Are Potluck-Styled Fellowship Meals Biblically Sound?
Have fellowship meals lost their way? Has the food become the focal point of the gathering instead of the fellowship with one another? These are the questions we should ask as we consider the “fellowship” in a fellowship meal. This is especially true if you have ever witnessed Christians bickering over food, hording food, coming early, getting multiple plates, and even taking home plates without first ensuring that everyone has been fed. These behaviors are certainly indicators that the essence of what the fellowship meal should be about has been lost.
But even if you have not seen these things, we still must question the validity of having a potluck and calling it a “fellowship meal.” Are potlucks even biblically expedient? I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 14:12-14: “12 He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’"
We see Jesus begins this scripture in Luke 14:12-14 by stating, “12 He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.’” Is this not the very meaning of a potluck? You bring a dish, I bring a dish, and then we eat each other’s dishes. It is a quid-pro-quo system that relies on paying back everyone involved. But is this what Jesus instructs us to do?
The answer is no! Jesus tells us in Luke 14:12-14, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Jesus tells us that when we have a feast we are not to seek payback but instead invite the vulnerable, the oppressed, the destitute, and the poor―those who cannot or will not pay us back.
This revelation was first introduced to me in Searcy, Arkansas, while I served as one of the ministers of the West Pleasure Church of Christ. My dear friend and co-minister, Reginald, and I were talking one night in his pickup truck, and we start discussing this scripture among ourselves. In the end, we decided to reduce the “fellowship” meals after service and start having them in the evening on a weekday. We decided to not invite our congregation to eat but to serve the community instead. Members of the congregation would go canvass our community the day before and pass out flyers for a no-strings-attached dinner with us. What I mean by “no strings attached” is that we weren’t inviting people to get money from them or to preach down to them but to simply have them come to eat at the same table with us.
This monthly reoccurring event was wildly successfully. So successful, in fact, that we dreamed of doing it once a week instead of once of month. We called this event “Soul Food Thursday” and it grew our congregation numerically. However, more important than numeric numbers, it helped to instill a mission in us all, and it helped us to say in one accord as a congregation that we love our community.
Thanks for Reading
~Lawrence W. Rodgers