The Biblical Basis for the GBF Fellowship Meal
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart - Acts 2:46
Sharing meals is as ancient a communal practice as any other in human history—a sociological hallmark embedded in the fabric of just about every culture that exists on our planet. Generally speaking, we share meals either as a means to accomplish something or to express an existing relationship. It is for the second reason that GBF has been having fellowship meals since its inception ten years ago.
Grace Bible Fellowship is indeed a fellowship. I’m stating the obvious, because the term fellowship has been misunderstood and misused in Christian circles. We’ve recently turned it into some kind of a verb to the point that Christians have created this new Christianese term “fellowshipping.” But fellowship is not simply something that we do; it is something that we are. It is a state - a relational reality that exists between two or more people. A fellowship is similar to a family. I don’t “fellowship” with fellow church members in the same way that I don’t “family” with my wife and two kids. We have family activities, go on family vacations, and - you guessed it - have lots of family dinners simply because we are a family. We do what we do together as a celebratory expression of the existing relational entity between Kathy, myself, and our two children. So when we all sit together over our circular dining table and partake from a large pot of spaghetti, we do so as an expression of the fact that we are a household. If, on a regular basis, the four members of our family ate four different meals in four different rooms at four different hours everyday of the week, such would be indicative of dysfunction. We eat together to show that we belong to each other.
In the same manner, Christians have traditionally made a practice of expressing their unity as fellow members of God’s household and fellow ministers of Christ’s gospel through the sharing of meals. And they have been, since the dawning of the early church. When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon God’s people on Pentecost, the church was born - a fellowship of saints knit together by the commonality of salvation in Christ. They were a family—not by blood, but by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And so they did exactly what families do: they shared meals. Acts 2:46 accounts: “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” The fellowship was created; fellowship meals resulted.
Due to both geographic and demographic factors, the approximately 170 members of GBF aren’t going to be gathering for corporate catered dinners Monday through Friday. Geographically, GBF’s members have home addresses all over the Bay Area, with some of our members separated by as much as 45 miles from each other. Demographically, the GBF body includes a wider spectrum of people than most churches its size. The diversity of the people who attend with regards to age, ethnic background, socio-economic status, cultural upbringing, and personal circumstances is an accurate representative of the diversity of Silicon Valley. These factors make it much more difficult for our body to operate practically the way the early church in Jerusalem did. From a physical profile, the membership roster hardly looks like the picture of a family.
But we are a family. We are a fellowship, members of one another shepherded by the same leadership team and submitted to the same Lord. And for the last decade, GBF has celebrated the reality of this spiritual entity through a Sunday fellowship meal. It’s the one point of the week where a student from Valley Christian High School, a young couple with two toddlers, a twenty-plus year old working professional from Google, and a retired nurse with three grandkids can all sit at the same long table, eat from the same pot-roast and pasta, and sincerely enjoy each other’s company. It’s the one activity in the GBF church calendar, aside from the Sunday worship service, that isn’t exclusive to a particular affinity group. It’s for that reason that, despite our booming increase in attendance, it remains a part of the church calendar.
Some don’t see the point of partaking in this event for whatever reasons. I don’t know them all, but I do know that many of them stem from a mindset that characterizes modern American Christianity, which views church gatherings as a means for transactional gain. Church is more about what they benefit (“What’s in it for me?”) rather than about who they’re a part of. Hence, many don’t see the point of staying for fellowship meals if it’s logistically inconvenient, cost-inefficient, or socially awkward.
But GBF’s fellowship meal is more than just a way to provide food for visitors. It’s more than just socialization. In fact, the whole purpose of the meal isn’t to socialize. It’s something that we do to communicate to each other and to those looking from the outside that—regardless of our age, gender, race, marital status, or socio-economic status, we belong to one another. We’re all saved by the same Savior, dwelt in by the same Spirit, commissioned for the same gospel in the same region, and headed for the same destination.