Having been a preacher’s kid, I have many fond memories that other people do not. These include practicing baptisms with my siblings in the pool, experiencing an old fashioned, country “pounding” (some of you don’t even know what that is…ask me, and I’ll explain), and playing hide-and-go seek with my brother and friends in the church cemetery. (Yeah, we probably shouldn’t have done that. But we did. It was spooky fun.)
Another such memory was a once a month tradition in our little country churches. We would have the monthly member’s meeting combined with a potluck supper. We would eat. Then we would meet. So, growing up in our home, we didn’t call them business meetings or members’ meetings; we affectionately called them “Eatin’ Meetin’s.”
I loved the first Wednesday night of each month. Savory food. Ornery Baptists. What more can you ask for? In fact, on one occasion, I remember loving it a little bit too much.
At this particular Eatin’ Meetin’, I was in third grade. I was old enough to roam the church and small fellowship hall by myself. The first item on my to-do list was to scout out the banquet table of goodies that seemed to stretch out for miles and miles. I checked out the desserts. I quickly browsed the casseroles (yes, there were many mysterious concoctions). Finally, I spotted the motherload: a giant, bubbling Crock-Pot full of mouth-watering homemade chicken-and-dumplings.
Now, I still love chick-and-dumplings. (By the way, in Alabama, it’s spelled “chicken-n-dumplins”). Anytime I go to Cracker Barrel that’s what I order to eat. Call it comfort food. Call it southern food. Call it what you will. But I call it delicious.
So, it’s not surprising that I helped myself, that night, to a hearty, heaping bowl. As I slurped the last spoonful, I thought, “If one bowl was that good, why not a second?” And so, that’s what I did. I got seconds. And since my parents were not watching, I helped myself to thirds. And, for good measure, I went back for fourths. That’s right. I ate four giant servings of chicken-n-dumplins as an eight-year-old boy. Not a good idea.
For the rest of the business meeting, I was feeling fat and sassy (obviously more fat than sassy). But it didn’t take long, before I started feeling something else: sick. We lived in a parsonage, just a few yards away from the church building. So, when the night was over, I waddled on back to our house, got ready for bed, and climbed in.
Third grade boys love Legos but they also love their egos. So, I didn’t
want to tell my parents why my stomach hurt so badly. Even still, I remember lying there in the dark moaning and groaning because of my intestinal distress. I curled up into the fetal position and tried to get comfortable. Impossible.
Eventually, my mom and dad came to tuck me in and heard what must’ve sounded like a wounded dog on the side of the road. I think my folks would have punished me, if the stomachache wasn’t punishment enough (some parenting is easy because of the natural consequences.)
I also remember my dad giving me an extemporaneous, mini-sermon on gluttony. His sermon text? Proverbs 25:16, “Have you found chicken-n-dumplins? Eat only what you need, so that you not have it in excess and vomit it.” (Ok. I now know that’s not exactly what the King James version says. But his personalized textual variant made an impression.)
That was the first time I remember hearing the old cliché about someone’s “eyes being bigger than their stomach.” I knew that was biologically impossible, but the point stuck with me: a lack of self-control often hurts yourself.
As I laid there in the dark, regretting my over-indulgence, I vowed to myself that night, “I will never go to another Eatin’ Meetin’ again!” But here I am, some 30 years later, and I’m glad I didn’t follow through on that hasty promise.
When we think of church gatherings, we often think of singing together, praying together, learning together, and worshipping together. But in the early church, it was just as much a priority for them to be eating together.
It was a regular, scheduled habit for God’s people to enjoy God’s vittles with one another. In Acts 2:42 it says that the early church “continually devoted themselves…to fellowship”. Specifically, they did this by
“taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart…” (vs. 46).
May I simply ask: when was the last time you ate a meal with fellow church members?
Christian fellowship is more than meaningless socializing. It should be a typical spiritual discipline of the Christian life. Have you ever thought of it that way? God doesn’t just care about the brains of his people. He cares about our stomachs and our friendships too. God wants His church to be holistically healthy: body, mind, and soul.
True, it’s always easier just to stay home and cook for yourself. It’s easier to finish up homework or get ready for a busy week ahead. But it’s also extremely rewarding to give, share, and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. You may think, “Yeah, but I’m doing okay right now. I don’t need others.” That may be true: but I guarantee that others need you.