Bring back simple

We’ve learned to compartmentalize things in church.

Bible study happens in Sunday school. Worship happens in the sanctuary. Fellowship takes place at pot lucks or picnics.

Imagine, though, combining all three of those important parts of the life of the church. That’s what a love feast is. There are still some faith traditions that practice love feasts on a regular basis. Most churches that host these gatherings do so sparingly. But love feasts were the early church’s way of being. We can see some of that in Acts 20.

Luke tells us the apostle Paul joined a group of Christians in Troas to break bread. Paul also held a discussion with them. What do you think they discussed? Some translations help us figure that out. Paul preached to them. They discussed faith in Jesus.

Our modern sense of preaching may get in the way here. Paul wasn’t standing at a lectern giving a three-point message. He continued speaking until midnight so it must’ve been a 23-point message. The NRSV translates it as a “discussion.” Later, he “continued to converse” with the Christians. That discussion could also be translated as arguing or reasoning.

I take it to mean there was most likely a lot of back and forth dialogue between Paul and those gathered with him. While Paul may have done a lot of the talking, it was a conversation. There were questions and reflections. There may have been objections as well. 

Then something else happened that night. 

Acts 20 is when Eutychus falls out of the window. Everyone thought he was dead. Paul went downstairs and embraced the young man and he lived. The text then says after Paul had broken bread and eaten he got back to the discussion. This miracle seemed to inspire Paul even more. He ended up talking until dawn.

This was a meeting to remember!

These love feasts, or agape feasts, were the way early Christians deepened their faith together. They combined eating, learning and worship in such a natural way. They didn’t utilize programs or special events. There’s no nursery either because why would you send your family to another room?

I’ve participated in love feasts before. They’re not just potlucks. Potluck discussions don’t always get around to faith and discipleship.

I love the simplicity of what we read in Acts 20. There’s no program or even an order of worship. We modern Christians, particularly American Christians, don’t always do well with simplicity. We’re used to everything needing to be big and better. When I’ve looked up love feasts in churches today I’ve found manuals and 30-page instruction booklets. Now, I’m all for order and planning, but sometimes that gets in the way of what matters most. Remember Jesus with Mary and Martha?

As I reflect on what the early Christians did, I can’t help but wonder how our compartmentalizing has impacted our collective growth. Could we simply join study, worship and fellowship? Can we bring back simple? In so doing, what if we learned to just enjoy each other’s company? When we have a conversation we don’t need an agenda. We’re too busy listening to each other. We’re too captivated by the Lord’s presence among us that we don’t need the best music or PowerPoint backgrounds. 

All we need is our Christian fellowship.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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