Dinnertimes and discipleship

Trevor Hodge

As I’m writing this, the sun is going down over the hills, and I can smell the bolognese sauce on the stove.  In a few minutes, we’ll together participate in a daily ritual in our household - dinner time.

Now, if you were to ask me what our goals are for this dinner time event, I could answer in terms of short term priorities:

  • Maximum food in kids,
  • Minimum food on floor.

And these short term priorities and goals are critical.  There would be serious immediate consequences if we stopped feeding our children!

Playing the long game

But in the same event, there are a bunch of different priorities and goals that I’d like to suggest are no less important, but are less immediate, and often harder to articulate.  The boys take turns to set the table, and as they fight over who gets to sit with Mum (they never fight over me!) we encourage them to submit their preferences out of love for others.  We give thanks to God for the food before we eat - because it's good to in the moment, but also because we want to nurture in our boys (and ourselves) a constant awareness of God’s loving and ongoing provision.  The boys know to ask others before taking the last slice / sausage / spoonful - we hope this will form in them an attitude of generosity and selflessness.  As we go about the seemingly mundane activity of eating dinner, at the same time we are forming, little by little, deep set values, principles and habits.  And this happens for better or worse. Whether we’re intentional about it or not, lives and characters are being formed.  We rehearse the priorities and values that will become natural and second nature in our lives.*

I’m sure by this stage you’ve already gathered that this little life parable points to our church gatherings.  We have some pretty major ‘short game’ priorities that we want to ensure happen in our churches.  Each week we need to make sure that the Bible is read and preached faithfully.  That we bring our needs to God in prayer.  That we care for and encourage one another.  But we need to be aware that all the little (and not so little) things we do week by week, and the ways we do them, serve to help form our ongoing values, priorities and habits as churches and communities - again, whether we’re intentional about it or not!  I want to encourage you to try and look at your church gatherings with fresh eyes - to try and discern what are some of your congregational good and bad habits, and what long term impact these habits may have.

What are your rehearsals rehearsing?

But for those involved in music teams, I’d love you to think about what your rehearsals are rehearsing?  How does what you do as you gather to prepare for Sunday reflect the values and priorities you’d like to see formed in your music team and ministry over the long game?  It's very easy to declare that worship isn't just all about music...but then contradict this by spending our entire rehearsal times working solely on music!  What are some little habits or "rituals" that you could weave into your music rehearsals that will intentionally rehearse and nurture Christlike characteristics within your team?  Real humility and servant heartedness?  A desire to pastorally care for church family in our gatherings?  A longing to see lost people saved?

For example, we're currently busy with Carols preparations. We run a large community carols that we hope might be a positive first time church experience for our neighbours, friends and family.  Its one of our highest profile events, and its very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of musical and production attention that it requires to pull off well.  But the first time we gathered as a carols team, we shared names of people that we want to pray might come to carols, and have spent time each rehearsal praying for them by name...and sharing how God has been answering these prayers!

Lets get practical

Here's an assignment to help you think about this at your next rehearsal or service.  Take notice of your "packing down" habits when you've finished up playing, and ask: what values might they be forming over the longer term?  Indifference, or awareness and care for those using the gear or space after you?  Division, or unity between singers, musicians and tech people? And see if you can introduce one 'long game' habit to the team that might intentionally rehearse and strengthen a key value of your team.  And let us know how it goes...add your comments below!

*There’s a strong likelihood that I’ve appropriated this dinner illustration somewhat from James KA Smith's - You Are What You Love