The Lord’s Supper: Reaching Some Conclusions, Part 4

Getting creative

In Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord’s Supper John Mark Hicks suggests several possible approaches. He notes that there are several practical barriers. For example, most congregations simply don’t have room in their auditoriums, and most auditoriums have pews bolted to the floor.This forces us to be creative if we want to occasionally recapture the original feel and meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

I’ll focus on just a few ideas (some mine, some his, some a mixture), and I’ll leave the readers to buy and read the book for the rest.

* For larger churches, the natural solution is to go truly First Century. Break up into small groups and break bread from house to house. Most larger churches already have small groups. Just suggest that they (1) eat a meal, (2) envision Jesus eating with them, and (3) serve freshly baked, unleavened bread and wine (or Welch’s) as part of the meal, remembering and proclaiming Jesus as they do so.

I’d leave the instructions pretty vague and let the groups design their own practices. Then I’d ask them to share their ideas and experiences with each other — at a leader’s meeting or, better yet, via an internet discussion board all participants can share in. Encourage them to share not only their ideas but how well they worked, how they felt, and whether they’d like to do it again.

I’d still serve the traditional communion in the Sunday morning service for lots of reasons, but if we could ever do what Saddleback does — have 120% of their Sunday morning attendance in small groups — we could actually relocate the service to the homes, as the early church really did. The Jerusalem church had large gatherings in the temple courts — a massive area that could hold a crowd of thousands — and broke bread in homes. That’s still an effective plan.

* Churches that are small enough that they don’t need small groups can still form groups for purposes of having Acts 2 communion services on occasion.

* A church could hold a periodic special communion service in an area large enough for chairs and table. Leave the rectilinear auditorium and meet in a fellowship hall, gym, or borrowed space.

* Or do the traditional service the traditional way, but with hot, freshly baked, unleavened bread passed hand to hand in ample amounts, followed by a substantial drink.

* A church could do a congregational covered dish meal and incorporate the Lord’s Supper into the meal.

* Replace the communion table with a dinner table and have the church come forward to eat and drink in groups.

* Have a service dedicated entirely to the communion. Begin with the sermon and end with the communion.

* Have a joint service with other churches in town.

* Connect via Skype (internet videophone) and a projector to a sister congregation — a church that supports you or that you support — and have a joint service across national or state lines.

* Have the “greet and meet” between the cup and the bread — and emphasize that the communion is about communion (also translated fellowship) with each other as well as God.

You get the idea. Personally, I’d start by having a quarterly special communion service and try something new each time. After a while, two or three favorites may become the routine. Or for some creative churches, the approach may vary forever. There’s no end to the artistry that can be found in the Lord’s Supper.

Let the service become art and celebration of a gift rather than rote obedience to a poorly understood command.

5 Responses

  1. I’ve suggested working to create a “table atmosphere” even while sitting in pews. Encourage people to look at one another, smile, share thoughts about the meaning of what they are experiencing. Focus on inclusion, acceptance, community. At least make sure they know that closing your eyes, bowing your head and sitting in silence is a modification of the original intent of the Lord’s Supper.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. We in Vienna have some experience in that. Last summer the ICoC united with the CoC – and stil we are not more than 60 adults. We divided into five house churches, but biweekly we meet as a “big” assembly.

    Our house church is one of the smaller ones, numbering 7 adults and 5 children (age 1 1/2 to 12). We start with a children’s devotion, followed by a time of worship and teaching. The teaching is not a sermon, but more like a dialogue (see Acts 20:7). After that we serve supper (we meet in the late afternoon). At the end of Supper we break the bread and share one cup of wine, mixed with water. Once a year we have foot-washing.

    So in way we are one-cuppers / nighttime worshippers / upper room worshippers (4th floor) … 😉

    The whole service lasts about 2 1/2 hours.

    For me it is a further step in the restoration-process. I see it as quite wise and well thought the way the Apostles set up churches in homes (instead of building Christian synagogues). One observation: “Deipnon Kyriake” actually means a full meal supper), not just the bread and the wine; and it is quite strange to hear well-intentioned brothers wholeheartedly oppose to the idea of eating a meal a spart of worship.

    Isn’t heaven about sitting and eating at a table together with Abraham and the saints of old?


  3. “Begin with the sermon and end with the communion.”

    I have been in congregations that always use this order. The order they use wasn’t meant to emphasize communion, but to better meet people’s schedules.

  4. “You get the idea. Personally, I’d start by having a quarterly special communion service and try something new each time. After a while, two or three favorites may become the routine. Or for some creative churches, the approach may vary forever. There’s no end to the artistry that can be found in the Lord’s Supper.”

    This, brother Jay, sounds not right to me. It is not about variety and entertainment, but about finding out what the Lord’s Supper is all about. What you suggested after all sounds very “artificial” (not artistic) and very “unnatural”.

    But I also see that you first have to step out of the boat of tradtional church services in order to experience that great feeling of walking on water. The result is a simple church, a Christ-centered worship, that fills both body, soul and spirit. It’s a low-budget church that does not need expensive buildings any more and can focus on charity.

    But playing around with forms, trying this and trying that sounds like confusion to me. I envision a church where an apostle could enter and immediately feel at home. That’s the case when we do the Lord’s Supper the way they have received it from the Lord and passed it on to the church. But if we imagine Peter came to one of our assemblies, and we would have to explain to him what is going on, then there’s something wrong.

    A few of your suggestions point in the right direction, but the bulk of it just reveals a desperate longing for “something different”; and that’s not enough.


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