For those who were unable to attend Multiply last week (as I was not, unfortunately), here is a taste of the kind of content offered by one of the three invited speakers, Jeff Vanderstelt, from his new book Saturate.
“I’ll raise you a hundred,” Greg said as he pushed a stack of poker chips into the middle of the table to show he meant business. At the same time, laughter erupted from the next room, where the ladies were sharing stories about marriage and motherhood. Greg’s wife, Mary, listened as the women poured out their hearts to one another.
This was the first time Greg and Mary had been at our house for one of our parties.1 Jayne and I had been in the Puget Sound area for about a year, and we were beginning to call people together to be the church in the greater Tacoma area. Parties and feasts were one of the means we were using to gather people and give them a taste of what it might look like to be the church in our community.
In the past, several of us in the Chicago suburbs had experienced community forming this way around meals and celebrations. Caesar and Tina had introduced us to the art of hospitality and the joy of the party. Tina is an amazing cook, and she and Caesar hosted the best dinner parties around. If they were hosting a dinner, you did not want to miss it!
At one of these dinners, about three courses into an amazing five-course meal, it dawned on us: “This is a great picture of the kingdom of God!” While immersed in the feast of food and life together, we recalled Jesus comparing the kingdom of God to a feast where everyone is invited in (Luke 14:12–24).
Together we started to imagine what the church would be like if we all believed we were a picture of God’s kingdom breaking into the world in ways that felt like a party. One of us said: “If the church believed this, it would radically change what we do and how we live! We would be known as the most celebratory people around. Word would spread. People who wouldn’t normally want to come to a church event would come to our homes. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”
A seed was planted in our hearts at that moment, and the conversation never really ended. We began to ask questions: What if we were to start a church that feasted and celebrated around Jesus together? What if our homes were intended by God to be some of the primary spaces in which the ministry of the church should take place?
People could be welcomed in, cared for, and experience belonging to a people who enjoy one another and life together. This would transform people’s perceptions of the church. Their understanding of who the church is and what she does would be very different from others’.
As a result, people would come to understand Jesus in an entirely new way. If church were more like a feast and ministry took place regularly in our homes, everyone could join and anyone could do it. Everyone loves to feast and celebrate together, and anyone who knows and loves Jesus can host a party around him.
Jesus’s church celebrates and feasts together. His people live life to the fullest for his glory and learn how to do the normal, everyday stuff of life for his glory. Not just parties and feasts – everything!
This isn’t a new idea. God called his people Israel to remember him and show the world what he was like through the everyday stuff, the big and the small. The special feasts, which were extraordinary, were meant to remind them that everyday meals mattered as well.
Parties are God’s idea. During the Israelites’ parties and feasts, they were to remind one another that all of life was to be done as an expression of their love for God. God called them to see their celebrations and feasts as an expression of their worship. He wanted them to use something mundane and everyday – eating – as a reminder that he is to be the center of all the everyday stuff.
God is brilliant, isn’t he?
He wants us to see that all of life, every aspect of it, is a good gift from him. He wants our hearts to cry out, “God is so good!” in the middle of everyday life. He wants us to eat, play, create, work, celebrate, rest and relate to one another for his glory. God always intended that every part of life be a participation in his activity in the world and a celebration of his goodness to us all. So he told Israel to do all the stuff of life – working, resting, eating, and celebrating – in remembrance of him.
I love this about God!
I grew up believing that after I died, I would go to heaven, which would be like an eternal church service. As a teenager, I wasn’t too excited about that. All I could imagine was a bunch of us in white gowns floating on clouds that felt like hard wooden pews. We would forever listen to long sermons and sing songs from red hymnals.
Later in life, as I read the Bible, I found out that this is not an accurate picture of our future with Jesus. The Scriptures tell of a day when we will dwell on a new earth and enjoy a sin-free existence, living life fully and abundantly with God in our midst. We will eat, play, create, work, celebrate and rest in perfect harmony with God and one another. It will all be good and it will all be worship!
Imagine if the church was like this now.
1. This poker game was primarily a recreational activity. I do not promote gambling, as I am very aware that many people have experienced addictive and destructive results.
Content taken from Saturate (Chapter 2: Jesus Goes to Poker Parties) by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
The back flap of Saturate describes Vanderstelt in this way:
[He] is the visionary leader for the Soma Family of Churches and the lead teaching pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. When he isn’t preaching or mentoring church planters, he and his family share life with their missional community.