As a newcomer to CityChurch, it was pretty easy to make a mental note describing the church community on my first few Sundays. Let’s see, they were passionate about loving people, growing in their relationship with God, releasing their spiritual gifts to the world, and EATING – or so I thought when I experienced my first Community Sunday Lunch, otherwise known as a Chow Down at CityChurch.
They certainly were gifted at throwing together a party after a church service. So I thought, “Why shouldn’t I stick around for a free meal that already smells good from where I stand on these church steps?” And after I got through a long line of hungry-eyed people waiting to have their fill, I realized that the passion that radiated from the Chow Down didn’t stem from the fried chicken and mashed potatoes on their plate (although that still seemed important to them). Rather, it stemmed from the simple act of gathering together as a church family, as friends. Who knew that a church could be made up of people who genuinely like to be with one another? That certainly wasn’t my experience of church life when I grew up. I wasn’t scarce from hearing the term “church fellowship” in my past, but these people at CityChurch were actually just doing it without even thinking about it. Didn’t they need someone to first proclaim, “And now we ARE going to have fun together and play nice, so help me, and you WILL talk to someone you don’t know!?”
With the plate of food in my hand I watched the lunch from afar for just a moment so I could observe what CityChurch was all about. Kids were playing chase with one another, families had brought blankets to have a picnic together, and friends were sharing laughs. And of course there was that awesome tree out front that reminded me of just how beautiful God made this world I live in with Him. There wasn’t a better way to describe the atmosphere surrounding me than to recall the fruits of the Spirit: it was a place of love, joy, and peace. Typically, I would be more of a wallflower at such an activity, but the friendliness of the people prevented me from reserving to myself, as I often do in large groups. Before I knew it, I was helping with the tear down and meeting people that acted like I’d been there for years.
Fast-forward a year, and here I am again in a Charlotte September standing under that same tree enjoying another meal with my friends after church. We’re about to head over to the park to play some Ultimate Frisbee, but before I go I do what I always do at CityChurch Chow Downs. I walk along the sidewalk to the top of the small hill, I look out towards all of the people, and I simply soak in the sight of my church simply gathering. And as I take in that beautiful sight, I give thanks to God for guiding me to this church family. For He is the reason that we are able to come together once a month as brothers and sisters to not just share a meal together, but to experience a slice of what heaven might be like.