Jan. 11, 2023
I know that Christmas is over, but there are a few points from the incarnation stories that I am still mulling over.
Luke 2 records that the angels only visited and invited the shepherds on that Holy Night. Shopkeepers, townspeople, and hostels full of visitors were not invited to come and view the newborn Messiah – only the lowly shepherds. Most of us have preached how the shepherds were the lowest in the social order and received a meager subsistence income for a difficult lifestyle. But they were the ones invited to come to the infant Christ. Further, they were told to look for a baby sleeping in an animal feeding trough. So, when they went looking through the animal enclosures, they found the Savior exactly as the angels had said. Only the shepherds knew what it was like to sleep with animals; only the shepherds were invited.
We often say that the ground is even at the foot of the cross. And while I believe that everyone is welcomed equally, not everyone is sought equally. There is a clear preference throughout scripture about seeking the “least of these” first. While this doesn’t sit well with some of our egalitarian theologies, it remains an unavoidable truth. One of Thomas Merton’s famous quotes: “Those who abandon everything in order to seek God know well that he is the God of the poor.”
I know there are dinner churches across the country filled with all kinds of people other than the financially challenged – and I am thankful. But, let’s remember that heaven offers its loudest invites to the poor. I know there are many churches effectively serving middle and upper neighborhoods – and again I am thankful. But, let’s remember that Jesus wants to redeem the sore neighborhoods too.
We estimate there are 350,000 neighborhoods in the US that have a low ratio of churches but a high ration of isolated residents. Is there a neighborhood like that near you? That is a great place for a dinner church congregation to be planted. And trust me when I say: Jesus REALLY wants to sit and eat with those neighbors.
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 100-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.