I suspect that you cannot imagine a combination of the words dinner and ground, especially considering the entire prepositional phrase, ‘on the ground.’ Who knowingly eats food on the ground? Right. Except you may not have experienced the ‘good ole days’ of feasting outside with churchgoers from all over the community for worship, an associational meeting, a baptismal service (usually near a pond, lake, or river), or church musical, with dinner on the ground.
These were days before fellowship halls, when the only facility was likely to be a one room building with its ‘necessary’ facility outside and down the hill in a less obvious location.
People gathered to line the ground with sheets and other coverings upon which they would organize their foods for display and consumption. So the phrase was a literal reference to ‘dinner on the ground.’ Congregations of means (and space) would bring chairs from the building to line them up for the display of the smorgasbord of delicious delights while human lines formed to make their choices of ‘sumtin’ to eat in this festive gathering.
Dinner on the ground has also been held among the trees between which were built ‘plank tables’ by the men of the church. On these, the ladies would bring the boxes to their choice spot along the table, and there serve their goodies. People generally knew which boxes held the best and most flavorful foods and would wander close to get their ‘piece of the pie.’
Sitting might not be an option. You can’t eat in the sanctuary! So, a chair outside was an option if they were available. An old pew strategically placed outside was a comfort to enjoy your dining pleasures. Or standing, perhaps near that choice box would have to work.
Bottom line, those dinner on the ground events were special. Friends were made or cultivated during the festive sharing of food and love among those in attendance. Relationships grew during wholesome conversation during dinner on the ground. And the rustic conditions outside made it more special because people concentrated on the food and the fellowship. It was real while engaging in laughter, love, and luscious foods.
And nobody was worried about food poisoning, salmonella, or food allergies. It was simply a good time at dinner on the ground.
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47 ESV