By Kara Witherow, Editor
For five weeks in June, a group of men gathered in Nashville United Methodist Church’s kitchen. They huddled around the stove, chopping, dicing, sautéing, and stirring.
They were farmers, lawyers, and businessmen, and all were hungry. They were hungry for good food, of course, but they were also hungry for connection – with God and each other.
The men’s small group was cooked up by self-described foodie and cooking enthusiast Rev. Mark Addington, who serves as Nashville UMC’s senior pastor.
Rev. Addington and his wife, Rhonda, are avid fans of The Food Network and enjoy watching reality cooking competitions like Chopped. Knowing there were others in the church and community who also enjoy cooking, Rev. Addington started the group.
“I love to cook fine dining and knew there were others who enjoyed the same types of foods,” he said. “I felt a need to get guys together for a small group. Anytime you toss food into a small group folks will show up! The food is just the gimmick to get men together to talk about their relationship with God.”
The group, which met every Wednesday evening in June, went beyond basic burgers and barbecuing. The men cooked filets, salmon, shrimp and grits, and a stuffed chicken roulade with goat cheese. During their final meeting they made frittatas because, “every guy needs to know how to cook breakfast, but more than slices of bacon and scrambled eggs.”
More than a cooking class, the group of nine men met to grow deeper in their faith and friendships. After cooking the meal, the group sat down together to eat, talk, and pray. Using John Wesley’s Band Meeting questions, they discussed their faith, the states of their souls, their struggles and successes, and where the Holy Spirit and scriptures were speaking in their lives.
“The cooking is fun and it’s definitely good, but the biggest point is to get men together and start building relationships,” Rev. Addington said. “My hope is that once they’ve experienced this model they’ll maybe start some other groups and do the same thing.”
Iran Mathis likes cooking, eating, and being in a group of like-minded men.
He enjoyed the fun but deep small-group experience and even cooked the crispy-skin salmon filet with lemon butter sauce and capers for his family.
“Being a part of this group and with these guys reassures me that I’m on the right path,” said Mathis, a farmer and member of Nashville UMC. “Getting real is important.”
Being part of a small group is important for discipleship and growth, Rev. Addington said, and they help encourage and inspire believers.
“I really think people are hungry. They want to know God better and they want to follow him closely but often just don’t know how to do it,” he said. “Small groups help us walk through faith and through all of the stuff that life gives us. Walking through it with other people helps us accomplish what we need to do and stay faithful.”