Bagels in the Sanctuary: Should Food Be a Part of Worship?

  • Michelle Lazurek Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Bagels in the Sanctuary: Should Food Be a Part of Worship?

During our years of church planting, we tried to change people’s perceptions about what the Sunday worship would look like. We took out pews and replaced them with pub tables and chairs, added lights and a stage and most importantly, added a breakfast bar where people could grab bagels and other breakfast foods and coffee during the service.

Although not everyone loved these changes, we had some specific reasons as to why we added eating to the fellowship experience. Here are some reasons why sharing food can be a part of our worship: 

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1. It brings us closer to each other.

1. It brings us closer to each other.

Growing up, we ate together every night as a family. It was at that table where we had our best conversations, sharing about our days and expanding into deeper conversations.

When we eat, we let our guard down. We are more vulnerable. By eating together, we say to each other, “I am like you. I am not perfect. And I am willing to take off my mask in order to be the real me.“Sharing a table with others levels the playing field. Today, we live in a polarized world: Democrat or Republican, educated or non-educated, upper class or lower class.

But when we eat together, the people to our right and left are made our equals. No longer are we divided by class or occupation. The basic need for food bonds us in a special way. 

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2. It brings us closer to God.

2. It brings us closer to God.

Jesus spent a lot of His time eating and drinking with “sinners and tax collectors.” In the same way, He chose to become equal with His brothers and sisters when He emptied Himself of His deity and experienced everything—including hunger. This meant He had to rely on others for His basic needs.

When we eat with other people, it is like we are transporting ourselves into the Bible—eating and drinking with Jesus.

In the last moments of His life, Jesus chose to share a meal with the people whom He first called disciples, but by the end of His ministry, He called brothers. If Jesus chose to spend the final hours before his arrest eating and drinking with His disciples, then why shouldn’t we share food during worship?

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3. It increases a church’s level of hospitality.

3. It increases a church’s level of hospitality.

Hospitality is welcoming and taking care of others, whether believers or unbelievers. This includes meeting physical needs so people can do the work of the Kingdom. When the church offers a variety of foods during service, it communicates the message that the church wants to share every part of itself—including food—with everyone who attends. 

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4. It creates opportunities for people to use their gifts for God.

4. It creates opportunities for people to use their gifts for God.

Every church has at least one great cook who can’t wait to use their skills to edify (physically) the body of Christ. As someone who grew up in Catholic church, I remember nothing beat heading downstairs to the fellowship hall to feast on a home-cooked meal made by one of the church’s volunteers. And in the Protestant churches I have attended, potlucks are the benchmark of a great church. Congregants can’t wait to feast together and thank God for the bounty He has provided through gifted volunteers. 

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5. It increases fellowship.

5. It increases fellowship.

So often we leave church on our way to our kids’ sports activities, or other obligations. We settle for a quick wave or hug as we head out the door but don’t truly fellowship with our church family. When we eat together, however, we have to slow down.

Sharing food at our church encourages us to carve out time to stay later so we can eat with our friends and try different creations made by our beloved church family. We sit next to each other and break bread together as a way to express our love for each other. 

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6. It teaches us about other’s cultural backgrounds.

6. It teaches us about other’s cultural backgrounds.

At one church, our missions conference had a dinner where the members could meet the missionary who was coming to speak. We had different volunteers learn about where the missionary lived and make popular dishes from that county. Not only did we meet a missionary, but we got a first-hand experience of the dishes unique to that culture.

By eating together, we learn about others’ backgrounds and heritages. We discover things about others we may not know unless we enjoy a meal with them. Food enriches our lives as it broadens our experiences and helps us to learn about each other in a more intimate way. 

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7. It feeds us physically, so we can be fed spiritually.

7. It feeds us physically, so we can be fed spiritually.

How many times have you left your home late for church? Do you often get to church frazzled, weary from rushing, only to sit in a pew and struggle to listen to the pastor’s sermon? Eating during worship will allow you more time to get to church because breakfast is covered! Once our bellies are full, we can worship God free from distraction.

Furthermore, in this technologic, image-driven world, our attention spans are shorter than ever. Not only does food fill our bellies, but it also helps us regain our mental focus. Like writing notes during a sermon, the act of chewing is a way to focus our bodies so our minds are free to focus on what is being preached or sung. 

Eating during worship is a controversial topic. Some feel it is irreverent and doesn’t give God our best. But consider what would happen if we do eat together during worship—feeding our bodies physically and enjoying the worship experience while allowing us to focus enough to fill our minds spiritually so we can do God’s work of the kingdom here on earth. 

Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre, award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. She is a regular contributor for ibelieve.com and crosswalk.com and is a movie reviewer for Movieguide Magazine. She also is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia and spending time with her family and her crazy dog, Cookie. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.com.

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