Home > Uncategorized > Beans & Greens: a look at covered dish lunches

Beans & Greens: a look at covered dish lunches

The Covered Dish Lunch (CDL)
I was a 3rd generation member of Rankin Baptist Church where one of the staple activities was a regularly observed covered dish lunch. I used to think this was unique to the Baptist tradition but the more people I talk to the more I find this concept was, and still is in some places, quite common across all of Christendom. For some of you hearing the phrase covered dish lunch whisks you away to fond memories of great meals and good times. For others of you your gag reflex set in as thoughts grandma’s mystery stew ambushed your brain.For those of you totally unfamiliar to the covered dish lunch, think about any real in-home large gathering you have been a part of. There was probably home-cooked food sitting in ceramic dishes covered with tin-foil. (There was also likely the one bucket of KFC chicken that uncle Steve brought, which everybody was silently praising him for) Now, imagine an entire church in that room with dozens of those tinfoil covered dishes (and an equally small % of uncle steves with their chicken buckets) all eating and talking and eating right after church on Sunday morning. For me, it is a vivid and mostly good memory.

It fosters biblical fellowship
I think for all of the flack traditional Baptists get from the rest of the world (I am often a flack giver) this is one place where we all need to take a page from their hymnal. The intent behind the CDL was to create a venue for believers to fellowship together. Many churches even had / have rooms called fellowship halls for such occasions. These people are simply attempting to experience the fellowship which characterized the early church. Look at Acts 2. What was going on in the early church? They were devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship! They ate in one another’s homes! They are acting on a principle you and I both know to be true: a meal is a great venue to get to know someone.

Am I calling all churches to reinstate the CDL? Not exactly. Because I can’t stop grandma from bringing her mystery stew, and more importantly I can’t change the fact that unfortunately most of the churches that hold them regularly are experiencing little to no numerical or spiritual growth.

Fellowship became the end game of the church.
What went wrong with CDL churches? Community and fellowship became the end game of these churches. Community became an idol of the church. And the CDL was one of the perfect venues to worship that idol. One of the least concerns on anyone’s mind at 95% of those lunches was how the church was displaying the gospel in a way that the watching world would know that Christ was sent by God to save them. John 15 & 17 tells us though that our community should live to that end. Hear me out, the desire for community is perfectly good. God created us to live in community with other believers. But he didn’t intend that community to just sit around and feed each other fried chicken. He created that community so that through it his name would be made famous to the world. That community must therefore be missional in its DNA!

Authentic biblical community is missional by nature.
Like I said, hear me out. The CDL in and of itself is not bad. I hope your church practices community like that in some fashion. And I hope you practice it like the early church did: with glad & sincere hearts, encouraging one another with the gospel. I hope you praise God together for what he is doing in your lives as you down that gravy-covered cornbread with some sweet tea. I hope you pray for one another. BUT, don’t stop there. If you do, you’ve missed the key purpose of God’s community: To be a walking talking witness of the transforming power of the gospel to the watching world. This missional mandate by God to the church is what sets it apart from every other community on earth. Do you know the number one way Muslims are becoming Christians right now? By watching believers interact with one another and seeing the difference between them and the rest of the world. It’s happening!

Do you see your CDL, your small group, or any other fellowship time, as a venue to show off the love of Jesus? If not, think on how it could be. Here is a simple idea we did in college. Take your Sunday afternoon lunch and go stampede a local restaurant with people from your church. Have a good time, talk with your waiter / waitress, be the best customers in the place, tip them at least 20% & Ask them how you can pray for them. I can almost guarantee they will ask you who the group is “with.” Invite them to church. If you are a Summit goer, give them an inviter card.

By the way, I need your covered dish memories so please post them in the comment section below!

  1. March 4, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Your post brought back some funny memories. It is too bad however that for many, CDLs with fellow followers is the extent of their hospitality/outreach. Thanks for the post.

  2. March 11, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    great thoughts. the tipping the waitress comment is much needed. my wife worked at an O’Charley’s and the common thought amongst the waitresses was: you don’t want to get stuck with a church crowd – they’ll run you to death and leave you some pocket change. 20% is a great statement, but on occasion (especially with students who don’t usually give to the tithes/offerings), we’ve told kids bring in $5 extra for lunch because we’re going to leave a huge tip to make someone’s day! it makes a lasting impression on the server when they see $50 on the tip line instead of $5.00. Rather than running from the church crowd, they will run toward it! Just a thought.

  3. March 13, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Trevor, our pastor will emphasize a MINIMUM tip of 20% if we go anywhere, especially if you drop an inviter card on ’em. I used to do a little table serving myself. I have actually been given a tract as a tip. I’m pretty sure it said “this is the best tip you’ll ever get.” Anyway, I’m all for leaving massive tips just to display generosity (especially when youth are involved).

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