A Theology of Food and Drink (with Colin Baron)

Colin Baron is a church planting Yoda who has been involved in starting many new churches in Manchester, elsewhere in England and in many other nations. Colin currently leads Christ Church Manchester, which is part of the Catalyst Network of churches in Newfrontiers and he is the founder of the Broadcast Network. In this hangout, Colin shares with us a theology of food, drink, and hospitality.


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Hospitality Is Important

  • Over the last 25 years of church planting, Colin has observed that food is key.
  • He recently heard a leader complain that people only attend events with food - but these tend to be the best events!
  • Alpha has food as a key ingredient. We often make good food a part of the early stages of coming to Christ, but once they are saved revert to the 'normal church' vibe of biscuits and lukewarm coffee. 
  • One of the Biblical qualifications for an elder is that they are hospitable.
  • In Hebrews 13:2, we are told that when we entertain strangers we may be entertaining angels.

Hospitality Is Eschatological

  • Isaiah 25:6 describes the coming day of the Lord in terms of a banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meats.
  • Revelation 19:9 speaks of the wedding supper of the lamb.
  • The Bible often refers to Mediterranean foods because it was written into this context. How would it differ if it was written into another culture?
  • When we are around a table eating together, this is part of what it means for the kingdom of God to come to earth.
  • The early church ate together and broke bread.
  • Breaking bread is about looking back to Jesus' death, but also looking forward to when he returns and we will eat with him.
“Most writers now agree that Jesus eating with sinners was one of the most characteristic and striking marks of Jesus' regular activity. Jesus was celebrating the Messianic banquet and doing it with all the wrong people.” (N.T. Wright)

Hospitality is Honouring

  • The more Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, the more agitated the Pharisees became.
  • Jesus did this a lot because he ended up being branded a drunkard and a glutton (see Luke 7:34).
  • In Jesus' culture (and many modern eastern cultures), eating with somebody conferred dignity and brotherhood on them. 
  • This is why one of the first things that Jesus said to Zaccheus was that he wanted to come to his house for a meal - and he described him as a true Son of Abraham.
“To understand what Jesus was doing in eating with sinners, it is important to realise that in the east (even today), to invite a person for a meal was an honour. It was to offer peace, trust, brotherhood and forgiveness. In short, sharing a table meant sharing life. Jesus' meals with publicans and sinners was an expression of the mission and message of himself.” (Jeremias)

Some Instructions

  • Jesus instructed the twelve and the seventy to find a person of peace, to stay in their house and to eat and drink whatever they give you. In our culture, there are big supermarkets that cater for every taste going, but Jesus is telling us this to infer dignity and peace onto that person.
  • Offer hospitality without grumbling. This isn't easy when we are short of money of when life is hectic.
  • Care for your guests (see Luke 7:44).
  • Look after the poor. In Corinth, the rich people pushed their way to the front of the queue. Sometimes, our homes or the way we do things prove to be inaccessible to the poor.
  • Be gracious (see Romans 14:1-4). Though we should eat everything put before us, we should also be gracious with people who cannot do so for whatever reason.

Q&A

1. What are some of the things that we can do that make our hospitality inaccessible to the poor?
  • Sitting around a table at 7pm for 2 hours may not be easily accessible.
  • For some cultures, coming into your home is a big deal. It may be better to go to their home as this means they can stay in their comfort zone, or use a neutral venue (but you are not trying to insulate your house from different types of people).
  • The choice of food is another factor.
  • Try to understand where people are at and what they feel when they are with you - try asking them what are some of the hindrances that you put up without even realising it.
2. Is it possible to invite people for food too early in the relationship?
  • There isn't a definitive answer to this one.
  • It is good to do hospitality early. 
  • We could ask somebody and then have them say no. If this happens, we have hit a barrier before we have got anywhere. 
  • Try to have food around in other natural and neutral settings.
  • Inviting yourself around to other people's homes does help. Part of the gospel is about going.
3. What thoughts do you have about eating or serving Halal food as part of hospitality?
  • It is a conscience issue.
  • It is not a big deal.
  • If somebody has particular religious beliefs about it, they may be nervous about you preparing food for them - you need to honour that.
  • When other people prepare the food and give it to you, take it and eat it.
  • You are looking to build bridges through hospitality.
  • If someone wanted Colin to cook halal food and trusted him to do it, then he would do it.
4. Do we need to have big groups of people round, or is it okay to do smaller scale hospitality?
  • This is a question that Colin and Mary needed to work through after they got married as they had come from very different backgrounds in this respect. 
  • When hospitality becomes competetive, it can be paralysing.
  • You have to do it according to how God has made you.
  • It also depends somewhat on the size of your house/flat.
  • The big idea is caring for people, and being hospitable is imperative.
  • We can't use the way we are wired as a cop-out. God does change you and give you more capacity.
  • You go in seasons with it.
5. When you have lots of unhealthy food at church meetings, some parents are not happy. What practical advice do you have?
  • Be careful with it so that you can help people.
  • It is possible that this could become an excuse for not having good food.
  • Good food doesn't mean always having stodgy donuts. You can also have fruit. 
  • Consider having gluten free foods too.
  • There is a challenge here, but we are here to serve people so put on a good spread. 

Recommended Resources

To go deeper into this topic, we recommend the following book:

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