Weekly Celebration of the Lord's Supper
The Lord’s Supper has been somewhat under-emphasized in Baptist history by the infrequency of observance. Historically, most Baptist churches participated in the Lord’s Supper once per quarter (though monthly and weekly participation took place as well). As recently as 2012, 57% of Southern Baptist Churches observe the Lord’s Supper quarterly.
Despite this history, the larger history of the Church demonstrates that weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper is more common. In fact, the weekly observance is the pattern in the New Testament as well, featuring the Lord’s Supper as one of the core commitments of the early church (e.g., Acts 2:42; 20:7).
At Resurrection Church, starting June 27, we will begin weekly participation of the Lord’s Supper in keeping with the New Testament witness that is fortified by the practice of the global Church throughout history. However, our move toward weekly participation in the Supper does not mean either a) that weekly observance is a direct biblical command or b) that churches who participate in the meal less frequently are in error or sin. Rather, our move to weekly participation indicates the value and importance of the meal and our desire to reflect that in our practice.
Objections to Weekly Observance
There are, however, a few objections that might be raised to weekly observance.
First, some might object that regular participation in the meal would make the meal less meaningful. Although this objection makes sense initially, sustained reflection proves otherwise. Regular participation in other spiritual disciplines increases their depth and meaning. Singing, praying, and Scripture reading are included in every weekly service, and Christians grow in their appreciation of these practices and grow spiritually through their practice of these disciplines.
Second, some might object that the frequent participation in the Table will result in a dry, dusty ritual. On the one hand, this objection is important to keep in mind. Mindless and faithless participation in the Table is participation in an unworthy manner and, therefore, weekly observance requires more from participants each Sunday, making Sunday worship less spectator-oriented and more participant-oriented.
There are two more important responses: a) ritual in itself is not antithetical to the gospel or to true worship. Rituals and repetition shape us in important ways and, therefore, should not be avoided; b) the Lord’s Supper is multi-faceted and regular participation provides the opportunity to reflect on the variated meaning of the meal. Monthly observance limits the ability to reflect, generally resulting in the framework of approaching the table only with a somber warning rather than grateful joy.
Third, some might object that while there is nothing wrong with weekly participation, a transition from twice monthly to weekly is simply unnecessary. On the one hand, this objection stands. There is no command to participate weekly; therefore, we would not be in sin to maintain less frequent observance.
Rationale for Weekly Observance
However, there are several reasons beyond those already mentioned for increasing frequency:
First, many individuals serve in the nursery (or other ministries) that keep them from regularly observing the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper provides spiritual nourishment and, therefore, to deprive individuals of the Supper because they are serving the Church (where they are already deprived of the nourishment of song, prayer, and the Word) fails to take into account those who are serving the Church (somewhat akin to the wealthy elites who partook of the Table before the poor could join in 1 Corinthians 11).
Second, many individuals work multiple Sundays a month and miss out on opportunities to participate in the Table. Although many (perhaps most) of the members in the Church will participate weekly, those who work (or are otherwise absent) may only partake once or twice a month. In assemblies where the Lord’s Supper is celebrated only monthly, many individuals will go the entire year without participating in the Lord’s Supper due to work obligations, family vacations, illness, and the like.
Third, every gathering of the local assembly is a testament to the unifying work of the gospel. In a fractured, divided, and polarized nation, the regular testimony of the gathered church, strengthened by the unifying meal of the Lord’s Supper, is needed all the more. Paul makes clear that because we partake from one bread, we are one body (1 Corinthians 10:17). There is causality to the church’s unity that is effective in the Lord’s Supper, and Christians in our place and time need this unity more than ever.
Fourth, the Lord’s Supper is the most tangible, physical way that Jesus gave us to abide in him. The Lord’s Supper is how we eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood (John 6:53-58). In an age where Christians are distracted from Jesus more than ever by physical engagement and virtual reality, the Church needs to regularly and tangibly abide in Christ by participation in the physical (and virtual) realities of the Lord’s Supper.
Fifth, the Lord’s Supper is a visible depiction of the gospel that bids us to repentance as we enter into the meal and commissions us to obedience as we conclude. The Lord’s Supper is a vital aid in the pursuit of personal holiness and transformation into the image of Christ as we gaze on him in the Supper. Where Christians may fail to repent even once during the week, the gathering of the assembly before the Table provides a poignant reminder to repent, believe the gospel, and live in obedience. Christians need this reminder not monthly or quarterly but weekly as the gathered assembly.
Sixth, the Lord’s Supper reframes our perception of the created universe. In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus affirmed the goodness of matter—the goodness of meals, relationships, and the created world. The incarnate Christ gave the bread and the Cup significance as pointers to himself and, as we engage in common/vulgar food and drink throughout the week, we embrace these elements as echoes of the Eucharist and as foreshadows of the coming age where we will eat with Christ bread without price. The Lord’s Supper reframes our engagement in the world to be genuinely Christian engagement with the created world, ranging from food to our own bodies as good gifts from God.
Seventh, weekly participation in the Lord’s Table, where we are welcomed by Christ to dine in his presence, is a catalyst for hospitality and fellowship the rest of the week. Where we are welcomed weekly to Christ’s table, we should weekly welcome others to the tables in our homes as an extension of Christian community that is engendered in the Lord’s Supper and carried forward in the common meal.
To learn more about the Lord’s Supper at Resurrection Church, you can find several resources on our website:
- A Historical Theology of the Lord’s Supper
- Communion at the Table – A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
- What Does the Lord’s Supper Do? – A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26