Reruns: Adding Fried Chicken to the Lord’s Supper

Posted on March 8, 2007

CommunionIt’s often been said that if we could add instruments to our singing, then we could add fried chicken to the Lord’s Supper. But I’ve been doing some reading, and it seems that the early church did, in fact, add fried chicken the Lord’s supper (well, lamb was more likely, but you get the point). In fact, they added an entire meal, the equivalent of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and banana pudding.

They had a great example to follow. Jesus added, at least, lamb and bitter herbs. We know this because he instituted communion as part of the Passover celebration, which is a full meal (Num. 9:11).

Luke describes the Last Supper in more detail than the other Gospels. In chapter 22, Luke describes Jesus blessing the cup, first, and then the bread. Luke then records,

(Luke 22:20) In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Hence, the second cup, which is the cup we emulate in our services, was separated from the bread by a supper — a full meal. Jesus could have done this in any order he wished (he was Jesus, after all), and Luke could have edited the account to omit the meal, as the other Gospel writers did. But I think Luke wanted us to read about the meal, because the common meal was also an important institution to the early church.

Jude 12 talks about “love feasts” celebrated by the early Christians. We know from history that many early Christian churches had weekly or even daily common meals called the love feast. Many took the Lord’s Supper as part of the common meal. The meal served multiple purposes. It allowed Christians to share with those in need, it allowed a profound sense of community to form, and it made the Lord’s Supper truly a supper.

Everett Ferguson writes,

Jesus instituted the memorial of himself at the last supper in the context of a meal. It seems that a meal provided the most convenient context in which the Lord’s supper was observed by early Christians. … The Didache [late First Century] also sets the eucharist in the context of a common religious meal. The Roman governor Pliny [ca. AD 110-115] places the Christian gathering for a common meal at a separate time from the “stated” religious assembly.

Early Christians Speak, p. 130. The love feast was an important part of the early church. We know from 1 Cor. 11 that it’s not essential, but we know from Jude that it was permitted, even honored. And the historical evidence is nearly as old as the New Testament.

This fact destroys a number of false assumptions about the Lord’s Supper. First, it’s nowhere required to be in an auditorium. The early church usually met in private homes — with full kitchens and dining room tables ready for serving food. May we worship with kitchens and dining halls? How could we not and honor the teachings of Jude? Indeed, the Lord’s Supper was, in fact, very often a supper. I’m confident the early church would have upset had there been no kitchens available!

Second, communion is not required to be quiet, somber, and ritualistic. The Jewish Passover is often a lively celebration. Neither is communion required to be part of a formal worship event, between an opening prayer and a closing prayer. Rather, the early church often conducted the love feast, including communion, as an event separate from the formal assembly. The social element was considered among the dearest features of the event. People talked and enjoyed one another’s company.

Third, obviously, our theology prohibiting additions is just wrong. Yes, we may add a full meal to the Lord’s Supper. Of course, we can’t add evil things to the assembly. Neither may we add things that frustrate the God-given purpose of the assembly. But plainly permission was given to do the expedient thing. Therefore, we need to seriously reconsider those arguments that assume that additions are always wrong. They’re not.

Finally, the whole “five acts of worship” idea clearly contradicts both Biblical and early Christian teaching. The love feast was an act of worship but an optional one. Therefore, there was no set number of “acts.” We made the rule up out of whole cloth.

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5 Responses

  1. Jay, I really wish that I could go back and experience the joy that must have emulated from the gathering of saints in the first century church. I really enjoy and learn from your studious viewpoint on so very much. Keep up the good work!

  2. Jay

    When we have the Lords’ Supper at our home, we always have a meal at the same time. Jesus did say “As often as you do this” didn’t he?

    It is something we do occasionally during our study or prayer time. Have never agreed it must be for Sunday at church only.

    Wouldn’t be a thing wrong with having a meal between on Sunday too in my opinion.

    Another great post of yours. Hope it gets folks thinking.

    We need more thinking and less monkey see, monkey do, memorization!

    Thank you!!!

  3. John,

    Since writing this post several years ago, I learned of a church that takes communion as part of a common meal. They eat in a member’s home, and the cup and bread are part of the meal, making the entire meal worship to God.

    I got to participate several weeks ago, and it was a powerfully effective way to celebrate Jesus’ work — as the common meal served to make the “horizontal” element of communion real and tangible.

    The sharing that is part of a covered-dish meal also teaches valuable lessons of the meaning of Christian community.

    Jesus died so that we’d form a community that would be his body on earth. Meals such as that one truly are community-forming.

  4. Jay

    After many years of thinking on this but doing nothing to upset the apple cart, I’ve decided the problem is: what are we limited to do in any building paid for with the “Lords’ money”.

    If we take that objection, situation away, then all the rest we want to do would be OK.

    I know a new congregation that was meeting in homes but now rents a commercial building. Since NOW and only when they moved, that building is their church of Christ building and the rent is paid out of the collection plate, the old restrictions apply. No eating on property and OK to all go to the local community center or someones home and all eat together as a gathering of the church of Christ to eat that meets at….

    When meeting in a home, paid for by the owner, there is much more allowed. Such as a meal inside the building (home) and even a guitar or other musical instrument played with singing, if you want.

    So, maybe we need to rethink our giving. How about individual members purchasing the existing church buildings? Have them privately owned and the sale price given back to the churches treasury to be used for evangelizing? This would turn the building into whatever we want to use it for: eating, funerals, weddings, etc. and give access to the community for other uses as well.

    Heck, some would pay to use it.

    How different is the home and a privately owned building from a traditional church building in regard to biblically approved or allowed use?

  5. Jay & John,
    Very good thoughts. I have been to communion at several Mennonite churches and they usually have a footwashing and common meal associated with communion. First they all gather in the fellowship hall of the church building, then have a common meal followed by communion. Then the men and women separate for foot washing in separate rooms. At one church when I was an elder-teacher , the Mennonites separated at the front of the church. Men on one side and women on the other side. That was my first foot washing experience combined with communion and a common meal.

    I do believe the early church was more fluid in their worship and practice, but united in their faith in Jesus.
    Just read 1 Cor. and it is noted that many people participated in the worship: prophesy, testimony, speaking in tongues (& interpretation of tongues), hymns (have I got a hymn for you all!). That would be a very powerful thing.

    Back in my Quaker days (1978-1994), no bread and wine were ever present in worship (and I actually missed that), but they had a lot of commom meals together. It was almost sacramental.

    I think church buildings have become a bad idea, but it depends largely on how they are used. If they become more multi-purpose, I think it is a much better use of resources.

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