On Weekly Communion – David’s Response
Kevin, I would agree with your advice especially for a new church seeking to establish the centrality and priority of the cross in worship, but would not go so far as to say that I would recommend all churches having weekly communion. As you wrote, none of the reasons you give are biblically normative (I’m not sure I even agree that Acts 2:42-47 is a direct reference to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper). While I agree that communion is a participatory act, so are many other types of activities like responsive scripture readings, singing, or private prayers. All of these things can be expressions of unity with Christ and with one another, albeit not the penultimate expression of unity with Christ. While I agree that it gives us a regular time of commemoration (which is the purpose for the Lord’s Table) I believe that every service of worship should remember the work of Jesus and the cross. We should have “cross-centered worship.” (shamelessly borrowing from the title of my CD!) And I agree that our churches need a weekly time for examination and confession, but that can be accomplished by other means as well. I’m not suggesting that other things take the place of communion, but that we don’t need communion to accomplish many of the goals and priorities of covenant life you set forth.
On the other side of the coin are churches that practice communion quarterly or less. I believe that this is too infrequent. Imagine if you had a “special time” or date with your wife only quarterly. Most of us (especially those with small kids) manage to get out on dates once of twice a month. Since my wife and I regularly communicate and commune with each other throughout the week at various times, we don’t feel like we are dying to make it to our next date. Rather, the date is a deeper expression of communion that has already been taking place. I feel the same way about celebrating the Lord’s Table. We celebrate monthly and I never feel like I haven’t regarded the cross, fellowship, unity, or reconciliation enough in between meetings. The communion service serves as the deeper expression of the things that are already taking place week in and week out.
At Redeemer there are four practical reasons for having communion once a month. First, we explicitly state that in order to take communion participants must be baptized believers (or intending to be baptized shortly). First, we have communion at a special evening service and normally people that come out to an evening service are either known by us or are more “serious” about worship (I know that is a generalization, but a true one) and more likely to be true believers. Second, we celebrate after having a “love feast,” a church-wide meal like New Testament believers had. This would be impractical each week. Third, we have mandatory small groups that Sunday evenings which would prevent us from celebrating the Lord’s Table weekly. I believe that the goals of the small group ministry outweigh the benefits of having weekly communion. Fourth, by having a special service dedicated to the Lord’s Table, we can spend more time on it. We have a testimony, a meditation on scripture that is about communion, and a sweet time of singing cross-centered songs.
I hope those thoughts are helpful. Our Lord’s Table services are always a great joy for myself and our church family.