I’ve always admired people who have read the Bible cover to cover. It’s a grand accomplishment that requires disciplined dedication. I’ve started reading the Bible in this way many times, but midway through Exodus my daily discipline turns into an occasional practice that never survives through Leviticus.
A few months ago I heard someone reference the “snowball” model of debt reduction. Basically, the model is that when someone has a list of debts, this model suggests that it’s more effective to pay off the smallest debts (by amount) first. While mathematically a strategy of paying off debts with the largest interest rates first is a solid approach, a new study from researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that the emotional motivation gained from paying off accounts through the “snowball” method led to better results long-term. (See http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/news_articles/2012/snowball-approach.aspx.)
This study got me thinking. What if I aimed to read the Bible as a snowball? I googled “Bible reading checklist” and printed off a checklist that has a check box for every single chapter in every book of the Bible. Then I started with the book that had the smallest number of chapters—Jude! In one sitting, I read a whole book of the Bible. Yay! And, instantly, I was hooked. The Bible Reading Snowball is working!
So here is a challenge to you. If you’ve been longing to be a regular scripture reader, consider joining me in the Bible Reading Snowball as we roll from Jude all the way through Psalms. No snow required.
It’s a joy sharing our experience with others. In recent weeks we’ve received several how-to questions about Potluck Church, and it got us wondering if those who read this blog might also have similar questions. So, here are three quick questions and answers:
How do you arrange the tables?
At present we place four 96” x 30”, plastic, heavy-duty folding tables together into a large rectangle and set up to 18 chairs around the large rectangle. Then we cover it with two barely overlapping king-sized white sheets to give us the look of a unified tablecloth. This allows us to all sit together and have one conversation around what feels like one table. In the center with the Christ candle we will have some sort of simple table decoration that will set our theme or enhance our worship time together in some way.
Do you have music in worship?
Other than times when we listen together to a piece of music that relates to our theme or scripture, or the annual Christmas caroling trip, we typically do not have music. The simple reason for this is that no one around the table currently has expressed an interest in sharing their gifts of music with us. Our worship is an authentic expression of the spiritual gifts present around the table when we gather. Music would be a wonderful way to worship in Potluck Church. This question reminds me that Matthew 26:30 tells us after Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Last Supper, they sang a hymn before they went out to the Mount of Olives. What a meaningful way to end such a meal!
How do we decide who prays?
We typically have an opening prayer and another dedicated time of prayer as we end our conversation and turn toward the bread and cup. Both of these are often spoken extemporaneously. Sometimes a topic or liturgical season will lead us toward a printed prayer that is recited. Whatever the style, type or method of prayer, we simply ask for volunteers in the moment. “Who would like to pray for our meal tonight?” Or, “Who would like to say a prayer for these prayers that we’ve shared?” Most nights someone will quickly speak up. If no one feels called to pray aloud, we will have a time of silence to say our own prayers from our hearts. By inviting everyone around the table into opportunities for leadership, we make the worship together.
What questions do you have about Potluck Church? Send me a message and we'll try to answer them as best we can.
At Potluck Church we gather together at one table. There are rare weeks when our table does not comfortably hold enough chairs. A few weeks ago we experienced one of those times. In a hurry, we added an extra table on the end to allow us to accommodate three more people, but we had no extra tablecloth on hand. To me, it felt like a kids table tacked on the end—like we had two-tiered seating. We joked that those chairs were “the cheap seats.” In hindsight I wish that I had offered to take one of those “cheap seats”—to do as Jesus encouraged and take a lower seat.(“All who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matt. 23:12, NRSV) But that’s hindsight for ya.
Every indoor worship space has a maximum capacity—a population number at which point the room no longer feels comfortable. And the rule of thumb for the traditional church is 80% occupancy of what the pews will technically hold. At 80% clergy are encouraged to either expand the sanctuary or offer more worship services. The warning is that visitors will turn away if the church grows past 80%.
But what is the percent capacity for a dinner church? For a worship where everyone sits at the table? If we are to be a church that claims all are welcome at the table, then an actual seat at the table with space for a plate seems critical to our way of worship.
One of the many benefits of attending the Leadership Academy hosted by the Disciples of Christ’s Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation is that they assign you a coach that will journey with you for a while. Potluck Church’s behind-the-scenes coach is Dr. Preston Adams—a man who has known the joys, challenges and pitfalls of starting new efforts, including new churches. The role of the coach is to ask questions, to listen and to return us back to our vision and mission when we find ourselves overwhelmed or adrift. The coach holds us accountable, without being paternalistic. Nurturing questions drive the conversation forward.
If you are starting a new congregation or ministry, let me encourage you to seek out a formal coaching relationship that will journey with you over the challenges and through the transitions and doubt-filled wilderness times. Find a coach that will pray for you and your ministry, celebrate with you at the smallest of victories and help you to see and keep watch. Because it is through sustained attention and focus that you will see God building your ministry.
Thank you, Dr. Adams and Hope Partnership.
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:18-20)
Tonight at Potluck Church we will eat pancakes. Just pancakes. Okay, maybe there will be some fun fruit toppings and syrups, too. When we gather for this first day of Lent, we don’t bring a dish. Traditionally pancakes are eaten on Shrove Tuesday (yesterday) as a way of getting all of the fats and rich foods out of one’s home before the fasting time of Lent. Except all of our Potluck gatherings are feasts—even during Lent, and so to stop and simply have pancakes cooked for us allows Ash Wednesday to be a day of simplicity and focus. We’ll begin our Lenten journey together this night with a meal that returns us back to a basic food--bread.
Lent is a season to ponder the question Jesus asked the disciples—“But who do you say that I am?” Maybe as we eat the pancakes, we will remember again and find our own answers to the question.
In the first years that I served a church, my husband and I invited minister colleagues who were young adults to come to our home to celebrate Epiphany on January 6. Initially for us clergy it was a celebration of the relief that the busyness of Advent and Christmas was coming to an end. But over the years as we learned more about the celebration of Epiphany, I grew to find it deeply meaningful.
Each year at our Potluck Church worship closest to Epiphany the wise men adorn the table and the new Christ candle that previously adorned the advent wreath is lit alone. After we’ve finished our plates of food, we serve a decorated cake that has a miniature plastic baby Jesus buried inside, and as we cut it, we laugh about what it might mean if we get the piece with Jesus--good luck or prosperity? Cake-maker for next year? Candlemas party planner? King or queen for the night? Or maybe you just need more Jesus in your life? It’s a fun tradition made all the more special as we eat together in worship.
This year none of us found the plastic Jesus, and so we delivered the treasured piece to a Potluck Church friend who was sick. Hopefully, she felt a bit closer to Jesus and to us as she enjoyed it.
☐ grape juice
☐ a right-sized loaf of bread
☐ a Christ candle
☐ tablecloth or sheet
☐ table and chairs
☐ a welcome or “meets here” sign
☐ ice, water, and other drinks
☐ paten and chalice, or a plate and cup
☐ plates, cups, and utensils
☐ salt and pepper
☐ serving utensils
☐ hand sanitizer
☐ thought-provoking table décor or seasonal centerpiece
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.