Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?
The Crucial Role of Biblical Preaching
I am not sure how my mother pulled it off, but she made Sunday dinner a special occasion. I have fond memories of the smells, tastes, and family atmosphere of the midday meal after Sunday morning worship. Often we shared roast beef, potatoes, garden-fresh vegetables, and homemade pie. It was a highlight of the week for our entire family, and the food was so plentiful that Sunday was the one day “lunch” was called “dinner.”
In this day of two-income households, few families even eat together, let alone share a leisurely, home-cooked dinner after attending church as a family. The Sunday meal is more likely pizza ordered by cell phone from the church parking lot or fast food grabbed on the way to the kids’ afternoon soccer games. Adequate family time and balanced nutrition face many challenges in our stress-packed society.
Another, and more significant, Sunday dinner also has fallen on hard times: the feeding of the Word of God to the flock of God by shepherds of God. Many sheep are malnourished and become easy prey for wolves in a post-Christian and increasingly anti-Christian culture.
Today the flock often lives on a diet of junk food, rather than on well-planned, nourishing banquets that include the meat of the Word. Why this sorry state? Here are some of the many reasons:
- Many people have come to devalue God’s Word as less than inerrant, less than authoritative, and less than relevant.
- Experimentation with how to “do church” stresses exciting methodologies but places less emphasis on preaching or leaves little time for Bible teaching.
- Expository preaching has fallen on hard times. It is considered out of date for a postmodern culture that shuns propositionalism (presenting and defending theological truths through propositions that can be proven true) and absolutism (the view that certain things are right or wrong).
- The busyness and low commitment level of society militate against believers becoming consistently involved in or seriously focused on the local church.
A pastor cannot control the popular philosophies of ministry, let alone the influence of secular culture. As pastors, we need to make a fresh commitment to “prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4) and do whatever it takes to feed Christ’s flock under our care. Unless a pastor makes such a commitment and has a ruthless, systematic plan for studying and preaching, his good intentions will likely fall victim to the intense demands of pastoral life or his own distractions.
Andrew Telford (1895–1997), an effective expository preacher even in his 90s, wrote, “The achievements of the Christian church are the achievements of the pulpit. With preaching, Christianity either rises or falls.”1
The biblical foundation for such a claim is explained in 2 Timothy 3:16—4:4. Because Scripture is God-breathed, it is profitable and fully equips the man or woman of God for every good work.
God inspired the Bible with a purpose: to be the tool for the man of God to equip the flock in Christlike living. Wrote Warren Wiersbe, “The Word is profitable for doctrine—that’s what is right; for reproof—that’s what is not right; for correction—that’s how to get right; and for instruction in righteousness—that’s how to stay right.”2
Based on what Scripture is (God-breathed) and what it does (completely equips God’s people), pastors receive one of the most solemn charges in Scripture:
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (4:2–4).
The word for “preach” (Greek, keruxon) is the term for what a town crier would do: “herald, proclaim, announce.” He came from the king’s court with an authoritative proclamation that he was obligated to make known verbally with absolute clarity and accuracy.
Pastor John Piper said this description of a shepherd’s job stresses both understanding and feeling—both seeing and savoring the message:
It is not disinterested or cool or neutral. It is not mere explanation….Preaching is expository exultation….It is uniquely suited to feed both understanding and feeling….God has ordained that the Word of God come in a form that teaches the mind and reaches the heart.3
That is why the King of the universe sends a man of God as a preacher and does not send merely a written text or a movie.
Wiersbe defined preaching as “the communication of God’s truth by God’s servant to meet the needs of God’s people” and quoted Phillips Brooks, who described preaching as “the bringing of truth through personality.”4
Preaching uniquely channels God’s inspired truth through a man who is passionate about God. Wrote Piper, “People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure….The vision of a great God is the linchpin in the life of the church.”5 Biblical preaching is meant to provide that vision.
Sunday dinner needs to be restored to prominence in the life of the local church. The apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders, “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28, KJV).
Looking across a charcoal fire on the seashore at His disciple Peter, who professed to love Him, Jesus challenged, “Feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:16, KJV). His command reverberates through the corridors of history to our own day, and all shepherds who profess to love Him should do no less.
- Andrew Telford, Pearls for Practical Preaching: A Study Course in Homiletics (Richmond, VA: Cussons, May and Co., 1970),
- Warren Wiersbe and David Wiersbe, The Elements of Preaching (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1986), 66–67.
- John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2004), 10–11.
- Wiersbe and Wiersbe, 17, 19.
- Piper, 13–15.