My early dream for my first church plant, Reunion Church, was that our Sunday worship would give us the opportunity to come home to the Father and build relationship with His Family.  One of the formative non-negotiable in those early days was the decision to meet around tables.

Tables shaped our liturgy

The choice to meet around tables made our service very informal.   This suited not only my style, but also reflected how Jesus met people.

  • Our liturgy was about conversation over demonstration.
  • Our liturgy was focused on participation over observation.

Tables shaped our preaching

The exploration of Scripture was the center of our service, but the sermon was only one voice in the discussion.  There are many ways to accomplish this goal, so now, even in the sermon preparation process I find ways to integrate a teaching team,  with weekly discussions and community interaction.

In addition to these steps, at Reunion we decided to offer a weekly Sunday opportunity for creative conversation, about the Bible and about life.  These conversations helped everyone understand and apply God’s teaching.

  • When the table discussion came first, the remaining part of my teaching was improved because I could address specific needs or issues that came to light at the tables.
  • When the conversation came at the end, everyone’s ability to interact with the Word was much deeper.

Tables shaped our discipleship

Discipleship began at the tables where people could laugh together, cry, pray, share communion, make new friends, deepen existing relationships, and discuss the importance of serving Jesus in everyday life.  Tables also created a natural opportunity for everyone to use their giftings, wisdom, or ideas to strengthen the church Family.

Tables shaped our vision for church beyond Sunday

We looked at our table time as a taste of what church can become.  The Sunday Conversation (as I called our morning service) was an important part of being the church, but it was not everything.  Meeting at tables was like getting a good food sample at Costco; it does not fill you up and only makes you want more.  Our hope at Reunion was that as people came and talked, they would develop a taste for deeper conversation and deeper relationship in one of our midweek groups.

Tables are Just Tables

Finally, let me say that I don’t see tables as a “better version” of pews or chairs.  I have no opposition to doing Sunday the old fashioned way.  The goal is not to replace one form of worship with another.

Tables were only one way Reunion chose to build a church and connect with people who were not drawn to the typical “theatre seating” in other churches.

If using tables connects with your heart and head, then use them.  If not, find your own way to help create community and make disciples through your Sunday Conversation!

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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