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One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is found in Acts 2, as Luke describes the beautiful beginnings of the Early Church. In Acts 2:42-47, it’s all laid out. The believers and the Church grew because they focused on learning from the teachings of the disciples, fellowship with one another, breaking bread together, and praying.
As parents, my husband and I shepherd our own little flock of believers and it just seems logical that we should focus on these same areas of growth with our own children. There’s no arguing that family discipleship is crucial. But where do you start? Honestly, it’s taken me more than a dozen years as a mom to feel like I am actually starting to “get” it.
As we’ve been studying it, we’ve broken it down into the four areas of growth Luke identifies in the aforementioned passage: (1) teaching, (2) fellowship, (3) breaking of bread together, and (4) prayer. Over the next month, we’ll be examining one of these areas each week.
Gather Around the Table
Let’s start with the fact that the Early Church broke bread together. Why start there? Well, in a family, this is hopefully already happening (and if it’s not, it’s an easy place to start). We eat at least three meals each day (sometimes more…I have teens, after all!).
The Early Church knew the importance of breaking bread together. They would sit around the their tables with “glad and sincere hearts.” Doesn’t that sound absolutely lovely? I know it does to me.
But the next part is just as lovely: they did it with awe in their hearts and praise to God. This really stuck out to me when I read Acts 2 and is something I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me to make happen in our home. But how?
That became the question to answer.
How do we as parents help make the family table a gathering place of glad and sincere hearts that meet with awe and gratitude? Maybe it’s just at our house, but the family table is much more apt to be filled with cries of indignation over someone looking at someone else, spilled drinks, the airing of grievances, and siblings picking on one another. What sounds lovely in the abstract seems impossible in reality.
The One Question To Ask Every Night
One evening was worse than the others and I could feel the frustration mounting inside of me. In a moment of sheer desperation, amidst nudging and pouting and chaos, I spit out: “So, what are you thankful for today?” The table got really quiet and everyone just looked at me.
“I don’t know,” shrugged one teenager. “Ummmm…” stammered another sibling. “I know! That we’re all eating dinner together!” shouted an exuberant little one. Honestly, I was surprised, because that is one thing I wasn’t feeling particularly gratuitous about at that moment in time. But I was glad his little heart was happy about it.
“Okay, who’s next?” I prompted. After a moment I realized we’d have to go around the table and give each person a turn if I wanted total participation. That first night, it took some pushing, prodding, and waiting in awkward dead silence to get answers. But eventually, it happened.
So the next night, I asked the same question. And the next. That’s now the one question we ask every night. If we miss asking it at the dinner table, we do it before bed. But I’ve found this one question has done more to alter the tenor of our home than nearly any other effort. Thinking about what happened that day to be thankful for changed their hearts, and mine.
People Feel Loved at the Table
When you utilize the gift of hospitality, you extend the love of Jesus to people. That’s true whether the people are those who live in your home or relative strangers. Taking the time to create a lovely place and serve up a nourishing meal shows those at the table that you care about them.
However, even the author of Proverbs recognizes that it’s not about the feast at the table, as much as it is the peace and love that pervades the home (Proverbs 17:1). We’ve had amazing dinners of hot dogs and baked beans or $5 take out pizzas, just as we’ve had wonderful times surrounding steak and baked potatoes. As a mom, I want to remember to pour out the same intentional effort to bless my children as I do the acquaintances that we invite to share our table.
Have you ever spent hours (or even days) getting ready for a meal with extended family or friends? I personally love cooking, setting a lovely table, and making it an occasion when we have company coming. But one day, God put it on my heart to do it for my family…just because. It was time for me to show them that they were priorities to me and not after thoughts. Now, I try to make at least one meal a week super special simply to show them how much they matter.
With Glad & Sincere Hearts
Why do you think Luke didn’t just stop at mentioning that the believers in the Early Church ate together? Why did he take the whole thing one step further to specify that it happened with glad and sincere hearts? I’ve spent a long time pondering that. The author of Proverbs also knew this truth, so I know it’s one I need to understand and so should you.
I think it’s because, as with the rest of Scripture, God is truly concerned with our hearts more than our actions. If they ate together in disunity, the Church would have stagnated. The believers wouldn’t have grown in closeness, and those who didn’t believe wouldn’t have found them irresistible. That same thing can happen in the family.
Instead, we know that their hearts were knit together, their lives bore the fruits of the spirit, and the Church evidenced many miracles that drew the attention of the lost. And it all started with the four corners of the discipleship model set by the Early Church: teaching, fellowship, the ‘family’ table, and prayer. Don’t you want that in your family? I know I do. And more than that, I want our family to be a vessel God uses to reach our neighbors. It starts at our table, but our goal is for it to spread much farther.