Relegating the Lord’s Supper to the end of the service as an inconvenient add-on or observing it only when it fits into the congregations’ cultural calendar is sacrilegious. You would probably gain more spiritual value by preaching a little longer or singing another song if these are limitations your congregation places on this sacred ordinance.
The tradition of observing the Lord’s Supper quarterly, when it will fit into the sermon schedule, in response to the local church calendar, or just because a congregation hasn’t observed it recently has contributed to the minimization of this meaningful ordinance. Additionally, a limited understanding of the Lord’s Supper only as a penitential replay of the Last Supper has diminished its meaning and value for worshipers. This traditional approach to the Lord’s Supper is not inaccurate, just incomplete.
Expanding our consideration to the Eucharistic understanding of the Lord’s Supper as a meal of thanksgiving can encourage us to experience this ordinance beyond a memorial meal. An attitude of thanksgiving allows us to move beyond wallowing in our sorrow to the realization that hope is found in the resurrection.
Additionally, congregations have attempted to create community by developing relationships, planning activities, or encouraging fellowship by affinity. What these congregations are missing is the realization that the foundation of healthy community is already available and waiting at the Communion Table in their vertical relationship with Christ and horizontal relationship with each other.
Understanding that the Lord’s Supper is much more than a memorial does not minimize its observance at times as a memorial as well. This visual, tactile, and symbolic Word should cause us to grieve that His body was broken for us. The purpose, however, of remembering is not just to live in the past through our sorrow, but to remember in order to influence our present and future.
If we are going to get better we must continually reassess what we are now doing and why we are doing it. An intentional Lord’s Supper evaluation process could offer a constructive way for a congregation to identify, prioritize, and address some of their embedded misunderstandings.
Since most congregations do not have an instrument to regularly evaluate their Lord’s Supper services, I have developed the following questionnaire to encourage your congregation to consider worship renewal that is available at the Table. You are welcome to freely adapt and use this questionnaire to meet the evaluative needs of your congregation.
CONGREGATIONAL LORD’S SUPPER QUESTIONNAIRE
To assist in understanding the value of the Lord’s Supper to worship in our congregation, please answer the following questions based on your perspective as a worship planner/leader/or congregational participant. Please answer the questions thoroughly with regard to current understanding and practice, not future aspirations.
- How healthy is our congregation in the area of worship? What factors contribute to or detract from its health?
- Are the members of our congregation active participants in our worship services? In what ways do they participate?
- Are there any worship practices you have observed or are aware of that would not be acceptable for our congregation?
- Are there any events in the life and/or history of our congregation that have significantly impacted its worship?
- How important is the Lord’s Supper to our congregation?
- How often is the Lord’s Supper included as a part of our worship services? How is this determined or scheduled?
- What is the attitude of our congregation during the Lord’s Supper and what determines that attitude?
- What does the Lord’s Supper signify to you personally? What factors contribute to this significance?
- Do you believe the Lord’s Supper has worship value for you individually? If yes, in what ways? If no, why?
- Do you believe the Lord’s Supper has worship value for our entire congregation? If yes, in what ways? If no, why?
- Have you observed or participated in a Lord’s Supper service in a congregation or denomination outside of ours? If yes, give a brief explanation.
- Were any of those experiences particularly meaningful for you? If yes, please list examples and reasons why.
- Were any of those experiences uncomfortable for you or confusing to you? If yes, please list examples and reasons why.
- Are there any Lord’s Supper observances listed in question 11 that could enhance the worship of our congregation? If yes, please give examples of how.
- Is the Lord’s Supper central to the worship theme of our services? If yes, how? If no, why?
- Does our Lord’s Supper theme vary from observance to observance? Examples: remembrance, communion, thanksgiving.
- If no, why? If yes, what elements contribute to those various observances?
- Does the observance of the Lord’s Supper in our church strengthen your relationship with God? If yes, what elements contribute to that? If no, what elements distract from that?
- What could/should be done differently that would enhance the Lord’s Supper services in our church?
- Any additional comments?