This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”. Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:
For the final post in this series, I wanted to highlight how we practice the ordinance of communion together in a missional community setting. Corporately, we celebrate communion in our Sunday worship gatherings and monthly we have a dedicated prayer service where we also celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In addition to these corporate environments, we strongly encourage missional communities to celebrate communion together in the Family Meal or after an Evening of Prayer as well.
The ordinance of communion is an ancient act of worship that Christ instituted 2000 years ago for His church. It’s a visible sermon to our own souls of the concrete promises of God, obtained for us by Jesus’s death and resurrection. And it is an important opportunity to let lost people who have joined your group know that they still must make the commitment to Christ.
In Jesus’s ministry, He had the large group that anybody could join, but from time to time He brought them to critical decision points (Lk 18:18-24; John 6:52-66; Lk 9:57-62). This gave them the important gift of knowing that they weren’t part of Jesus simply because they liked being in the large group. They still had a major decision to make about Him. Communion is a similar way to have a decisive conversation with someone who doesn’t yet follow Jesus, as the Lord’s Table is only for those who have trusted in Christ.
Communion in Practice
In the earliest practices of the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ celebrated communion with a meal at the centerpiece. Early in the meal, they gave thanks and broke the bread to initiate the meal, and to conclude they would raise the cup and remind one another of Christ’s shed blood. In between was conversation and reflection centered around Jesus and his finished work. We have tried to include this in our regular gatherings to reinforce that the community is at the heart of Christian discipleship.
For guidelines to practicing communion, first look to the Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
When only believers are present a Family Meal, go ahead and break bread at the beginning, reminding those at the table of what is above. Spend some time of simple quiet reflection, and allow people the opportunity to discern if there is anything that must be repented of or division that exists in the community before you eat. Similarly, after you have had some good conversation, at the conclusion of the meal, gather some wine and remind the community of what Paul tells us about the cup.
If there are people there who don’t yet know Jesus and you still want to practice communion, I’d suggest that you do the bread and the cup altogether in one period of time, generally after the meal. You can say something to the effect of “Communion is something that Christians do. It’s not really for people who are still making up their minds about Jesus. It’s for people who have staked their whole hope on Him and have said, ‘I’m all in for Jesus.’ If you are still undecided about Jesus, we’re glad you’re here and you’re completely welcome, but please pass the bread and cup without taking it. It’s not a slight or judgment on you, but something we hold dear.” Make sure they know that it’s not weird or a big deal that they are just there to watch during this short time!
Either way, pray or have multiple people pray and thank God for the enormous reality behind the bread and the cup. Thank God for all the blessings that come from the cross – for example, salvation, reconciliation, a living hope, freedom to love God, eternal life, a promised resurrection, hope of purpose in suffering, etc.
A Final Word
I’ve found that it is important to transition people out of a time of reflection and worship, so make sure after you’ve prayed that you give a next step – whether it’s inviting people to wash up the dishes, or go grab the kids, or something else. Having a plan is helpful!
How do you go about practicing communion as a community?