An Agape Meal provides a great opportunity to experience God and share Christian faith. It resonates with the commitment of many today to live as New Testament believers did, as described in the book of Acts. It builds on the experience of those early Christians – who met often for fellowship, to revel in their relationship with Jesus, to share the Lord’s Supper and to worship God in praise and awe. (Acts 2:42-47) The impact upon friends who are being introduced to Jesus is positive and tangible.
Concept: An Agape Meal involves a meal, fellowship, praise and worship opportunities – and time for prayer, anointing and responses. We have found it best to set aside 2-3 hours. This could be on a Friday evening – ensuring that people have time to return from their work places; on a Saturday morning – starting as an Agape Meal Brunch and taking the morning (from 9.30 or 10.00 am); or in an extended home small group (recognising that most small group evenings would take no longer than 1.5 hours).
Main Features: There are a number of main features to an Agape Meal –
· A fellowship meal – with an array of fresh fruit, finger food, nuts, dried fruit, dips with crackers or vegetables (such as carrot or celery sticks), cheeses, a variety of breads, fruit drinks, soups, etc. The meal should be colourful, attractive and provided on a number of tables/benches around the room – giving opportunity for people to meet, eat together and share. The seating could be arranged in clusters of 6-10.
· Worship and praise – integrated into the relaxed time of fellowship. Often the time of fellowship would start with some worship songs. During the time there will be a number of opportunities for praise – including quiet reflection times when some clusters of people may wish to express their praise in a gospel song that others may choose to join. The Agape Meal can end nicely with some vigorous praise and worship – expressing thanks to God for His salvation.
· Foot-washing – just as Jesus did with His disciples. (John 13) This is a feature that unchurched people really appreciate. It is tangible, real and meaningful. Following 45-60 minutes for the fellowship meal and perhaps a couple of very relevant songs – a brief explanation of what Jesus did would lead into the time of “washing each other’s feet.” A short PowerPoint Presentation (with music) could visually introduce the basin, water and towels. Spouses, partners, friends and families would be invited to share together. People would be encouraged to invite others into their group/circle – so that no one is left out. The foot-washing would take place in the room where the meal is being shared.
· The Lord’s Supper – would follow a short time of quiet reflection. This is a celebration of what Jesus has done for us. A separate table to those for the fellowship meal food and drink could feature the main items for the Lord’s Supper – or this could be at one end of the main tables. We have found it best to have normal-sized drinking glasses for the grape juice (wine) and larger pieces of bread. This is an experience – and participants need to opportunity to eat and reflect – and maybe eat and drink again.
· Anointing Prayer – brings special blessings to the participants. As well as the basins, water, towels, bread and wine – also have on the table a flask of olive oil with a number of small bowls and paper towels. During the final time of reflection invite spiritual leaders to take a bowl with oil and offer to pray for individuals, families, friends, etc – while places a small amount of oil (representing the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit) upon each forehead. Invite people to approach a person with the oil – to pray for them. Many (old and young) want to experience God.
Ideas: Invite a team of 8-12 people (or your church planting core team of a small group) to plan the Agape Meal. Meet together about two weeks before the event.
· Explain the idea of an Agape Meal and then write down all the ideas people wish to share. Involve people in the planning. Include their suggestions – and involve them in organising the food and setting.
· Many times we arrange the tables in the centre of the room in the form of a cross – perhaps with white sheets (or paper coverings) and a red ‘runner’ through the centres of the table-arms if the cross.
· Use many candles on the tables and around the room. These can be a feature (even representing Jesus, the light of the world) – and provide atmosphere for the meal (especially in the evening).
· Develop PowerPoint Presentations that will include songs, scriptures, reflections, etc. Allow the very creative people to have a lot of input.· Involve artistic people in developing ‘prayer-stations’ and features. You could have a large rustic cross constructed. The use of spotlights, candles and coloured cloth will provide visual impact.
· There may be a special song that is especially appropriate for your group – or as we had recently a powerful song written and presented by a participant.
· A red rose could be purchased for each participant and this used as a further symbol of Jesus. After each person is presented with a rose, all could be invited to reflect upon this as a beautiful symbol of love – and Jesus. Then, following prayer and time to reflect, all could be invited to stand, throw their rose on the floor and crush it.
The Lord’s Supper: Ensure there is plenty of bread and the best grape juice (wine). As already noted – plan to have drinking glasses or nice plastic cups. The glasses could be filled before the meal or the filling from flasks and jugs could be a feature of the meal. Here are some ideas –
· Choose two people to pray for God’s special blessing upon the bread and wine. This could be done at the same time.
· People could be invited to simply volunteer to come forward to take the bread for a circle of people near them. After they have served some – another person may wish to take the plate to serve others. Create a spirit of spontaneous service. Or, you could invite spiritual leaders to serve. The same ideas could be followed for the wine.
· Ensure that all have been served – and give people time to reflect, pray, eat and drink.
· Suggest some may like to come to the table again to take more bread and wine – maybe for themselves or friends.
· After a little time – a prayer time (while seated and eating or drinking the Lord’s Supper) could give people time to say “thank you God …” Maybe some would like to sing a song of praise – a song that is in their hearts. This will lead naturally into the anointing time.
Prayer Ideas: The devil is not pleased to see God’s kingdom extended. Church planters and believers need prayer support and will be encouraged by learning “all kinds of prayers.” (Eph 6:18 NIV)
1. Conversational Prayer – in small groups and as a whole worshipping group.
2. Prayers of Thanks – as worship songs move to gratitude, the prayer leader suggests (in prayer) that single sentence expressions of thanks be expressed. Start each with “Thank you for …”
3. Prayers of Praise – as worship songs move to praise, the prayer leader suggests (in prayer) that we express our praise for who God is!
4. Biblical Prayers – as worship music is played participants read scripture and find a verse that expresses their worship and prayer. These scriptures can be read aloud as prayers.
5. Participants may be guided to specific prayers in scripture – and invited to pray through those prayers.
6. Reflections – a PowerPoint presentation could draw attention to prayer and worship on a wide variety of themes.
7. Meditation – participants be given extended times of quietness to reflect and pray personally. Specific themes may be suggested – such as the presence of the Holy Spirit.
8. Intercessory Prayer – participants may be invited to –
a. Pray with another individual – encouraging people to move to pray for others.
b. Pray in groups – placing their hands upon each other as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
9. Help people to know that silence in God’s presence is an appropriate response – and that there need be no embarrassment that no one is speaking.
Encourage people – after the prayer time – by visiting quietly with people. If you have further ideas – share them with me for wider use and encouragement.
NewChurchLife – ideas Peter Roennfeldt