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Restore the Table | Ryan Rush

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
June 22, 2024 1:00 am

Restore the Table | Ryan Rush

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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June 22, 2024 1:00 am

When’s the last time you gathered around the dinner table with those you love without distraction? Remember your last meaningful mealtime conversation? On the next Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, Pastor Ryan Rush will talk about the importance of these moments to help deepen relationships and give a greater quality of life. How do we restore the table? Find out on the next Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: Restore the Table: Discovering the Powerful Connections of Meaningful Mealtime

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When we see this picture of a loving home in the Old Testament, and it talks about this man who fears the Lord, walks in his ways, and is blessed, it says, and I don't think it's an accident, your children will be as olive shoots around the table. And so we have this beautiful picture of faith transference that's happening in one particular location that's like no other, and it happens around the meal. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Our guest today believes you can change the world from your kitchen table. Pastor and author, Dr. Ryan Rush, will encourage you to have meals together as a family. Hear why he believes this is so important straight ahead on Moody Radio. This is going to be a positive, helpful conversation about something tangible you can do to foster real transformation in your family. There's so much we have no control over in our society today, but here's one simple thing you can do. If you go to buildingrelationships.us, you'll find our featured resource, the book Restore the Table.

Again, go to buildingrelationships.us. Gary, I want to hear from you about the importance of family meal times. Did you experience this as a child, and then when you and Carolyn had children and they were still at home?

You know, yes, Chris. I grew up, I would not have thought about it. It was just what we did in the home I grew up in. It was just my sister and I, and mom and dad, but we had a meal together every night, and around the table we talked. Now, when our kids came along, we, this was really huge. In fact, our adult kids look back and say that one of the most meaningful things that they remember about our family was the meal times in which we sat around the table and talked, because we would not only, you know, talk while we're eating, but after we finished eating, we would just sit there and have conversations. In fact, my son would bring us folks home from college, you know, friends home from college, and of course they would just become a part of our family for that meal and all. They would say to him later, does your family do that every night?

I mean, we'll never have to sit around that long after we eat. So yeah, I'm excited about our program today because I think this is a huge issue and has a lot of potential for changing relationships. Well, there is life here, and from what you just said, I can't wait to hear what Dr. Ryan Rush has to say about that. He serves as pastor of Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, outside of Houston. For more than 20 years, he's been on a mission to connect church and home life. He teaches doctoral students in the marriage and family program at Dallas Theological Seminary, and his latest book is our featured resource at buildingrelationships.us. It's titled Restore the Table.

Just remember those three words, restore the table. The subtitle is Discovering the Powerful Connections of Meaningful Meal Times. Again, go to buildingrelationships.us. Well, Dr. Rush, welcome to Building Relationships. Gary, what an honor to be with you and Chris today and to talk about one of my favorite subjects. Well, tell me the story behind your interest in meaningful meal times.

Where does it come from? Yeah, Gary, when you introed here, my heart just leapt because you said something that I hear all the time, and that is that this used to be a regular part of our family life, and we really didn't think about it being that important. So a lot of people don't even realize that we've lost it. And so when I became the pastor of Kingsland, just outside of Houston, 10 years ago, I wanted some way, some tangible way, to really encourage our families to take their faith home and for parents to really grab hold of that identity as the primary faith trainers. And so we created this campaign we called Restore the Table at the time. And I'll be honest with you, the idea was not that it was going to have this transformational change in the home. I just thought it might be something that would be an easy win for every family that would at least be a first step toward moms and dads kind of reclaiming the home as a place of discipleship. What happened was that it had a far greater impact than I ever even imagined because we didn't realize how much we lost when we didn't do that.

So families said, okay, we'll take the 40-day challenge of five meaningful meal times a week with the ones we love. And they started to have conversations for the first time. They had forgotten how long it had been since the television had been off when they were eating together as a family or the phones were set aside. Kids started sharing things with their parents that they had not shared just because they hadn't had the avenue to share. And so parents started to realize there were some things to work on.

And the ripple effects just went on and on. Well, that's exciting, you know. I hope some pastors who are listening adopt that idea in their church and just encourage people to have five nights a week in which they have a meal together and talk while they eat. So now you had an experience in Africa also that impacted you. Right. So the funny thing about restoring the table, and once you capture that moment with your family, is we found that it's also an incredible opportunity to invite others to the table along the way.

And so once you have these meaningful meal times, when you bring somebody to the table, the barriers tend to come down. So I, a couple of years ago, had the opportunity to travel to Somaliland in Africa. It's a country most people haven't heard of because you're familiar with Somalia, the place where Black Hawk Down was filmed, or the actual story took place, or I think Captain Phillips happened there. So that's what we think of when we think of Somalia. Somaliland is an offshoot of Somalia. They declared their independence and had a civil war to earn it in the 90s. Sort of a forgotten nation because the United Nations has refused to acknowledge their sovereignty.

I think they're afraid that if they acknowledge it, then other countries can just decide they want to be independent as well, and it could become a problem. Regardless, these are wonderful people, but they're almost 100% Muslim. They have very little in common with me, a Christian pastor, but they have very few schools. They have real difficult times economically, and so we, through a missions partner, had an opportunity to get into the nation and had the common ground, the common value of education. So we built a school in memory of some dear friends of my wife and I, and so we went in, and as you can imagine, we went in to dedicate the school.

They were appreciative of the school, but they were very standoffish. They were trying to figure out how they could relate to us. We made no mystery of the fact that we were followers of Jesus Christ and came out of the love of God and love of Christ, but also wanted to respect them.

So we went and dedicated the school. Everybody was just sort of to themselves, and then we went to this meal at the kind of civic center in the middle of this town in Somaliland and sat down with maybe 18 of us. So the couple who'd lost their son, who were dear friends of mine, our missions pastor, some other people who had come alongside us to be a part of it, and then a bunch of officials like governors, the head of education for the country of Somaliland, people like that sitting at this table, very formal. And we had all these dishes on the table, most of which I could not identify. And you know, sometimes if you've been there, you don't really want to identify those dishes.

You just want to—it's like the old saying, it's my job to to get it down, it's God's job to keep it down, kind of that kind of thing. So we begin to eat, and as we're eating, I look over at the guy next to me, and you know, natural questions start to be asked. Tell me about your family.

How did you get involved in education? You know, where have you traveled? Things like that. Before long, pictures of families come out, and I look around this table, and the walls have just come down. And all of a sudden, we've become friends, and it's the most amazing thing. And I'm telling you, Gary, I don't think it would have happened apart from that meal. My wife just got back from Somaliland a month ago, and we dedicated the second school.

This time is really close to home because it's the first school for special needs children in the entire country, and it was named for our daughter Lily, and so a real special time. But I don't think it could have happened had those friendships not been forged around the table of whatever we ate that day, and it was just a huge blessing. And I find that to be true in almost every scenario. In fact, that's kind of what Jesus did.

He was always found around the table. Well, that's interesting. I'm thinking about our country, as you're telling us about Somaliland, and how the walls came down. And today, you know, we're not all that friendly to each other. We're not all that friendly to each other in our country at this juncture. So how does this apply in our country?

Yeah, very similar situation. Now, it's interesting because you had just mentioned a journey you took to a community just before we came on the air with a very international community. That's what it's like to live in West Houston, primarily because of the petroleum industry. I have the most ethnically diverse community where I live, the most ethnically diverse zip code in America. And that may sound odd because you think it would be New York or New Jersey, but what that means is I'm more likely to live next door to someone of a different ethnic background than anywhere else in the country. So in my cul-de-sac, my next-door neighbors are from India, their neighbors are from the UK, their neighbors are from China, they're from Louisiana. And let's be honest, that's sort of like a foreign country. And then I'm just picking on the Louisianans.

And then we have some native people from Houston and Katy. But we don't have a lot in common. And so we've tried to take this to our own cul-de-sac and just sent out invitations and said, hey, let's have a meal together. Let's get together first in the cul-de-sac. And then we started to have a tradition every two months. And so sometimes different neighbors will sponsor it, if you will, or coordinate it. We may go to a restaurant and gather around tables.

But we found that the walls broke down in the same way. And we're not sitting down giving a presentation of our faith at those dinners. But I guarantee you, when crisis comes, they know who to call because they know we love us, they know we care.

And so the same principle has worked right here in the USA. And you're right, there's a lot of different philosophical backgrounds. Even if we were born in the same hospital, it doesn't really matter these days, does it?

It kind of depends on what channel of news you watch and the way you're viewing the lens of society. And so often, as a pastor, I find that some people even view me because I have the same traditional biblical viewpoint I've always had, they see me as a radical. And so if I can have the opportunity to win their friendship, they may still disagree with me, but they're going to say, you know what, at least this is a kind person.

At least he loves me. Isn't that what Peter was talking about in 1 Peter 2 when he said we're supposed to be honorable among men, we're supposed to submit to authority when we can. The idea is that we're building bridges, and I know that's not directly related to the table, but it's remarkable how many times in the Scriptures that's exactly what they did.

They used the table to tear down those barriers. Well, Dr. Rush, we were talking about meal times. Let me ask you a personal question.

Certainly. In your childhood, did you experience these kind of meal times in your family growing up? That's a great question, and you know, my childhood was sort of a tale of two halves in that sense. My parents have always been very intent in hospitality, in welcoming neighbors, that sort of thing, but before I was 11, before I came to Christ, my parents were basically workaholics in the sense that I rarely saw my dad unless I was working alongside him. He was in the Air Force, then he was the president of an airline, and then he was running a small airport in a small town in Texas. So if I wanted to see my dad, I was going to go work at the airport.

We just didn't. It was kind of a perfect storm. My dad had some heart challenges and ended up with a cancer diagnosis. About the time I came to faith in Christ, our entire family ended up being baptized together when I was 11 years old. So I got to watch a home transformed right before my eyes. I got to experience that, and so even though we had meals before that, from a social standpoint, after that, meal times became very important in my household, and I have tremendous memories over the rest of that season where I was at home with my parents walking that journey. And you know, Gary, one of the really fun things about this season in my life, for the last 10 years, for the first time in my life, I've gotten to be my parents' pastor.

So they've moved to our town where we live and very involved in our lives, and it's just a tremendous blessing. So after church, every Sunday, we go to the same restaurant. We sit at the same table. They don't have to bring us menus, and we just sit down and have the same meal every Sunday together with mom, dad, my girls, and my wife together. And it's kind of a fun full circle moment, but meal times have been very impactful in my own life.

Well, that's very interesting, and it's nice at your age with grown children now and being able to sit down with your parents as well. Tremendous. Let's talk about the real, just the central challenge of this book and why it's so important.

Absolutely. So I mentioned the five meaningful meal times a week with the ones you love, and yes, that's somewhat of an arbitrary thing. The reason for that challenge even goes beyond the biblical call to meal times together. There's a lot of substantive research now, Gary, that demonstrates what the Bible said all along, which shouldn't surprise us, right? But it's demonstrating that children who have meal times on a regular basis with their parents, where the distractions are set aside, are significantly better off health-wise. Now, some of that would be obvious.

Yes, you have more contact with your parents, but I'm talking about studies that demonstrate they have better grades, studies that demonstrate they have less depression, that they have fewer eating disorders, drug use, cigarette smoking, anything you can name. There's been a lot of different parallel studies in this way, and the common denominator kind of comes down to this five meaningful meal times. And so that's kind of where we came up with the number. To get really practical, when I say meaningful meal times, I understand that there's lots of people who are eating with their families. I mean, you can go to a restaurant after you've finished the podcast and look around. You'll see families eating together, but you'll also see mom, dad, teenagers, kids looking down at their phones around that table, and they might as well be 30 miles apart. They're not having a meaningful meal time. So I would say a meaningful meal time is, first of all, special in the sense that you say everything else gets turned off. Like we're going to schedule this thing. We're going to be intent on being here.

So it's scheduled, then it's special. We remove all technology. The TV goes off, the computer goes off, the phones, and be better off on another counter. Don't do this business where you just set it up where in case there's a text that comes in, you look at it.

You might even take off the Apple Watch, guys, because I know what you're doing when you look down at your watch. So take all those things off, and then all of a sudden when the barriers are gone, now you can move to the next aspect of a meaningful meal, and that is that meaningful meal times are spiritual. It doesn't mean it has to be a family devotion every time, but you're inviting the Lord to the table and into the conversation, and so now it might be as simple as one discussion question. We put them for free on the website.

There's plenty in the book, but you can come up with those on your own. It might be as simple as, what's the greatest thing that happened to you today? Or what's the most difficult thing that you faced this week?

Or we've had things as simple as, if you could be any age, what age would you want to be? And then that's going to capture the conversation and lead you to some places where you can bring up a scriptural point of view, or maybe focus in on one particular Bible verse and talk about that over the dinner. And so when those simple steps are taken, it's amazing. It doesn't sound very complicated, and it's not, but all of a sudden you're inviting the Lord to do a work in connecting hearts around that table, and I've seen it many, many times.

Yeah. Now for you and your wife, you all have been married for 30 years, and you have three daughters. When did this idea of making meals together a priority, when did that take place in your own marriage and family? Well, you know, I'm blessed to be married to a lady who loves to cook and is pretty passionate about this, grew up in a home that also experienced some wonderful, meaningful mealtime. So early on we started to do this with our girls.

We had to evolve a little bit in two different ways. First of all, Gary, I'm a pastor, and so there were times when I tried to take the meaningful mealtime a step further, and I'm all for family devotions, but I will just say that sometimes it came across as contrived when I would sit down and sort of rehearse my sermon with my kids, and they knew what I was doing, and they felt as though, okay, you're just doing something that, you know, you can tell others you did later on, and they kind of lost its luster. So I had to be real careful about having the lesson plan ready and, you know, just having it for that purpose, because they can, kids can smell a phony, and I didn't want them to grow up thinking, okay, dad's just doing it for that purpose.

So we wanted to make them as natural as possible. My wife was really good about making that happen. Now, the second caveat for the Rush family is our youngest daughter is 17 now, so she was a full decade younger than our other girls. She has special needs, non-verbal, mostly almost completely hearing impaired, has an autism diagnosis, and a rare chromosome disorder. So Lily is a tremendous blessing to us, but also, frankly, creates some unusual challenges at the dinner table. You know, she can't fully understand everything, and so the temptation has been there, especially when the older girls moved on their own, to sort of just go back to the rote, let's just get our meal and take it in, or go sit on the couch and watch TV or that sort of thing, and you don't even realize that that's happening, and then all of a sudden it just becomes a bad habit. So we had to go back and say, no, wait a second, she's taking this in, and she's watching us, and those have ended up being some of our most treasured times with Lily. In fact, she's become sort of the prayer police in our house, and so it's very important for her that we pray before meals, and she really doesn't care who's around the table or what their faith background is. She's going to stare at them and give them the folded hands, evil eye, and say, you're going to pray.

In fact, if you get seconds, you're going to pray for the seconds. So Lily has been our constant reminder that the Lord is around the table and really transformed the table in a unique way in this season as well. Dr. Russ, you mentioned earlier how you challenged your church to 40 days of doing what you'd been describing of meals five times a night together with the family and discussing it, and how impactful that was in your church and how the folks really picked up on it. Have there been other pastors that have picked up on that idea that you've shared this with that have tried that? Do you have any feedback along those lines?

Yes, glad you asked. We just wrapped up our second iteration of the Restore the Table challenge at my church, Kingsland. As I mentioned, about nine years ago we did the same, and we just kind of rediscovered that, re-upped the challenge, and just wrapped it up.

We added some caveats this time that we hadn't done before. So we challenged our people to five meaningful meal times a week with the ones they loved. Then we said, over that 40 days, would you be willing to invite three people outside your circle to the table?

That's just in light of what Jesus did over and over in the book of Luke. Just welcome somebody in, sit down, and invite them to tell their story. Then that all culminated with, on the 40th day—actually ended up being the 43rd day—Sunday afternoon, we encouraged our people to engage in a community table, which, as I said, we've done around our neighborhood cul-de-sac many times now. We just invite your neighbors, whether it's in the apartment complex or the cul-de-sac or across the street, to say, hey, would you come and share a meal with us? Let's set up a table in the street or at our house and share some barbecue or whatever. So there were a dozen different churches in our community in Katy, Texas that joined us on that journey this last time, and now I'm hearing from pastors around the country who've taken the idea in the book to heart. And the beautiful thing is you don't need the book, obviously, to take on the challenge. I mean, it's fairly simple and cut and dried.

Everything you need is on the website restorethetable.org for free that you can take and use. And we even have some pastoral resources there and some sample sermons and statistics about mealtimes that would help out. And we've seen some glorious things happen. The news is just coming in from the various churches, and one of the really fun things that we experienced toward the end of this last push, where we added the nuance of inviting someone else to the table, is we, as we prayed through it, culminated the series with a baptism Sunday. So we brought in our friends, welcomed them in, and explained the plan of salvation, and they were invited by others, talked about what it means to be baptized. And we baptized 78 on a Sunday morning, some of whom came to faith in Christ that same morning and then walked up and were baptized on the same day. So that, you know, that may be commonplace for some churches, but that was a really special day for us and a reminder of kind of the eternality of the table.

Wow. Now you mentioned inviting three people in with the family over that 40-day period. Would that be one at a time so that you would have personal time with that one person rather than three people all at once?

Yes, it can be both. And for us, that was bringing people in one at a time. It could be a friend or a neighbor, a loved one who might, you know, not normally be in your circle. I'll tell you, somebody we just invited to the table for us, of all people, are dry cleaners.

We've gotten to know some wonderful people who own local dry cleaners, and, you know, you see them long enough, and they've asked us to pray for them at various times. They're not in church, but that's an opportunity. You'd be surprised who would say yes when you invite them to a meal at your home.

Dr. Rush, we've been talking about this whole concept in this book about spending time with your family five nights a week and talking around the table and then inviting other people in. Let me ask you this. How did the COVID-19 outbreak impact this whole idea of meal times and inviting others in and so forth? Yeah, isn't that interesting how COVID-19 impacted everything in our lives? So, unfortunately, it could have been a catalyst for more families to restore the table, but because of our technology, what I found is a lot of families just went on living as they were living but digitally and apart in their homes.

So, it didn't automatically cause people to come around the table. Now, how is it that all of us for so many years can point back to, or many of us, to wonderful meal times that we've had in our past, and yet we don't have it now even though we really want to? And the reality is we never had as many distractions as we do today, so what used to be natural must now be intentional. So, I will say that during COVID, we just had happened to, had recently created an online presence, as many churches have, to help resource our families, and those who took on that, you know, task and really recreated those habits were truly blessed, and those habits continue. But the reality is some of us, some of the families that are listening, if we're honest, built some bad habits over COVID, because you became more digital and more disconnected in that way, and so the kids stayed in the rooms, and they played their video games, and the parents were working from home in different rooms, and so the home became a less cohesive place, a more segmented place, and so you need to eradicate some of those things. But one of the best things that happened, I think, with COVID is we got to know some of our neighbors.

I think a lot of people know their neighbors' names now that they didn't before COVID, because we were forced to be local, and now's the time to really take advantage of that opportunity and invite a neighbor over and say, hey, I'd love to get to know your story. I was thinking over the last few weeks about something that I didn't put in the book, but it's really interesting. If you look at Exodus chapter 12, and maybe the most significant meal in history, the Passover, that then became the Lord's Supper, in the instructions for the Passover it says you're supposed to roast a whole lamb. So the entire lamb has to be, they're not a part of a lamb, and there's a shadow, a picture of salvation there, but it says you're not supposed to waste any of the lamb, and if your household is too small for just that lamb, then you are to invite a neighbor to engage in that lamb as well.

So I do mention that part. I had a friend years ago who was preaching on that topic who said there's too much lamb for just my house, and isn't that a picture of how we can open up our table with the love of Christ to those around us, and if there was ever a time where our nation and our world needed people to welcome others to the table and tear down those barriers, maybe it's now. Yeah, wow. Yeah, I was reading just this morning in Leviticus, I think it was chapter 19, where he said, love your neighbor as you love yourself, and I thought, oh, I thought that was New Testament. Whoa, here it is in Leviticus, and then in the same chapter a little later it says, now the foreigners who are living among you, treat them as being one of you, and love them as you love yourself. So, you know, you were talking earlier about the, you know, the different ethnic groups in your community there in Katy, but that's true all over the country now. I mean, we're more ethnically diverse than we've ever been, so, and many times we tend to cluster, you know, we, most large cities have a Chinatown where the Chinese people live.

Right, right. We tend to cluster to people like ourselves, but when we reach out, and particularly if we share a meal together, it does really begin to break down those barriers, right? Yeah, and I'll tell you how, and this is so close to home for both you, Gary, and Chris, you guys have spent your lives on this, but one common value that is held almost anywhere in the world that you go, I was not even almost, anywhere in the world that you go is the family. People care deeply about their kids, they care about the household, and even though we watch the breakdown, people still generally have a high esteem for the family.

Now, there's a reason for that. God created us in his image, and the very next thing he did is create the home, and I believe that he created the home primarily so that we can reflect the nature and the attributes of God to one another. All through the rest of Scripture, after creation, what we see is God mostly revealing himself in family terms. You know, we see him as God the Father, God the Son, in part. We see salvation as adoption as sons and daughters. When Paul's describing marriage in Ephesians, he says, love your wives as Christ loved the church husband, and I'm telling you a mystery, I'm actually speaking of Christ and his church, they're all overlapped. So if you were the enemy of God, and you wanted to mess up how people saw God, what would you do? You'd take aim at the family, and that's exactly what the enemy has done. So that comes all the way back to the table.

You have one of the most natural places and the universally held values of anyone in the world where you can invite somebody to the table, and as you, you don't have to have a perfect household, but as you love one another, as you honor one another, love your children, you're giving people a glimpse of glory that actually presents a platform that I believe God has ordained for you to share the love of Christ in a whole new way that might be a foreign language otherwise. You know, I'm sitting here thinking about the person who has lived beside somebody for 10 years and have never really had a conversation. I mean, they wave at each other maybe as they walk by, or say, if they're walking, they say, hi, y'all doing all right?

You know, if they're in the south, they say, all right, you know? So this really takes, it's an effort, you have to grab the idea, and you have to think about it, and there's some effort in this, right? There really is, yes.

There's some effort in it, but it's more natural than you can ever imagine. The problem with evangelism, I think, for most Christians, I can't speak for all Christians, but in my own congregation, I think people have gone through 10 years of, for better or for worse, learning presentations to share with others about the gospel. Primarily, we've been trained to go to strangers, and we're presenting the gospel sometimes like we present selling a juicer or something, and that's nowhere. We're supposed to be witnesses, and witnesses are those who have had an experience, and they share what the Lord has done. We give an answer, 1 Peter says, and so all those things happen much more naturally than they're supposed to. You look at Jesus' ministry, and he keeps finding himself at the table with sinners, with tax collectors, with people who have been forgotten and set aside, and he took a lot of heat for that, but when he sat at the table, I don't think that was an accident.

That was a forum where the barriers were down, where he could hear their story and have the opportunity to share the most important news ever. So that's not the primary goal of the book, but it's become, I think, a really important aspect of it, and we must never forget that the greatest mission field around my table and anyone else's table are those children on the other side who the world is coming after with all sorts of lies and delusions and everything else. So if we're imparting faith upon them, then we're doing evangelistic work, and we can do that even as a neighbor sitting at the table as well. Yeah, I found that if you inquire from a person and begin to learn something about them, mealtime certainly is a great time to do that. They see you're interested in them, then they start asking you questions about, you know, where are you coming from, and it's just the natural way, isn't it, to share our own journey?

I don't know of anything more natural than that. Yeah, I was visiting with a young man on the phone a couple of weeks ago who I wrote about in the book. His name is Mike. Really difficult family background, and our lives were kind of forged together over a number of bi-weekly barteries barbecues, you know, 15 years ago. And now he's grown, he's serving in the government and in our armed forces as well, and just a tremendous blessing. Loves the Lord and overcame some really tremendous challenges that he faced.

There were other people, other ways that God brought healing to his life, but I am so grateful that the Lord allowed us to speak life to one another over barbecue, you know, for a number of years, and I don't think would have happened otherwise. And it's just, it's a wonderful thing. So it's kind of a real plus. You can eat barbecue, which who doesn't want to do that? And you can change a life.

I mean, that's a pretty good combination. Absolutely. And we've been talking about families. Let's talk a moment about the single adult who, the person who's living alone. What would you say to them? A Christian single adult?

Absolutely. We try to be real careful in our, you know, remember, we're a church congregation. We have people from all walks of life, and so there's a reason for the wording. I'm challenging people to five meaningful meal times a week with the ones you love, because there are some who are living alone. Some are empty nesters, who've lost a spouse, perhaps. There are others who are awaiting marriage, or some who they just feel as though God's called them to singleness in this season.

And so they are not, they don't get a free pass. I like to tell them here in the church, listen, it's really important that you have a connecting point with other people who are speaking into your life, and you're speaking into theirs. Alone is dangerous for anyone, and so you can find some other people.

And that's where that five really may seem daunting, but it becomes an attainable goal. So just tell them, hey, listen, for any single adult who's in the church, and you ought to be in the church, the first opportunity would be right after church on Sunday. Take some people, go have lunch together. Take one of the conversation cards that we have digitally online, or we even have some analog versions here at the church. And then Wednesday evenings, we have a supper here at the church. A lot of churches do that, but if you have another activity at your church through the week, you can gather and brown bag it, for that matter. And then find somebody who loves the Lord, maybe in your work or your school or wherever it is, and share a meal with two or three others that way. Now we're down to two. Another one of those ought to be with somebody outside your circle, so take advantage of the missional mealtime with somebody else.

That's one. And then find somebody who's in a different season of life or who has more people living in their home, and find a way to be at their table, which gives the onus to the rest of the body of Christ to look around and find those people who might otherwise be eating alone, and welcome them to your table. Those will be some of the sweetest connections you can imagine when you invite that dear lady or that guy to your table, and they become a part of your family on a regular basis.

Dr. Rush, have you found that when a person or a family starts doing what we're talking about, inviting someone else to join them for a meal, that they then in turn begin to reach out and do the same thing just because they've experienced something good with you? Yeah, I think it can be contagious, Gary. We have certainly seen that. I've heard some of those stories of people who've taken the vision and carried it on.

So sometimes that happens just over 40 days where you say, hey, we've experienced this, we love it, now we're going to go do this. Sometimes it's a generational thing, and that's what's fun about being a pastor now who's been in the ministry for 30 years. I get to watch kids who grew up in the church now have their own children and carry that forward in other ways and say, no, as for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord and we're going to carry it forward, even with treasuring the mealtimes and elevating those.

So in that way, yes. I'll tell you another kind of sideways way we honor that at Kingsland. This is how important we think it is. When somebody visits our church, we automatically assume that they're probably either checking out the things of God for the first time, which is sometimes the case here, or they're looking for a church home because they moved to town and they're already believers. For those people, what we do, we send out every guest a box, and it has a number of other churches in our community that we'd recommend that they go look at, because we know the pastors, we know they're going to preach the Bible, and we say, hey, here's a devotion on how to choose a church, but if we never see you again, here are some pizza coupons and a pizza cutter, and we're going to challenge you to have five meaningful mealtimes a week with the ones you love, because we're praying that we could see homes transformed by the power of the gospel, and that doesn't have to happen at Kingsland.

We know that. In fact, we are praying that the Lord would bring that we could see fruit on other people's trees that we got to be a part of. Now, it seems so simple, but the primary locus of that transformation, we're now convinced, is at the dinner table, because we found if families will take the dinner table and they'll make this commitment, then all these other things start to have ripple effects around them. Now they have a place to have regular conversation. We have the opportunity to honor parents and for parents to speak into the lives of their kids, and so what used to be natural years ago now is intentional, but it starts to become natural again, and it's such a blessing for so many people that we find that that carries forward, where they can't imagine life without it, and I believe that's why I'm confident to say, hey, if you'll do this for 40 days, there's nothing magic about 40 days, but if you'll do it for 40 days, I don't know anybody who wants to stop.

Now you say in the book that a person who accepts this challenge and will do that with their family five days a week, it could actually change the world. Now that's a pretty broad statement. Here's why I say that, Gary, and I know you know this to be true. I think the primary problems that we have in our culture are not political problems. I know we have political issues going on and we don't ignore those at our church.

Our primary issues are not economic problems. Our primary issues at their core are family problems, and I think if we don't fix the family, if we don't shore this up, I don't think our society can survive another generation. I mean that sounds morbid, but it's true, but conversely, man, if we can see revival happen in the home, I believe the next great revival in our nation is going to be a family revival where we see homes transformed. Sort of that Acts 16 picture where the Philippian jailer is saved, and remember Paul and Silas say, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your household, and so when we think in terms of households and we think in those sorts of transformations, I don't know what the tipping point is. I can tell you what we're praying for at our church is that a million seven homes would be transformed by the power of the gospel. That extends beyond the table, certainly, but it starts at the table, and if that would happen, if a million seven homes that were not walking with Jesus, now all of a sudden we're walking with Jesus and living out the gospel, and those million seven homes were scattered about all the communities that we see, along with the other millions of homes that are already doing this.

How can that not make a difference? And so if that ends up multiplying to others, I really believe that it could bring the transformation that we all long for. I think that we could see the next generation rise up and follow Jesus and lift up the name of Jesus beyond what we can even imagine today. So that's the dream, and I think it's going to happen at the household level.

I like the dream, and I believe it can happen, absolutely. You know, at the end of the book, you're very practical. You include conversation starters, that is maybe the kind of questions you might ask. Can you give us an example of some of those questions for someone that thinks, I don't know how to do that? Right, and you'll notice, Gary, I think we maybe have 30 conversation starters, and the reason we didn't put a bunch on is you'll find if you will take those and begin to use them, they become pretty automatic.

I mean, you don't have to begin with something in the deep end of the pool, but just begin with something that will allow you to talk about something further, and you have common conversations around the table. So, for example, one of the ones I mentioned earlier, but I can do a little bit of a deep dive because it's been fun in our households to say, if you could be any age of any person or in your life, what would you want to be? And some people would say nine years old, and others would say, well, the problem with nine years old is you have to go all the way through junior high again.

Who wants to go through junior high again? Well, okay, well, is it 18 years old when you have, you know, great physical stamina and, you know, you have your life in front of you? Or is it 50 years old, which is kind of fun, you know, have, you know, kind of financial security sometimes, and you get to watch, you're starting to see your kids thrive, and maybe nearing grandparenting years, which are the best.

So, you have all these different iterations, but it's just a fun conversation for anybody of any age. It could be as simple as asking, you know, what are you concerned about when you look at the world today? Or what are you most hopeful for about in the next year? And one of the questions we ask every year at Thanksgiving, what's that thing that you're most thankful for over the last year?

Everybody can answer these questions regardless of their spiritual maturity or anything else, but it very often provides an opportunity to just insert one spiritual idea or passage of Scripture that carries you forward. So, those are just simple conversation starters anybody can take and use, and they're going to lead to something deeper. So, you don't have to feel pressure to have this eloquent speech ready in order to accomplish a meaningful mealtime. Now, we're talking about questions, but say a word about the importance of listening to the person's answers as they're talking.

Wow. Yeah, isn't that the truth? And that's one of the reasons why the cell phones have to be gone, or you lose the right to call it a meaningful mealtime. I really believe that, because we generally don't. But when we listen, when we tune in and reflect on those, it's amazing how we demonstrate love or esteem for another in that way. I think this happens more naturally around the table than it does otherwise, because, to be real practical, you know, sometimes we have food in our mouths, so not everybody's talking at once, and so it generally helps even in that sense. But there's a shared sense of gratitude around a table like nothing else I've ever seen that allows you to do that.

Gary, my doctoral work was in attachment science, and the reason I camped out on that is it's so utterly biblical, but it's really a way, I think, that modern psychology is catching up with what the Scripture said all along, that we have this deep desire and need to be emotionally connected with another, beginning with our parents. And the natural ways that that happens, the way that God has wired us to be connected emotionally and socially with others, are through real basic means that God's given us. Eye contact, you know, meaningful touch, encouraging words, attentive listening, esteem for another, a smile. All those things aren't necessarily table things alone, but it's amazing how if you sit down at a meal with someone and it's a pleasurable time, those things don't, you don't have to work at it.

You don't have to have a checklist. They all happen, and so you have this natural way of looking at somebody in the eye and saying without saying, I value you and I need you. Well, Dr. Rush, this has been an exciting conversation and the book. I really, really like this book. I hope our listeners will get a copy of the book, because I think it will help them. Just in summary, as we come to an end here of our time together, give us the simple thrust of what we're trying to say today, the simple challenge to our listeners. I'd be honored to, and what an honor to be with you and to talk about these things with you, Gary, today. Listen, I know it can seem overwhelming.

I know that you're busy. I know that almost everybody listening probably has some yeah but or what if I have a special needs child. I hear that quite often and that's the case in my household. Well, you don't understand the kids are in a season where they're in little league or you don't understand my house is not, you know, a place that I would normally welcome guests.

Well, their house is not perfect either, you know, so set aside the fiction, all those things. The reality is if you will take your ordinary life right now and just make the decision that you're going to clear off the calendar for five times a week, it could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, it could be Chick-fil-A, or out the back of the pickup truck where you lower the tailgate and sit back there and have a picnic before the T-ball game. That doesn't matter, but if you set aside and make the decision, you're going to schedule those meals, they're going to be special because there's no technology, and you're going to invite the Lord to the meal.

I'm telling you, I've seen it over and over, your home life will begin to change in really wonderful ways. God designed us for this connection and he designed it primarily to happen first around the table. Psalm 128, when we see this picture of a loving home in the Old Testament and it talks about this man who fears the Lord, walks in his ways, and is blessed, it says, and I don't think it's an accident, your children will be as olive shoots around the table.

And so we have this beautiful picture of faith transference that's happening in one particular location that's like no others, and it happens around the meal. Well, once again, thank you for being with us today, and I do hope that our listeners will not just hear this and think, well, that's a nice idea, but I hope they'll take the challenge, and I hope pastors who may be listening will say, oh, this will work in my church. And maybe if your pastor's not listening, maybe you could get a copy, give it to your pastor and say, hey, I heard this guy speaking the other day. I think this is a great idea. Okay.

I think your pastor would be open and be glad that you gave the book to him. Well, thanks again for being with us today. It's my pleasure. Thank you both. What a blessing to be with you and your listeners. Well, I said this was going to be a practical discussion, and if you want to go deeper, check out that featured resource at buildingrelationships.us, the book by Dr. Ryan Rush, Restore the Table, discovering the powerful connections of meaningful mealtimes. Again, find out more at buildingrelationships.us. And coming up next week, your questions and comments about the love languages are a relational struggle. And if you'd like to ask a question, call us at 1-866-424-GARY. And don't miss our June edition of Dear Gary in One Week. A big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-22 02:42:40 / 2024-06-22 03:02:26 / 20

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