When churches shift their focus, one thing that often gets neglected is communion. When we focus on reaching the unchurched, or serving the community, or new expressions of worship or different approaches to preaching and teaching, it is easy to let communion sit on the back burner. We tend to default to our traditional approaches or ignore it completely. I think that’s a mistake. It blurs lines that should stay clear and it causes us to forfeit opportunities to bring a manifestation of God’s presence into our meetings. Let me explain.
The Biblical message to outsiders should focus on the resurrection:
When you read the book of Acts you are struck by the fact that no one, at any time tried to explain to non-believers why Jesus died on the cross for us. Instead, the focus was on proclaiming what God was saying to us when He raised Jesus from the dead and appointed Him as our ruler and savior. The doorway to conversion in the New Testament was faith in the resurrected Jesus and acknowledgment of His leadership (Romans 10:9-10).
Non-believers find salvation through a faith surrender to the living Christ and they receive forgiveness as a gift from God. Forgiveness of sin is the amazing and wonderful fruit of our yielding to the Truth of the gospel. But, at least in the New Testament, non-believers aren’t readily given the privilege of knowing how God made that gift possible. That is bread for the children of God.
Communion reminds believers of the power of the death of Jesus:
This is where breaking bread together gains its power as a teaching tool and ministry opportunity. It is in communion that we proclaim the beauty, power and significance of Christ dying for us. His shed blood carries our sin away. It is how God is both righteous and merciful at the same time. We remember that God didn’t forgive us because he felt sorry for us, was in a good mood or had warm fuzzy feelings for His creation. He forgave us at great cost because He is both holy and loving. He pays our debt for us.
Communion reminds believers of that, we re-learn it, apply it to our lives and to the church. It is a wonderful celebration of and call to grace. This is what it means to be believers! We should be looking to teach these wonderful truths and apply them to who we are and what we do.
Communion is exclusively for believers:
There are many unnecessary barriers between believers and non-believers and I generally applaud efforts to tear down as many as possible. But communion is supposed to be a distinctive.
It beautifully highlights the necessity of responding to Jesus. It makes it clear that either you are committed to following Christ or you are exploring what that might mean for you. By keeping this distinctive we have wonderful opportunities to both teach AND evangelize.
All that to encourage you to keep thinking about communion and how you practice it. I’d be interested in hearing from you. How do you approach sharing communion? What has been working and what might need adjustment? Your thoughts?