If you’ve been around my blog for any time at all or know me in real life, you know I value the table and the ministry of good food. In fact, I have dedicated a portion of this blog to “the table” (see sidebar). As a busy mother of three little ones ages 5 and under, meal time can easily be hectic, loud, and disconnected. My home often seems too shabby or dirty to invite others into. In our culture addicted to “busy” and “hustle,” meal time can essentially be nonexistent, with family’s running through drive-throughs and inhaling food as they race from one commitment to another. Even in the Christian culture, I wonder if meal time and gathering in one another’s homes has become sort of a lost art, a lost way of communing together, seen maybe as less valuable than serving in our local church. Have we forgotten how often Jesus met with others around a table spread with food? How often hearts were opened around a table? That is what drew me to Ted and Amy Cunningham’s book, Come to the Family Table, my own hunger to reconnect with a very simple and seemingly lost ministry.
The message is Jesus, and the tool is the table. The table is still the place where we bring uncommon people together. God uses the home and our table to bring different backgrounds together, whether rich or poor, conservative or liberal, regardless of religion or past or present. We are all about inviting people to church, but what about inviting people into our homes? Around the dinner table walls come down. This is the beauty of hospitality. God can use you and your home. (Cunningham, Come to the Family Table)
The book is organized into two main sections. The first five chapters make up part I of the book, which centers around “the family table is for us.” These chapters lay the biblical foundation for savoring meals as a family around the table, practical tips on how to make meal time a priority, and even talk about developing a family constitution. The last five chapters of the book make up part II, centering around the idea that “the family table is for others.” The authors discuss hospitality, giving simple tips and also encouraging consideration that gathering around the table with others might be a powerful way to invest in the marriages and families of others. Each chapter ends with a recipe, a game or conversation guide for meal time, as well as an appropriate devotional and prayer.
I loved the way the authors focused on the family table (even in a restaurant setting) as a way to first reach out to each other in our core family, but then also as a way to reach out to all of those around us. Rather than seeing our time around the table as a chore to hurry through or a meaningless physical experience, authors Ted + Amy Cunningham redeem the table as a powerful tool for kingdom work and ministry. Ultimately, they reveal that the family table is a way to savor and enjoy Jesus. This book is full of tools, tips, recipes, games, conversation starters, ideas for hosting and ministering to hurting friends and loved ones, ways to include and value children at the table, and so forth. The recipes include are simple and wholesome: blueberry lemon muffins, chicken soup, zucchini coconut bars, one-pot apple cider chicken bake, giant stuffed meatballs, sweet or savory crepes, to name a few.
This would be a great book for those longing to reclaim mealtime as a time to slow down and reconnect with each other. This book would be a great help for newlyweds who are just beginning to think about opening up their home and practicing hospitality. This book would be a fun and easy read for a husband and wife and a way to discuss dreams and goals for their home. I also believe this book would be a great encouragement to families who feel they have little time to minister to others, a reminder that serving God truly can be as simple as a cool glass of water to a person in need given in Jesus’ name. The Cunningham’s writing was light, helpful, humorous, welcoming, Christ-exalting, simple and yet packed with meaning. I felt as if I had been invited to their family table. I thoroughly enjoyed this quick read and will definitely be reflecting on it for some time to come.
Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.