The Great Banquet is a vehicle for tangibly demonstrating God’s love to all who attend. It is a way of living out God’s vision for true, non-denominational Christian fellowship. Participants attend just once as a guest, but can join the broader community of faith after the weekend is over. Alumni often return as team members, if they wish, for future Great Banquets or Awakenings or simply to serve a meal or help out during a weekend. Gatherings are held during the season so that the community can prepare, dedicate and celebrate alongside the teams. Small groups and membership at the church of your choice are encouraged for guests to keep your growth going. The weekend is not meant to be a one-time mountaintop experience but a way to jumpstart your lifelong discipleship of Christ with a new enthusiasm.
The Awakening is a similarly formatted experience created specifically for the needs of high school students and to meet their interests in spiritual growth during this pivotal period of life. Awakening team members include adult Great Banquet alumni and teen and adult Awakening alumni. Both clergy and laypersons serve on all teams.
Encourage lifelong discipleship of Christ so that all may grow to the glory and purposes of God.
The Image of the Great Banquet
The Gospel of Luke presents the parable of the Great Banquet. Jesus tells of a master who prepared a great banquet and invited many guests, saying, “Come, for everything is now ready.” After many excuses for not attending by his invited guests, the master ordered his servants: “Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” After this had been done and room still remained, the master told his servants: “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” Then, as additional invitations were given, the banquet was presented to his guests. The result of the master’s invitation was to feast and fellowship at a banquet given by God. (Luke 14:15-24)
The parable above provides a picture for the Great Banquet weekend. The Great Banquet examines Christianity as a lifestyle and is an orderly, structured experience designed to strengthen and renew the faith of Christians. Through a combined effort of laypersons and clergy, the Great Banquet focuses on the renewal of the Church.
The Great Banquet finds it roots in its counterparts, the Cursillo and the Walk to Emmaus movements. The Cursillo (a 3-day course in Christianity) began in Spain in the 1940s in the Catholic Church.
It spread to the United States and evolved for Protestants into the Walk to Emmaus under the auspices of the Upper Room and the United Methodist Church. An Emmaus Movement was started at the First Presbyterian Church in Madisonville, Kentucky in 1982.
After a 10-year history of the Walk to Emmaus in Madisonville, KY, the Great Banquet was formed. Governed by an ecumenical board of directors under Lampstand Ministries, the Great Banquet continues to emphasize personal Christian discipleship.
Zionsville Great Banquet was formed later that fall under the leadership of Randy & Betty Sue Laffoon as the first planted community outside the original Madisonville, KY location.
Zionsville Great Banquet with support from Lampstand Ministries created the Awakening movement designed to provide an abbreviated Great Banquet like experience for high school students.
Zionsville Great Banquet & Awakening actively participates with Lampstand Ministries in planting new Great Banquet and Awakening communities across the Americas. Zionsville Great Banquet & Awakening has been involved in forming 33 of the existing 36 Great Banquet communities including the most recent plant in Brazil and all 15 of the Awakening communities.
Zionsville Great Banquet & Awakening has hosted 136 Great Banquet weekends with nearly 5,000 adult guests and 48 Awakening weekends with nearly 2,000 high school sleepers to date during its 30 years of ministry.
Board of Directors
Clay Barnes, Executive Director
Karen Barnes, Executive Director
Julie Judd, Community Lay Director – Awakening
Randy Judd, Community Lay Director – Awakening
Mark Kowal, At-Large Director
Randy Laffoon, At-Large Director
Laura Nelson, Guest Promotions Director
Todd Nelson, Guest Promotions Director
Brian O’Dell, Community Lay Director – Great Banquet
Susan O’Dell, Community Lay Director – Great Banquet
Kara Ranieri, At-Large Director
Scott Shelton, Community Spiritual Director
Kurt Strueh, Community Relations Director
Lynn Strueh, Community Relations Director
Christie Turnbull, At-Large Director