Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Lord's Supper - Every Week?

At The Vine we have chosen to celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday as the culmination of our service.  The Bible gives us no command as to the frequency of the gathered church participating in this sacrament but we do have the command to "Do this in remembrance of me."  I don't know about you, but I need this service of remembrance more than four times a year.  The more remembering the better.  We believe that our corporate participation in the Lord's Supper should be just as frequent as our singing together and our hearing from God's word.  Seems that this was the norm in the early church as they "...devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42).  You can't make a hard and fast case about frequency from this verse but it sounds to me like there was no "specialness" to the Lord's Supper in the early church.  It was simply the norm  to observe it when they gathered.

The only reason I have heard for not doing it every week is that "we want to keep it special".  But why don't we say that about singing or preaching?  Shouldn't we also want to keep those things special as well?  Can you think of any other reasons for why we shouldn't participate in the Lord's Supper every week?  Fearful of solidarity with Catholics?  Is this just a traditional routine that most churches don't mess with?  What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea and while not mandated in the NT it certainly is the only example given.


Anonymous said...

This week at First E-Free Austin, we did something new with the Lord's Supper by having each Head of Household go get the elements and serve and lead their family through the time of remembrance (single folks were invited to join their small group or other families nearby). As a church body we took the elements together at the end.
Just by changing things up a bit in format, helped remind us of how very special the Lord's Supper is to us.
-Emily (FEFC Austin)

Pete Scribner said...

I'm 100% with you on this one! I love what Calvin had to say in his Institutes (IV.17.44 and 46): "The Lord's Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually."

As rationale, he too points to the example of the early church. Beyond this, he states the benefits of frequently returning in memory to Christ's Passion, so that Christians might by such remembrance, "sustain and strengthen their faith, and urge themselves to sing thanksgiving to God and to proclaim his goodness." Finally, he declares that frequent celebration nourishes our mutual love, "For as often as we partake of the symbol of the Lord's body, as a token given and received, we reciprocally bind ourselves to all the duties of love in order that none of us may permit anything that can harm our brother, or overlook anything that can help him, where necessity demands and ability suffices."

When you put it like that, why wouldn't you want to partake of the Lord's Supper weekly?

aaron said...

I'm not sure many people "want" to not have the supper weekly. I think logistical reasons really play into that. It's hard to move an auditorium of 500 + around to different stations, etc. . .

I don't consider that a valid excuse, I"ve seen it done at the Journey in St. Louis. But, I know that is a rationale many use for not being able to take Communion each week.

Matt said...

We do ours once a month when all the small groups on a particular night meet together for corporate worship. Other than that, we have it available in the back of the auditorium for anyone who wants to take it on their own. The above poster is right...it's a logistical nightmare to organize communion for about 1500 people on a Sunday.

Anonymous said...

We take the Lord's Supper every week at www.praxischurch.com. Growing up ...once a month was the norm - but since attending praxis it is so much more intentional then only partaking 12 times or 4 times a year. Every week i face what Jesus did for us in a real & humbling way. For us it's part of corporate worship. I think it's an excellent idea for the body of Christ to do weekly as long as it's approached correctly and intentionally.

JamesBrett said...

my particular religious tribe has always shared the Lord's supper each week.

and there are many of us who also partake of it during our weeks in one another's homes, as we share meals and lives.

personally, though, i think our greatest problems with the Lord's supper are not at all related to frequency, but rather meaning. it seems many of us have made it about Christ's death and his death only. we ignore the importance of our coming together to celebrate that we are indeed the body of Christ today. a sharing, communion, recognizing and encouraging one another IN Christ.

Anonymous said...

We take the supper the first week of the month, with much of the service geared toward the supper. Every week would be fine with me, but--I have to admit--I would struggle a little (as far planning the service) to have keep the prominence it has now.

@JamesBrett, I think you're right about the meaning. It wasn't until I was in seminary that I had any instruction on the meaning of the supper. Growing up, there was hardly any explanation at all; we just did it.

@Matt, my church had supper at night for people to take on their own for people who weren't there in the morning, in the nursery, etc. But I ended that as the meal is clearly meant to be a corporate event--the one body of Christ gathered together. Not being picky, but might be something for you to think about.

the Underdog said...

Interesting comments. I think you have to be careful to make sure that if you increase the frequency of the Lord's Supper that you maintain the sobriety of the occasion. In other words, how do you guard against it becoming routine? I really like what Anonymous had to say about the Heads of Household serving their family the elements.

Scott Sterner said...

The best thing about the Lord's Table every week is that everything always comes back to Jesus. The argument that it "may not tie in with the message" is bunk. When does Jesus not tie in?

Regarding logistics of a big church.... just have the bread and cup up front and have people come forward. That is a super easy way to do it in a large church. Of course, time is an issue, but isn't that the point. Every week we are saying that remembering Christ and the cross should be a central focus and worthy of our time. In my previous church of 1500, coming forward took maybe 1-2 minutes more than passing plates. Not much of a difference really.

The "becoming too routine" concern is a danger, but I think if you trace the issue back through history, a lot more was going wrong with the church when the Lord's Table lost its meaning. In other words, if the Lord's Table looses it's meaning, I think you wouldn't have to go far in that church to see numerous heart and theological issues eroding away at people's affection and appreciation for Christ and His sacrifice.