My husband and I — because we are worship leaders at our church — have our own simple definition of the word “ministry”: meeting needs.
As the body of Christ, we are to function as Christ Himself would, loving others, serving others, showing compassion, praying for others, and meeting needs. For someone with a passion for food (like me!), this is where gifting and ministry collide.
The Essence of Community
Have you ever had a good friend bring a meal to your family after you had a baby or while you were ill? Did a group of people from your church visit you after the death of a loved one? How did that make you feel?
It's like a burden is lifted, like getting through another day is possible. It's a feeling of thankfulness, peace, and love.
I'll be honest with you and say that I've never had those experiences. I've had two babies, my family has moved multiple times, but we've never experienced the love and peace that come when a meal is delivered to the door in time of crisis. Don't get me wrong — I don't fault anyone for the oversight. I think it's because, in many situations, we just haven't been taught how to be the body of Christ to our community.
So many of us are super busy these days. Between work, school, extracurricular activities, sports, youth group, book club, and the list goes on, even Christians are losing a very important commodity: time to serve each other. I'm not saying that all of these activities are inherently wrong, but they pull us in so many opposing directions that we don't even have time to serve our own families, let alone somebody else's.
This post won't give you the ability to solve the world's busy-ness problem. But perhaps addressing the problem is the first step toward fixing it. Believers all over the world know they are over-committed and need to back to the basics of family, friends, and fellowship.
During those days, the entire community of believers was deeply united in heart and soul to such an extent that they stopped claiming private ownership of their possessions. Instead, they held everything in common. The apostles with great power gave their eyewitness reports of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Everyone was surrounded by an extraordinary grace. Not a single person in the community was in need because those who had been affluent sold their houses or lands and brought the proceeds to the emissaries of the Lord. They then distributed the funds to individuals according to their needs. (Acts 4:32-35)
I love this passage of Scripture because it captures the essence of what the Christian community should be: unselfish, united, graceful, generous. I propose that we can attain this standard through a common medium. What is this medium? Food.
Food Is Ministry
We've all got at least one thing in common — we all need to eat. When someone we know is experiencing a difficult time, whether it is illness, birth, death, or relocation, we can meet their needs with the one thing we all must have. Food!
Delivering a ready-to-eat meal on someone's doorstep during a difficult time shows unselfishness, unity, grace, and generosity. You took time out of your busy schedule to lovingly prepare a meal, take it to their home, and share in their sufferings. Isn't that what believers in Jesus are called to do anyway? In the words of Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Not everyone is called to make meals and deliver them to families in need. This is where God, in His wisdom, created each of us with different talents and passions. My husband and I have watched many people attempt to work outside of their abilities, and the result? They burn out, end up feeling like a failure, and are hesitant to try again.
So, how do you know if serving in the food ministry is what you're called to do? First, you'll feel a burden or strong conviction that serving others through food is what you need to be doing. Second, you'll be passionate about it already. If you love trying new recipes, cooking for your own family, cooking in bulk and freezing, or concocting things in your kitchen, then you are passionate about food! You also tend to have a strong bent towards sharing your passion with others in a variety of ways: talking about food, inviting people into your home for a meal, sharing your recipes, blogging about food, or ministering to your church family through food.
There isn't a soul on this planet with whom I won't talk food! I absolutely love cooking for others, having people over for dinner, blogging about food, and sharing my recipes. But if you're not the same, that's okay, too.
Hindrances to This Ministry
In my experience, several things prevent people who are passionate about food from sharing their gifts with others in need. While busy-ness may the obvious hindrance, it isn't the only reason. Let's be totally transparent with ourselves and address why exactly we may neglect the body of Christ in this area.
Fear. No matter what we do to help someone, there's always a nagging little fear lurking in the back of our minds that says our gift won't be accepted. Questions like “They have dietary needs. What if I don't make the right thing?” can paralyze us into doing nothing at all.
Inadequacy. Many people have a heartfelt desire to help out, but they feel that they don't have gourmet cooking skills or that their food won't be enjoyed by the recipients.
Guilt. This may seem a little out there, but stay with me. There are people in churches all over who have sat in the back as spectators for so long that they are crippled by their guilt. They end up so trapped by it that they never step out on a limb and get involved in the ministry of serving others.
Oblivion. There are truly people who are simply oblivious to the needs of others. They are so focused on their own tasks, lives, and jobs that they just don't see the needs of others around them.
Forgetfulness. I have been guilty of this myself. I'll know someone getting out of the hospital or recovering from an illness, but I get so caught up in my own schedule that I honestly forget about them.
Money. Let's be honest here. Sometimes money is a bit tight as it is, feeding our own families, so it's hard to even think about budgeting in a few meals for someone else. Our hearts are in the right place, but our bank accounts are running on fumes. Trust me, I understand.
Now that these lies are exposed, let's talk the truth. First, I think the enemy wants to persuade us that anything we offer to someone in need will be rejected. Whether it's food or a birthday gift, he creeps into our thoughts and presents a convincing case of our inadequacy. That's a lie! Whatever your gift or passion, you'll be most fulfilled when you use it to serve others. That's just the way God created us. Every member of the body of Christ is absolutely vital because every member has a different function (1 Corinthians 12-14). Our gifts and passions were given to us for the good of all — they shouldn't be kept to ourselves.
Second, don't let yesterday's guilt stop you from obeying God today. Just because you may have fallen short in the past doesn't mean you can never serve the body of Christ again. God's mercies are new every morning, and there's nothing, not even your own guilt, that can separate you from His love.
Third, ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of the needs of others. Contact your church, join a Bible study, put reminders in your calendar or phone so that you remember the needs of others. Even if they only need prayer, you can help out. My husband and I can tell you that churches are so very willing to share the needs of the congregation with the church body itself. Too often, the burden of caring for the masses falls on the shoulders of the church staff. This is one way you can serve your staff and your local body!
Finally, if money is your hindrance, I think I can help. There are many families who cannot afford to feed the mouths at their own table, so even thinking about feeding someone else is ludicrous. I hate that there are situations like that, but I understand. If this is you, no one is asking you to go into debt or put your family's needs in jeopardy. God knows your heart, and if all you can do is pray for a person or family, you are absolutely doing enough. I love the old saying, “Prayer is not the least, but the most you can do for a person.”
Practical Reasons YOU Should Start a Food Ministry
1. You're already on a website called GNOWFGLINS, so chances are, you're at least slightly familiar with healthy eating. Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others? What better way than a home-cooked, nutrient-dense meal?
2. If you're familiar with special diets and food allergies, you are the perfect candidate to cook food for others. People without knowledge of dietary restrictions may not be super graceful when a restrictions is brought their way, but you, on the other hand, may welcome the challenge of broadening your allergy-free cooking skills by serving others. After all, someone who delivers a batch of peanut butter cookies sure had their heart in the right place, but it stinks when the recipients can't eat those yummy cookies because of a severe peanut allergy. Allergies are more common than ever, so ministering to people through food involves taking their special diet or allergies into consideration and accommodating them to the best of your ability.
3. Have you been blessed in the past when someone brought food to your door? It's a wonderful time to repay the favor — start or join a food ministry!
4. Say you want to be more involved in your church body, but you don't know where to start. Singing in the praise team, teaching a Sunday school class, or greeting folks at the door isn't your thing, but maybe cooking is. You can meet needs from the comfort of your own kitchen!
Putting It All Together
We've talked about overcoming the hindrances of ministering through food, why we need to serve each other, and that God wants us to use our gifts and abilities to bless others.
In Part 2 (next month) we're going to discuss how to make this all happen. Over the past year, I have begun a successful meal ministry in our church body, and I am going to share how I did it. Maybe I can inspire you along the way to revive a forgotten meal ministry in your church, or to join an existing one. It's actually easier than you think!
Have you ever experienced the joy of a home-cooked meal, delivered right to your door, when you needed it most? How did that make you feel? Are you interested in using your passion for food to meet the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Let's encourage one another!
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