New Book Calls for Everyday Discipleship Around the Table
When Greg Mamula and his family moved to a new neighborhood six years ago, they started inviting neighbors over for meals to get better acquainted. He didn’t realize at the time that these kinds of experiences would inspire DMin research projects and eventually a book.
Mamula, who serves as the Associate Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches (ABC) of Nebraska, recently published Table Life: An Invitation to Everyday Discipleship. “I am writing from a place of being personally and professionally impacted by Table Life,” he says. “I have participated in table fellowship in local churches, small groups, and my own neighborhood. My ministry with the region has given me opportunity to create a whole program for local churches to engage in Table Life. Having seen the impact on my personal life and several local churches led me to believe this was something worth sharing with others.”
According to Mamula, table life creates space to “listen to God and to others, to hear the story of scripture and tell of the stor
y of Christ in our lives.” As peple practice this fellowship, over time they build trust and grow in their ability to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit together.
When Mamula joined ABC of Nebraska, he and his family joined a new church. He had previously served on local church staffs, but this time he had to develop relationships as a layperson. “We found friends pretty quickly and began sharing family meals with them. During one of our meals someone suggested we take turns telling our story of how we came to be part of this church. Table Life was born out of that experience.”
In 2014 Mamula decided to pursue a Doctor of Ministry in Jewish Context of the New Testament at Northern Seminary, and he graduated in 2018. In his research he started focusing on building healthy church communities, which led him to concentrate on table fellowship and siblingship dynamics.
“Northern has shaped my thinking and ministry in profound ways,” he says. “The emphasis on being on mission with God from professors like Dr. David Fitch, Dr. Geoff Holsclaw, Dr. Alan Roxburgh, and others shapes how we think and talk about the work God is doing in our midst as American Baptists in Nebraska. Gaining depth in scripture, narrative, and historical context from Dr. Scot McKnight, Dr. Joel Willitts, President Dr. Bill Shiell, and others help me interpret the Bible and faith in a way that intertwines scripture with my everyday life and the life of my community. We continue to find ways to partner with Northern and its faculty to strengthen and encourage our ministry in Nebraska.”
The concept of table life is simple, but it’s not always easy in the dominant US culture. “There are few things more validating as a person than to be truly heard and fully known by another,” Mamula says. “I think it is so uncommon because it takes time and a level of vulnerability that makes us uncomfortable.” In addition, there are a variety of deep divisions within our culture.
“The table provides space for small groups of people to work toward unity and mutual following of the Spirit. I am not sure it can fix our large-scale divisions. But it can create a base for us to hear and understand one another and carry our new learning and love of God and neighbor into the larger-scale issues.”
As an author, Mamula hopes that readers of Table Life will put the spiritual disciplines it describes into practice in their everyday lives. “I hope people practice Table Life in their church and neighborhoods so that they are drawn closer to Christ, their church, and to one another.”
For more information about Table Life, visit https://table-life.org/.
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