Planning a Communion Meal

Tips and Ideas to Help

Since our ministry began, I’ve asked myself some serious questions.  One of them — what constitutes a ‘church service’?  What I’ve learned, is that we tend to allow our tradition, and not scripture, to answer that question.  The Bible never describes a ‘church service’ as people reverently sitting in sanctuary pews, while singing hymns and listening to a well-dressed pastor.  Can a ‘church service’ look like that?  Sure!  But it’s not what actually defines a ‘church service’.

Planning A Communion Meal

The Underground Church

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of being a part of a short-term missions team.  I’ll never forget experiencing an underground youth group.  Yes, they sang songs.  Yes, they heard from God’s Word.  But other than that, the ‘service’ looked NOTHING like what the average North American would call a ‘church service.’

It was full of community, unity, friendship, authentic connection, love, and selflessness.  Their goal wasn’t to serve themselves and welcome Jesus to ‘their service’, their goal was to celebrate Jesus through their community and serve Jesus.

A ‘church #service’ is about #Communion together as we celebrate Jesus. #unity #community #Acts2 Click To TweetWhat did I learn?  A ‘church service’ is about communion together as we celebrate Jesus.  Outside of the basics, the format doesn’t really matter.  The only fundamentals we know of, include teaching the Word, breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42).

So, what if we planned a service around one of the most significant aspects of our faith?  What if Holy Communion was actually the focus of our service?  What if we didn’t just ‘partake’ together, but actually ate together, like Jesus’ and his disciples did during the Last Supper?  (Check out What Happens During Communion? for more.)

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Is Speaking In Tongues Always A Known Language?

Glossolalia and the Main Purpose of Speaking in Tongues

The doctrine of Spirit Baptism and gift of tongues has received much debate.  What isn’t always discussed are the spoken languages themselves.  At a recent discipleship class, the question was asked if speaking in tongues is always a known language or can it be only known to God?  The answer is found in the Greek word glossolalia and the main purpose of speaking in tongues.

Tongues-Language

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3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol

When I was growing up it seemed to be common knowledge that Christians didn’t drink alcohol.  As the phrase made clear, “Christians don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or hang around those who do.”  Interestingly enough, the only sinful behaviour you could point to was drunkenness, and protecting God’s temple (our bodies).  So it became common practice to stay away from these often damaging substances.  For me, however, the question has always been, “why?”  Is there a biblical reason why I should completely abstain from alcohol?  Since asking this question, I’ve arrived at an answer – I simply choose not to drink alcohol.  Here are three reasons why:

wine-drinking

1. Early Christians weren’t known to “loosely” drink alcohol.

Even though many before me have attempted to prove Jesus and his disciples never consumed alcohol, I think it’s a far stretch.  Jesus was a Jew and Jewish tradition included meals like the Passover.  The Passover Meal included four cups of wine symbolizing the four promises found in Exodus 6:6-7 – “I will bring you out”, “deliver you”, “redeem you”, “and will take you to me for a people.”1  In celebrating, Jesus and his disciples shared in this meal (The Lord’s Supper).  The third cup is of special significance to the believer – the promise to “redeem you.” Jesus and his disciples shared a “new covenant” by sharing in this cup of wine, and the symbolism of blood and wine is simply amazing.  I think it’s fair to say, that if Jesus didn’t drink wine during these important customs, the Pharisees would have gladly questioned him.

I choose not to drink alcohol; I want to remain in complete control of my thoughts & actions. Click To TweetBut just because Jesus consumed alcohol, doesn’t mean consuming alcohol is a good idea for us today.  The early church clearly continued this practice; however, one thing is really clear – they weren’t known for using strong wine or drunkenness.  In Acts 2 the early church was filled with the Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know.  A few witnesses mocked them by saying, “They are filled with new wine.”  This is the only time the Greek word gleukoV (gleukos) is used for wine.  It literally means “sweet new wine still in the fermenting process.”  So essentially, the mockery was based on the fact that they were somehow drunk on the “weak” and “conservative” wine they were known to consume.  And as Peter pointed out, no one was drunk, and all were reacting to the Spirit’s work in them.

In our context today, I choose not to drink alcohol because I want to be known as the early church was known – a conservative follower of Christ who remains in complete control of my thoughts and actions.

2. Drunkenness is always a sin.

Consuming alcohol is never mentioned in scripture as sinful.  In fact, if Jesus consumed alcohol than the action can’t be sinful because Jesus was sinless.  If simply consuming alcohol was a sin than Jesus died on the cross to cover his own sin, not ours.  Drunkenness, however, is mentioned and is always mentioned as sinful behavior (Pro. 20:1; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:10; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:8; and, Titus 2:3.)  Paul said it this way:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: [including]…drunkenness…and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit [include]…self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-25, ESV)

In our culture, the road to “drunkenness” seems a little ambiguous at best.  The results of a couple drinks could be innocent, but the spiral from “tipsy” to “buzzed” to “hammered” can happen quickly.  It’s a difficult one to argue.  To avoid this, I’ve chosen not to drink alcohol at all.

While Timothy seemed to have a similar boundary of abstinence, Paul was somehow able to create boundaries that included a little wine for health reasons and encouraged Timothy to do the same:

23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (1 Timothy 5:23)

I choose not to drink alcohol; I want to create a boundary so there's no potential of drinking too much. Click To TweetPaul used the common Greek word for fermented wine (oinoV ; oinos) and clearly gave Timothy some boundaries by saying “little” and “for the sake of your stomach.”  If Timothy was trying to stay “pure”, as verse 22 implies, than Paul was simply showing him how to create a healthy boundary to allow one to take advantage of the health benefits of wine.

With that said, healthy living has come a long way in 2000 years and there are now many ways to gain health benefits without drinking wine.  Not to mention that too much wine can have negative health effects.  As a result, I choose not to drink alcohol because I want to create a boundary that distances myself from even the potential of drinking too much.  This leads me to my third reason.

3. Culture influences the consumption of alcohol.

Many traditions include the custom of drinking wine.  For the Jewish culture of the 1st century, drunkenness was an issue, but conservative wine drinking was still normal behavior and was included in many meals.  After all, drink options were limited and water wasn’t always clean.1  It’s possible to say the culture of the time, allowed for the consumption of alcohol.

My North American 21st century culture is quite different. Drinking has become a way to relax, have a good time, and forget about your troubles.  In reality, it’s normal for alcohol to be abused, rather than restricted.  For the same reasons why Timothy was trying to live a “pure” life, Christians need to avoid the cultural response and adhere to biblical ones.  In continuing in his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote:

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Drink options are now vast.  There are so many available and affordable options to choose from that don’t distort judgement and impair thinking.  Communion and sacraments can be used with red fruit juice with no impact to symbolism.  And social gatherings can include everything from clean water to juice to soda.

It may also be wise to note that there were no cars, or otherwise motorized vehicles that could have been operated under the influence of alcohol in the 1st century.  Whether we want to realize it or not, one of the best ways to stop drinking and driving is to either altogether stop driving or altogether stop drinking.  We know we can’t stop driving, so perhaps cutting out alcohol is a possible solution.

While the 1st century culture allowed for the consumption of alcohol, the 21st century culture I live in has disallowed consumption for me.

I choose not to drink alcohol; my culture doesn't allow for conservative consumption. Click To Tweet

This is not to say any Christian who chooses to consume alcohol on a social basis, with boundaries against drunkenness, should be looked down upon or disregarded in any way.  There is nothing in scripture to disallow the consumption of alcohol.  I am simply saying, that in our culture, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not wise for me, as a believer, to drink alcohol as the benefits aren’t as great as the possible risks and issues involved.

The challenge is to seriously evaluate the boundaries you have in your life regarding alcohol consumption.  For some, it may mean adjusting when and how much you drink.  For others, it may be best to discontinue the practice all together.

In the pursuit of holiness, our job is to create boundaries that bring us closer to God personally, and allow us to build up the kingdom socially.

Your turn…

While my evaluation may change in the future, I’ve personally chosen not to drink alcohol.

Have you thought about this before?  If so, what have you chosen to do?  If not, what will you choose to do?


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Eating Together On Sunday Morning

A few months ago, our Sunday Night Bible study began to discuss why we partake in Holy Communion.  It was a challenging conversation that led us to three conclusions: 1) we partake together because Jesus, through scripture, taught us to do so; 2) the way we partake in Holy Communion today is highly traditional; and, 3) many could not connect the biblical experience Holy Communion and our tradition of Holy Communion.  This led us to the challenge: can we recapture the way in which the early Church would have experienced Holy Communion so we can connect the biblical experience with our tradition today?  I offer five reasons why our church is eating together on Sunday Morning.

1. Jesus ate with His disciples.

When we read Luke 22 for our Holy Communion text, we often jump to verse 19 – “…He took bread, and when he had given thanks, He broke it…and likewise the cup…” and so on…  In reality, the picture of the Lord’s Supper is much different.  Jesus had sat down with his disciples for the Passover meal.  If we go back to verse 14, we read:

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him.15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

With that in mind, we should read verse 19 and 20 and we realize that Communion took place after they ate:

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

In order to create an atmosphere of unity, with fellow believers in Christ, perhaps we need to eat together to recreate the Passover experience and conclude with Holy Communion.  Our meal together will remain sacred, but eating together will add the unity that we often miss in our traditional Holy Communion experience.

2. The early Church devoted themselves to eating together.

In Acts we are given a picture of the life of the early Church.  At the end of chapter 2, we are given a summary of what they focused on as early Christians.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The “fellowship” and “breaking of bread” was more than simply a social and the partaking of symbolic items – which is what we traditionally do today.  The early church devoted themselves to eating together.  In fact, verse 42 is really a great picture of what an early Church service looked like: the apostles’ teaching (a sermon), fellowship (community), breaking of bread (a meal and Holy Communion), and prayer.

Because the early Church devoted themselves to this, we will be incorporating this experience in our special Sunday Morning gathering so we can gain a deeper appreciation of this holistic spiritual community that is described in scripture.

3. Holy Communion is about unity.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, one of the main issues he was trying to correct was their lack of unity amongst each other.  This is how he began his Holy Communion discussion in 1 Corinthians 11:

18…when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.

He was trying to make sure they knew that the experience should bring them together, and not further apart.  In other words, Holy Communion should be about the corporate community and not just the individual person.

Holy Communion needs to bring everyone together.  Eating together allows for this in a special way.  We are people of community, we enjoy spending time with friends, and often eat together in a very natural way.  If scripture is trying to encourage this sort unity, this is a great way to help us connect tradition with the biblical experience.

4. Eating together removes us from a tradition and into a new divine experience.

I will admit, eating together in a Sunday morning service is far from the norm.  That said, eating together in general is completely normal.  In fact, we encourage it and seem to enjoy eating together.  It seems as though we’re not sure that eating together can be sacred.   If scripture, however, paints a very spiritual picture of what a meal together entails, than perhaps we need to change our view of eating together.

I think by reshaping what we call normal we can lead ourselves into a new divine experience.  That’s not to say our traditional experience isn’t already divine, please don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I’m simply trying to show that by trying something new, we are, in effect, able to view a divine experience in another divine way.

5. Eating together brings strength as we wait for Christ to return.

Holy Communion helps us remember what Christ did for us on the cross, reflect on what that means for us spiritually today (our salvation), and look forward to when we will one day eat together and partake with Christ (1 Corinthians 11:25, 26).  In fact, Jesus tells us that He will not even eat this meal until the Kingdom is established and He and all believers are together (Luke 22:18).

By eating together in unity, we are able to remember and celebrate what Jesus has done for all of us and truly look forward the great meal we will have when the Kingdom is fully established in heaven.  It’s beautiful.

In conclusion…

We may have missed some of the meaning and significance of Holy Communion because we have disconnected the biblical experience of Holy Communion with our traditional experience of Holy Communion. Because Jesus ate with his disciples and the early Church ate together, Holy Communion started out of unity.  By participating in a new experience of eating together, I believe we will be able to bring unity and strength to the body of Christ as we continue to be a witness for Him and wait for His return.

So, on Sunday morning, we will sing, pray, read scripture, eat together, share in Holy Communion, and share how Jesus is working in us and through us.

Your turn:

How can you recreate the communion experience?  Tell us about what you have tried, or are planning to try?

After we experience this, I will post some things we learned, as a follow up post.

Loving God or His Creation?

RESPONSE: Do I even love God?

This is a response to a very humble and honorable question: Do I even I love God? Many ask similar questions, but are afraid to journey through an answer because of the possible outcomes. This is part of my answer…

As a Christian, I often ask myself: “am I busy being involved in ministry OR in my relationship with God?” Sometimes I think of this in terms of being in a relationship with THE CREATOR or CREATION.  I find this useful because it voices the concern in terms of God’s activity.  God himself is THE CREATOR, while everything in this world (including every system and science) is a product of God’s CREATION.  We should always focus on our relationship with THE CREATOR; however, by being involved in what God has CREATED, we support and join in God’s activity which in turn, strengthens our relationship with Him.

God, The Creator
God is our personal Creator.  When Adam and Eve were in the garden, it was clear their first priority was to obey and serve God, which is our primal definition of worship.  We were created in God’s image and likeness, and in return, we were called to obey.[i]  Our relationship with God was, and continues to be, our first priority.

God’s Creation
Adam also understood his second role ? to take care of God’s creation.  God told Adam to name the animals, have leadership among the rest of creation and to work and keep the garden.[ii]  Part of our responsibility is to take part in what God has created.

Our Journey With God in His Creation
If we continue to read scripture, we see that God created the system of ministry we serve in today.  Jesus talked about building His church,[iii] and sent the Spirit to empower the early Church for service.[iv]  Paul understood God’s creation in terms of God’s ultimate authority.  When discussing government, Paul told us to subject ourselves to their authority because God himself has appointed them.[v]  If we continue in this logic, the Church and our system of ministry has been appointed by God himself and he expects us to join in his special activity.   Furthermore, our lack of participation would symbolize our lack of involvement in Christ, since we, the Church, are in fact Christ’s body.[vi]

While God, the Creator, should always be first in our lives, being active in what God has created should be one of the ways we participate in that relationship.  That said, participating doesn’t necessarily mean you love God; rather, loving God means participating in His creation.  In order to love God, we must live lives of WORSHIP, LOVE His creation, and SERVE others as they GROW to do the same.

My prayer: May God allow you to continue to develop your understanding of your journey with Him.

 


[i] Genesis 1:26; 2:16-17.

[ii] Genesis 1:26, 28-30; 2:15, 20.

[iii] Matthew 16:18.

[iv] Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4.

[v] Romans 13:1.

[vi] Ephesians 4:1-16.