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     I visit 20-25 churches each year, most often as a guest preacher. I have been impressed by many of the churches and have met some very committed believers. Yet there is a growing trend in churches that is concerning. Many congregations are depreciating the observance of the Lord’s Supper. For some, the moment of Communion within the worship service is empty and lifeless, appearing merely as a formality. Others rush through Communion hurriedly, diminishing its importance. Sadly, some churches have removed Communion from worship yet offer it in a side room afterward “for those who want to stay a few minutes for prayer and reflection.” Worse, some churches have dropped Communion altogether.

     There does not appear to be just one cause for this widespread trend.  Perhaps the frequency of observance has lessened the significance. Maybe there is concern that “seekers” might find it a little strange. Also, to be more hygienic since the Covid pandemic, churches found having worshippers simply pick up a tiny packet containing a wafer and spot of juice on their way into worship was more manageable and efficient. Yet, with no formal participation, there is no appreciation of serving Communion to one another. Additionally, I think the growing focus on producing online church services has also been a factor. Churches concerned that live-stream viewers might get bored with too much “dead time” during the service seem to hurry through Communion moments for fear of losing the broader audience.

     My friend Victor Knowles has written a new book about Communion titled “Communion Time.” Victor is one of my favorite writers, and I was honored when he asked me to write the foreword for his book. I am eager for its release in a few months and wish it were available sooner because it is so needed!

     While reviewing the book, I became fixated on a phrase Victor used to identify the Lord’s Supper, calling it a “dangerous meal.” We usually think of Communion as a time of spiritual nourishment because Jesus said, “My flesh is real food,and my blood is real drink” (John 6:55). Seldom do we think of it as “dangerous.”

     However, Victor suggests while the Lord’s Supper is vital and spiritual sustenance for the soul, it is also an extremely hazardous ordinance. The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians: “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

     Knowles writes, “The Lord’s Supper is not to be rushed to, rushed through, or rushed from. It is not “fast food” to be instantly inhaled on the highway to Heaven. Ample time should be allotted for participants to do what Paul commanded: ‘A man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread or drinks the cup.’”

     I encourage church leaders to restore the significance of the Lord’s Supper. Otherwise, it can become the most dangerous meal of the week.

  • Prepare your congregation with a thoughtful, poignant Communion meditation.(As discussed in last week’s post, this would be a return to past practice– one of the top “guardrails” that needs to be restored.)
  • Give time for the congregation to meditate and pray.Energy and joy are needed in a worship service, yet we also need reverence and time to “be still and know…God” (Psalm 46:10).
  • Warn church members not to take the Lord’s Supper if they are not spiritually prepared. If they are preoccupied with worldly concerns or harboring resentment against someone, perhaps it would be best to pass.
  • Occasionally change the procedure in which the Lord’s supper is observed. At times instruct the congregation to take it in unison, and other times at individual discretion. At times have them walk to a station, while other times, serve the elements to them in their seats. Offer Communion before the sermon and sometimes afterward. At times pray quietly. Other times encourage families to join hands and be led in prayer by a father or mother. At times you can have soft music playing, and other times allow for total silence. Sometimes you may urge a particular Scripture reading or ask everyone to review the lyrics of a hymn about the cross.
  • Do not ever apologize for the uniqueness of Communion…use it as a teaching tool.It is the Lord’s Supper He meant it to be unique. If you go to a college football game, there are all kinds of unique/odd traditions. A mascot is dressed up like an animal. Players chest-bump each other in celebration. People weirdly hold up their hands with “Hook ’em-Horns” or “1’s” or “4th quarter” signs. Rabid fans don’t apologize for those strange customs. Instead, they are unifying, and fans proudly participate and happily interpret their meaning for visiting fans.
  • Make Communion a significant part of the weekly worship service. It was essential to the first church. The Bible reports, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”(Acts 2:42). Communion wasn’t an afterthought. It was one of four reasons to gather: 1) they were taught, 2) they had fellowship, 3) they prayed, and 4) they remembered Christ’s death and resurrection every week. (See Acts 20:7.)

     If ever we needed a concentrated time of self-examination and eternal perspective in worship, it is now. The Lord’s Supper allows the entire church to, “Set your minds on the things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

King of my life, I crown Thee now-
Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget Thy thorn-crowned brow.
Lead me to Calvary.

May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share-
Thou hast borne all for me.

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony,
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

*Lead Me to Calvary, Hymn by Jennie Evelyn Hussey.  Public Domain


From Bob Russell page on Facebook