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When does a meal become a Dinner Church? Join theologian, professor, and pastor David Fitch as he describes the actions and postures Jesus-followers can take to create table settings where people can experience the Holy Spirit at work. He also helps Christians consider how to invite others who don’t believe to join them in these spaces.
David E. Fitch, PhD (Northwestern University), holds the B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary. He founded Life on the Vine Christian Community in Chigago, and is author of books like “Faithful Presence,” coauthor of coauthorship on “Prodigal Christianity”, and a speaker on church mission, leadership, and theology. Fitch’s writings span Christianity Today to academic journals.
How does the ancient practice of gathering around tables foster discipleship today? In this enlightening discussion, church planter and professor David Fitch offers profound wisdom on how shared meals cultivate transformation in Christ. His perspective powerfully illuminates the theology and potential of dinner church.
Table Fellowship as Discipleship
For Fitch, “the practice of the table is central.” He traces how throughout the gospels, Jesus constantly met and taught his followers at meals.
As Fitch states, “If you read through the Gospels, it’s everywhere…He’s going to the Zacchaeus is in a tree and he ends up sitting at a table…He always he’s around a table when he’s discipling his disciples and he washes their feet. So the practice of the table is central.”
Fitch argues emphatically that “discipleship begins at the table.” Gathering around meals opens us to God’s presence and each other in ways that foster spiritual growth.
Why the Table Transforms
Fitch explains how the table’s intimate, relational nature fundamentally shifts dynamics toward mutual listening, authentic sharing, and Spirit-led transformation. Physically gathering around a table dismantles posturing and hierarchy, as “there’s no more posturing anymore” when “we’re all around this table visually looking at each other.”
Praying together invites Christ into our midst. As Fitch notes, “The presence of Christ can be manifest” through “giving thanks” and asking Jesus to “be present at this table.” In this space, the gifts of teaching and pastoral care flow freely.
Stories of Life Change
Fitch shares real examples of counseling, healing, and reconciliation happening organically around tables. In one dinner church, a new believer was able to voice doubts and process expectations of God in a personal way. As Fitch recounts, the communal wisdom and care shared far surpassed a sermon’s ability to address those concerns.
Skills to Cultivate
To embrace table fellowship requires growing new skills, like:
- Listening without controlling others
- Opening space for the Spirit rather than personal agendas
- Discerning God’s presence and direction together
- Extending grace-filled invitation rather than demanding vulnerability
As Fitch reminds, “Learning how to listen to people and not control people” is so important, as is trusting the Spirit’s work rather than striving in personal effort.
A Timeless, Essential Practice
Despite cultural obstacles, Fitch sees Christians increasingly valuing intergenerational, neighborhood-based dinner church to rediscover Jesus in their midst. The table remains a timeless, essential way of being transformed into Christ’s image in community.
- When have you experienced spiritual growth or support around a shared meal? What dynamics made this impactful?
- What hierarchy or posturing might you need to lay down to fully listen and participate in table fellowship?
- How can your church balance programmatic discipleship with relational, communal practices like dinner church?
- What fears or resistance do you notice regarding invitation and vulnerability around tables? How can you grow through this?
- Who might you invite to explore table fellowship, and how can you extend gracious welcome?