History of the Great Banquet


To become familiar with the Great Banquet, you need to look first at the history of its counterparts, the Cursillo and the Walk to Emmaus. The Great Banquet is a "cursillo" model experience. It follows the Cursillo process and content with a picture developed around the parable of the Great Banquet which may be found in Luke, chapter 14.


The Cursillo was developed in Spain in the 1940's.  It was created as an experience for spiritual formation within the Roman Catholic church. As Catholic Cursillo movements began to have Protestants attend, there was a move among Protestants to start their own versions of the cursillo model.  Some of the Protestant versions began to appear in the late 1970's. One of these was at the Upper Room in Nashville, Tennessee, which became the Walk to Emmaus in 1981. Other cursillo model experiences are Tres Dias and Via De Cristo.

The First Presbyterian Church in Madisonville, Kentucky, became the sponsor of the first Walk to Emmaus movement outside of Nashville, TN, in 1981; and the first Madisonville Walk to Emmaus was held in January of 1982. After a 10-year history with the Walk to Emmaus, Rev. John (Jack) E. Pitzer along with members of the Madisonville Emmaus Community, in 1990, wrote and designed the Great Banquet. They remained faithful to the "cursillo model" in terms of overall content and process, and also picked up the picture of the Great Banquet in Luke 14 to further inspire, challenge, and teach people how to incorporate the Christian faith into daily life. The Great Banquet is a dynamic faith experience for Christian formation and helps increase the understanding of Christian discipleship.


Lampstand Ministries was formed in 1991 to help advance new Great Banquet movements and help maintain those communities around the country. The Great Banquet can be found in numerous states in the United States. The website has information on individual movements and other Great Banquet weekends.



When the Bartlett Great Banquet began in 1995 it was led by Pastor Michael Thomas, who brought the Great Banquet from Madisonville, Kentucky, to Bartlett, Tennessee. Pastor Thomas was the pastor at Bartlett Presbyterian Church and that is where the Bartlett Great Banquet was born. The church played a huge role in getting the ministry started; including organizing meetings, printing manuals, and completing registrations.


Fast forward to today and the name has changed from Bartlett Great Banquet to Mid-South Great Banquet, due mainly to the far reach the Great Banquet has in the Mid-South and surrounding areas. The ministry established a Board of Directors with clergy serving in Community Spiritual Director capacities to keep the focus on the mission of the ministry and to give moral and spiritual guidance.