Disclaimer: please note that during the current Coronavirus crisis, everyone should follow common sense guidelines for social distancing and hygiene during Communion.
What is Communion? (The Lord's Supper)
It is the regular remembrance and celebration of the Lord's sacrificial death. The breaking and eating of bread has to do with Christ's body being broken on the cross. The drinking from the cup has to do with the shedding of Christ's blood whereby we are forgiven.
Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24
How is our belief and practice of Communion different from other Christian traditions or denominations?
You may come from a different church background where Communion was only celebrated by an ordained minister or priest, who provides a special consecration and prayer involving rituals, garments, or religious symbolism and objects. For example, Roman Catholics call the Communion service "Mass," which they believe should only be celebrated by an ordained priest who facilitates the service involving transubstantiation, the belief that the elements of bread and the cup are mysteriously transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Some mainline denominations, including Orthodox, Episcopalians (Anglicans), and Lutherans practice variations of this, although they would call the Communion service a celebration of "Eucharist."
We respect the various Christian traditions, but do not follow them because we value the authority of the Bible and the examples shown to us in the Scriptures. In similar manner, most Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Evangelical groups also look to Scripture for the basis of belief and practice concerning Communion. As such, for us, there is no mysterious transformation of the elements of Communion into the actual body and blood of Christ.
We believe in Communion as an ordinance (a practice ordained by Jesus, mentioned in the Bible, and practiced by the early church), not as a sacrament or means of saving grace. We are saved through the sacrifice and blood of Christ, not by partaking of Communion. We do believe that they represent symbolically the body and blood of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit is present wherever people gather to celebrate and worship Jesus Christ, including the Communion service.
What is the purpose of Communion?
The primary purpose of Communion is to take time to remember all that our Lord Jesus Christ did for us. It is a time to worship and give thanks for the forgiveness of our sins and the new life and relationship that we have in Jesus Christ. It has to do with our communion with Christ, and our communion with other believers in Christ, regardless of church affiliation. This time of remembrance was initiated by Jesus just before His death. Because we tend to be forgetful people, in the Old Testament, believers were called to remember the faithfulness of God through various memorials. In the New Testament, this is the way Jesus wanted us to remember His love and forgiveness of our sins.
These verses also explain that Communion is a time of personal examination. It is a time to examine our relationship with the Lord and others.
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
Where and how often should we celebrate Communion?
We believe that it is a good thing for believers to celebrate not only "at church" or in the "church building" but also in homes and other appropriate places. An environment free from distractions is a good idea. In Acts, we read that believers met on a regular basis in their homes to celebrate Communion. We can celebrate regularly and often. God invites us to celebrate as often as we feel is appropriate.
Who can take Communion?
Any person who has believed in and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for his or her salvation. Church membership is not a requirement. Some people may not wish to participate for various reasons, and may observe and participate without partaking of the elements of Communion without feeling compelled or guilty. In the case of children in your own home or family, they should be of an age where they understand what Communion means biblically and have made a personal profession of faith in Christ. We do not observe a minimum age or required catechism for first Communion but encourage parents to lead their children in these matters.
Who can serve Communion?
Biblically speaking, because we believe in the priesthood of the believer, any believer (male or female) can serve or facilitate Communion. Strategically, we think that the group leaders or parents in the family are the best people to lead and serve. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate servant leadership in the same way that Jesus served His disciples. However, there may be other members who are equally able to lead and serve in this celebration. It is at the leaders' or parents’ discernment and discretion.
1 Peter 2:5-9
Is there a "best" time to serve Communion in the life cycle of the group?
In your family, you could do this for special occasions, holidays, life transitions, or as often as you desire. In a small group, it might be important to get to know one another at first, say within the first six months. But again, you may desire to celebrate sooner than this at a mealtime together.
What are the elements of Communion?
The elements consist of the bread, representing the body of Christ, and red wine or grape juice, representing the blood of Christ. We prefer use of grape juice, especially when serving to minors, and in deference to those people among us who abstain from alcohol or are in recovery from alcohol addiction.
How can we serve Communion?
There are many ways to serve Communion. The Bible does not dictate a certain method. Feel free to be creative. You could celebrate Communion after a meal together as often modeled by the early church. You could make this the centerpiece of your worship. This is a time of celebration. This is a time of remembrance and reflection. It can be a time of expressing thanks to the Lord together for His gift of salvation.
Matthew 26:26-29; Acts 2:42-46; 1 Corinthians 11:20-26
Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- This Sunday prepare the elements before service and towards the end we will guide you in how to celebrate this.
- You can purchase communion supplies in most Christian bookstores or on Amazon.com. These include convenient cups that are already filled with juice and have a wafer on the top layer, making them relatively simple to use and store.
- Or you may place a small loaf of unsliced bread (or use Matzos or unsalted saltine crackers – they are “unleavened bread”) on a platter and some grape juice (or anything you can drink) in a nice cup on a table in the middle of your group. You may decide to do this again during the week. Begin your time of celebration by by reading one of the common biblical texts that remind us of the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection. For most, this will include reading Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians.
Here, Paul instructs us that:
- We should remember the night Jesus was betrayed
- Jesus broke bread and distributed it
- Jesus gave thanks to the Father
- Jesus told them to take it and eat it, as it represents His broken body
- Pause and reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross
- Leader or someone else pray and give thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus’ body
- Jesus then drank from the cup and we drink in remembrance of Him
- The cup represents His shed blood for our sins
- Vs. 26 – By doing this, we remember and portray the Lord’s death until He returns
- Pause and reflect on why we forget, and why we should remember
- Leader or someone else pray and give thanks for the blood of Christ and forgiveness of sin.
- Vs. 27-30 We should participate respectfully and reverently
- We should practice self-examination and confess our sins to God
1 Corinthians 11:23-32.
- After reading the Scriptures, hand each person a pre-cut element of bread. Remind them that this bread represents the body of Jesus which was broken on our behalf.
- Next pass the cup of juice for each individual. Remind them that the cup represents the blood of Jesus which was shed for us.
- After the bread and juice have been consumed, encourage everyone to spend a few minutes in silent or corporate prayer and reflection. Or have each person pray for various needs with each other.
- Invite each person to share what the experience has meant or means to them.
There are many ways to serve and celebrate communion. The Bible does not dictate a certain form, procedure, or method. The important thing to remember is that this is a time of worship and celebration. It's a time of
remembrance and reflection. Practice it together as a part of your growing relationship with Jesus Christ and each other. Celebrating communion is an important element of obedience and growth in your own journey of spiritual formation.