‘ they proclaimed, preached, testified, and taught. When I did this exercise, I found 74 scriptural sections that clearly identified they were preaching about Jesus, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Good News about Christ, the living word, etc. Only a couple times did those search words not flatly identify the Jesus narrative. I have meditated long and hard about what this means. And while I have several insights, the most impactful one has to do with our inability to speak to secular people compared with the First Churches profound ability to speak to the secular peoples of their day – the Romans, the Greeks, the Pagans, and even Barbarians. (See Romans 1:14). But then again, they were proclaiming the Jesus Stories. (See Romans 1:15-16). There is merit to recovering JesusStories preaching, especially if it restores our ability to speak to our secular neighbors.
#DinnerChurchQuotes: The early preachers of the good news had one subject and one only – Jesus. This was their ‘word’ which they broadcast so assiduously. (Michael Green)
#PracticalStuff: How well does your team know the Jesus Stories? Have the Jesus Stories become foundational in their faith? And how often must you repeat this message before they dive deeply into the different stories Jesus lived and Jesus told? And what will happen in your dinner church if your team and volunteers become so filled with the Jesus Stories that they spill out over and over again at your tables? You will end up with a room full of workers and guests who start looking strangely similar to Jesus himself. And the ability to shape people in the likeness of Jesus is what makes a Dinner Church different than a feed. Suggestion: take the four questions listed above into your next team meeting; give them a JesusStories Bible; start reading through those stories with a team reading schedule perhaps. What do you think?
Blessings & Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.