Friday, November 18, 2016

Progressive Favor

When it comes to getting together over a meal, most people don’t find this to be a problem.

I can recall though on a few occasions when I found some of these visits to be embarrassing, humorous, not so pleasant and “nope, we won’t do that again” events. 

As we prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in America I’d like to share something that many churches or Christian organizations do throughout the East Coast.  They call these gatherings … progressive dinners! 

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Not Your Pot Luck Meal 

Having dinners is a regular event in most churches throughout the world.  They are called all sorts of things for such gatherings, but mostly from what I’ve learned they’re identified as “pot luck dinners.”  I really don’t know what is involved in these dinners, as I’ve never been to one even though I’ve been to tons of church dinners.  The term isn’t used as much in the upper east coast states. 

The procedure is rather simple to get things started, and the burden for the meal is spread out over the entire congregation or organization.  There is a sign-up sheet in the building where people write down their name, the number of people in their party attending and the food item they will be bringing to share.

Other names for these homemade delights are referred to as a spread, Jacob’s supper, faith supper, covered dish, bring and share, fuddle, carry out, take-away and of course pot luck.   

Usually the amount of food to bring should equal the size of a meal you would make for your own family.  Since our family was large, the items we brought to share would be big enough to feed a troop. 

Things to bring might be a casserole of sorts, vegetables cooked and/or raw, fruit salads, bread/rolls, condiments, butter, beverages, desserts, meats … you get the gist of it.  Anything that you’d make for your family so to speak is what people bring.   

Paper products, dishes or serving utensils are provided by the organization holding the event.  Cleanup crews are assigned with everyone getting involved. 

How They Started 

Now that I’ve said all that, it’s not what I want to talk about today …but, I thought it would be good to have a base point so you could relate to the real subject.  

My husband and I were talking about some of the past dinners we’d attended when things just didn’t go as planned.  I remember some quite vividly.

Everyone was excited for this particular event to take place, because it was their first “progressive” dinner.  My sister introduced the idea to the church where she was currently attending. She was used to them from the place of worship we went to with my parents. 

Well, before I go on I suppose I should explain what a progressive dinner is. 

Planning the Progressive Dinner 

Actually anyone can have a progressive dinner and to be honest, they should – often!  Here’s how it works. 

There are three courses planned for the event.  The appetizer is a salad or soup course, but not both. Preferably they aren’t so large that you are too full to eat the rest of the meal. 

The second course is the main meal which includes a meat of sorts, and the third course is the scrumptious dessert served with a hot beverage. 

Not so impressive is it, but here is the key.  It’s called a progressive dinner, because all three courses take place at a different location.  The guests “progress” from one food item to another over the time period of 3-4 hours.  

What makes it so much fun?  Each course takes place at someone’s house, not at the church or organization building.  This way people get to know more about one another and it forces us to clean our houses! 
Hmmm. No, we didn't do this!
Rules apply as they would anytime you go to someone’s house for a visit (don’t snoop in the bathroom cabinets!). 
Before one of these dinners a friend of mine told me that her husband couldn’t resist looking into people’s drawers or cabinets when he was in the bathroom.  I didn’t take her seriously, but she insisted he would.   

The night of the event he excused himself from the table and proceeded to the bathroom.  It wasn’t long before we heard a crashing sound … yep, he opened the medicine cabinet!   

What was that sound?  To deter our snoop we placed loads of marbles inside the cabinets and positioned them to pour out when the door was opened or jarred in any way.  He returned to the table with a smile on his face realizing he’d been caught.  Such fun!  

Leave it to the Pastor 

As I was saying, it was the first “progressive” dinner my sister’s church had ever planned.  They did things a little different by combining the methods of dinners, but it worked out great for that congregation. 

Sometimes the main meal or meat is provided by the church (by the women’s groups or special funding for such events), and that’s what her pastor did.  He and his sister were in charge of preparing, cooking and serving the meat for everyone.  A big undertaking indeed. 

One of the elders of the church took on the function of the appetizer menu. It was delicious … cream of broccoli soup.  I can’t remember ever having a better soup in my life.  Everyone raved about it as they returned to the pots on the stove for more and more.  If I had to eat one more thing I couldn’t have because I stuffed myself with her now famous soup. 

As we dined she gave those who were interested a tour of her lovely decorated home.  I was in my glory and enjoyed every moment of my visit. Before the majority of us left we all had her recipe (which no one could duplicate … we tried!). 

Since the Pastor lived next door to the church he had his course set up in the dining hall.  People had arrived in stages, but it was time to serve the guests. 

He walked back to the parsonage to get the meal, but his hands were somewhat empty when he arrived back at the church.  Instead of bringing back any meat, he and his sister returned with pots of green beans and potatoes – no meat. 

“What happened to the meat pastor?” 

“We put the new oven on automatic, but forgot to set the timer!” 

It didn’t matter … he had lots of food for Sunday’s dinner the next day!  There were plenty of other things to eat and besides, the third course – dessert was still to come!

It’s Not Meatloaf 

In a church where I spent the first twenty-five years of life attending, we had progressive dinners every quarter.  Being reserved for the adults I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to participate in them. 

There was one time that the lot of us who joined in on the progressive dinner, were seated at the dining table eating our fabulously prepared main course.  This couple went overboard and the table was as stuffed as the people. 

While eating the lady next to me quietly asked (hold on ... punctuation is our friend … ) While eating, the lady next to me quietly asked, “Would someone please pass me the meatloaf?”  One by one the people began to snicker, with the pastor’s wife letting out a belly laugh. 

The gracious host informed our church member that she didn’t make any meatloaf and that the food she requested was pumpkin bread!  Maybe they’ll have that at the third course Sally. 

There was another time when … I’d better not share that one; you might be getting ready to eat.  I can tell you this … please be sure the pets aren’t on the invitation guest list!  (Hint: maybe this will give you a clue.) 

We Gather Together 

People of like faith today are no different than those who walked with Jesus.  Our Lord spent many a meal in the homes of His beloved followers, breaking bread, praying and giving thanks to the Almighty God. Literally He progressed from house to house throughout the day, each ministering to the Master in some way or another. 

The Lord enjoyed fellowship with His disciples for what we call “The Last Supper.”  People think it was a somber time, and fail to remember that it ended with singing.  (Matthew 26:30) Jesus liked sharing stories, information and pearls of wisdom with His “friends” as He would put it. 

When the Apostles were in the upper room with the other followers of Christ (see the book of Acts) they remained in fellowship until the Holy Spirit came to fill them with power.  Besides prayer, good conversation and rejoicing, they ate almost every meal together.  That must have been some kind of gathering don’t you think? 

Progressive Favor 

Why is it so important that believer’s fellowship outside the church setting?  The Bible tells us that it is possible to grow in favor with God and man.  Take a look at what happened when a bunch of believer’s got together for a few meals and prayer. 

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:40-47 NKJV) 

When people of God get together in the name of the Lord, favor happens among them.  Every time we visited our family of faith in their own environment we learned a great deal about one another.  People received progressive favor, because we began sharing the good things that God had given us with one another.  This didn’t happen once in a while, but Daily Favor started to happen among the groups. 

We learned about their occupations, hobbies, interests and in turn friends found out that their brother or sister in Christ has something they needed and vice versa.  I can recall men showing off their garages, workshops or vehicles.  Many gained employment because they never knew their fellow worshipper needed a job or was even in a certain line of work. 
People grow closer to one another and open up their hearts when they are on their own turf.  Newlyweds or new couples to the area would go to this type of function rather than go to a church service. 

By the time we were at the third home for that evening, they no longer felt like “newbies” and would show up for the worship services on their own accord.  They felt welcome and part of something – a family, God’s loving family who delighted in doing good for one another. 

What we can gain from this is that progressive dinners and progressive favor have been taking place among believers since Jesus dined with Abraham!  What’s taken us so long to get this concept? 

This Week’s Challenge:
Faith, Fellowship, Food:
Instituting Progressive Dining 

Visiting with friends over a cup of tea or coffee is one of my favorite things to do.  I’d like doing the dinner thing having separate families over, but don’t have time to make the rounds. 
Getting involved in progressive dinners allows all of us to visit, and it takes the pressure off knowing that we don’t have to “do it all.” 

For example, if the Watson’s, Langley's and Riley’s held the dinner one month, they weren’t on the list for preparing meals for the rest of the year.  Idyllically we could dine out for free at twelve homes (3 homes, 4 seasons). 

Our challenge this week involves 3’s – 3 sets of friends, 3 courses, 3 homes. More can be involved on a larger scale, but most people don’t have that kind of room in their homes.  Don't forget to include friends that are alone, single or widowed to join in on the event.

Actually this challenge will be extended over several weeks so it can revolve around the fall and winter holidays; I wanted to give you a head start by opening it up the week before Thanksgiving. 

First present this concept to at least three friends (families) that aren’t related to you.  It’s too easy to let sister do one thing, Mom the main meal and let good auntie make the luscious dessert.  No, this time we’ll have to trust someone else’s cooking (of course without saying, lots of prayer goes with this one).  A group of 8-12 people is pretty good and not overwhelming for those who are preparing the menu. 

Seven Steps for a Great Progressive Dinner 

Step 1: Decide the day and time frame keeping it to one hour per house.  Select a day when those involved don’t have another engagement so all can enjoy the function without any outside pressure.

Be prepared and don’t make people wait to eat or it will cause the next step to be behind, etc.  Time frames may be something like this: Luncheon: 12-3 p.m. or Dinner: 5-8 p.m.  You decide which works best for the group. 

Step 2: Select who will make each course.  It’s not a “pot luck” or covered dish dinner.  The person in charge of the course makes their food for the guests.  Just a side note, inquire about any allergies or special dietary needs beforehand. 

Remember it’s not a barbecue, but a sit down event.  All food must be pre-prepared so there is no waiting when guests arrive.  Also, remember that you aren’t the MAIN EVENT.  There are three households doing all the work, so just enjoy it!   

3 Courses: Appetizer ~ Main Meal ~ Dessert ~ Bon Appetit 

Step 3: Have take-away containers for your guests, especially if there is a lot of food remaining.  Be generous and don’t hoard the food thinking you’ll have the leftovers for your family the next day.  This event is about sharing and giving of yourself as a disciple of Jesus. 

Step 4:  Reserve clean-up for later.  All couples/individuals should attend each course and not keep people waiting for you to finish the dishes. It’s important that your guests spend time with you, after all that’s why you held this dinner anyway.   

Step 5: Honor your guests with your very best so that it glorifies the Lord, but do not brag about “all you did” for them.  Let them praise you!
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV)

Step 6: If you have pets, please restrict them to another area so that they do not become the “activity” of your dinner.  People may say that they don’t mind, but they do when it comes to eating without any hair on their plates.  Believe me, it will become gossip among the people if you don’t follow this “no pet” rule. 

Step 7: Be respectful of your hosts and thank them for their kindness.  Politeness counts even more among friends.  Remember your purpose is to have godly fellowship, not argue, talk politics or anything else that will cause others to feel uncomfortable.  
Pray over the dinner as it is being organized by the families. On the day of the event, pray before each course you eat.  Include a blessing over each household and that they would increase in God's favor.
Make progressive dinners a part of your “new” resolutions, beginning with this season.  Let God work through you, by sharing what He has so graciously allowed into your life.  Fellow Disciples of Christ, believe that His grace, mercy (unmerited favor) will surely follow you wherever you go, and be upon all that you do for Him. 

“Surely goodness and mercy (favor) shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
(Psalm 23:6 NKJV) 

As you go about planning events over the holidays, may God grant progressive favor when you “Gather Together” for faith, fellowship and food in His name. 

If this article has encouraged or helped you, please consider sharing it by using the social media icons provided at the end of this post. 

Until next time, may you always progress in God’s favor! 

“Fellowship with Me and My favor will progress.”
Jesus Christ 

*Unless noted, the names in articles are changed to protect the individual(s) privacy. 

Note: Emphasis is given in some scriptures to show clarity or understanding and is not to take away from the inspirited Word of God. 

When used, the words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives. 

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