Theo’s Feast, The gospel made edible
by Agnes Chung
“Paradise Lost”, “Salt of the Earth”, “A Taste of Grace” and “Love Comes to Town”. These are some exquisite gourmet dishes created with an edible metaphor to communicate the gospel truth through the presentation and flavour of the food, says Gary Stevenson, Theo’s Feast Founder and Simon Fraser University chaplain. The concept behind Theo’s Feast is to use a shared epicurean experience to help people discover Jesus.
Backyard BBQ to Edible Message
Stevenson was inspired with the ministry concept while barbequing salmon in his backyard in 2003. “I was enjoying cooking for friends,” he recalls. “Out of the blue, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, ‘You are going to write a cookbook for me.’ Baffled, I looked up to the sky and questioned God if I heard it right.”
Stevenson heard from the Lord over time, through prayer, devotion and scripture how He engages food to reveal Himself, whether it be food at the wedding supper or Jesus turning water to wine.
“The idea was encouraged by how Jesus communicated His kingdom truth through metaphor. He often did that over meals. The initial idea began about 10 years ago, but it took me another four or five years dabbling with the concept,” says Stevenson, who recently organized a rock n’ roll themed Feast blending the band U2’s music with a special menu that shared the gospel.
This unique ministry is the first of its kind in Canada. It’s fitting that it originated in Metro Vancouver, the destination for all things ‘foodie’. “Theo’s Feast is likened to a Passover meal as it shares a similar element of storytelling through food. The difference is that our food is considerably more interactive and complex compared to Passover which is simpler,” explains Stevenson.
“Dinner is a significant part of the Theo’s Feast experience. You are literally eating the gospel, eating what you are talking about. The story comes alive in your mouth. It gives people a multi-level sensory experience,” Stevenson continues.
“A lot of people view food with a new meaning after the feast. One diner said, ‘I would never look at lemon the same way again. Whenever I eat lemon, I think about Jesus now.’ One pastor friend told me that I have traded an entirely new language to communicate the gospel.”
Theo’s Feast began as an outreach to university students in 2014. Their inception feast was a sold out event. Today over 400 people have attended feasts in multiple cities including Vancouver, Toronto and Orlando. All the meals are prepared by certified foodservice professionals, in a licensed commercial kitchen.
Most feasts range between five to seven courses. Ticket prices vary from $40 to $60 per person depending on the menu, rental and venue costs. A three-course dessert costs around $20 per person. Proceeds from ticket sales cover the food cost and other expenses incurred for each outreach event. Profit if any, will go back into the development of Theo’s Feast, a ministry of Power to Change.
The Feast aims to stir deep, gospel-centred conversations between friends. Christians are encouraged to bring along non-Christian friends, or attend as helpers. Attendance averages around 30 people per feast with some flexibility for expansion. Special dietary needs can be accommodated if sufficient advance notice is given.
“During the feast, a speaker introduces each dish, shares the back story of the metaphor that inspired the dish, and the role each element on the plate plays in communicating that Biblically-inspired metaphor,” Stevenson explains. “Diners have 15 to 20 minutes to enjoy each dish and the gospel-centred conversation the dish and story have sparked.”
Feasts are adult-oriented, with in-depth conversation, complex flavours and a number of new tastes never before savoured by most people.
What’s Cooking Ahead
With Easter and U2 feasts already a proven success, the Theo’s Feast team are planning Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. “We are also developing a Wedding Feast where we pair the menu to the bride and groom’s testimonies,” Stevenson shares. “The bride and groom will introduce the dishes as they share the gospel through the food and their stories with their guests at their wedding reception. The first wedding feast will be on August 4 in Vancouver.”
The future vision for Theo’s Feast includes publishing a cookbook to motivate Christians to host their own small or large feast in their homes and communities, with resources available on the website.
Volunteers and Partnership
Stevenson is currently working on building strong partnerships with local churches “looking for a fun and effective way to encourage their congregations to share their faith in a fun and non-threatening way,” he says. “We are open to work with volunteers and chefs who have a passion for creating great food that pairs well with timeless biblical-inspired metaphors – people who are passionate about food, sharing the gospel and seeing what God does within the context of community.”
For details, visit Theosfeast.com