6 Lessons from Eating Together

Our church recently tried something different – we ate together on a Sunday morning as part of our service.  Before you say, “that sounds crazy”, let me back up a little.  We wanted to connect the Lord’s Supper (Jesus celebrating Passover on the night He was betrayed) with our traditional Communion service we experience today (usually a small cup and wafer).  So, we tried something new – we gathered together on a Sunday morning around tables, sang songs, prayed, read scripture, learned about the Passover meal, shared in a meal together, experienced Communion, shared testimonies, and prayed for the sick.  You can read more about why we went down this road, by reading: “5 Reasons Why Our Church Is Eating Together Sunday Morning.”

After reflecting on this event, we have some lessons from eating together that we’d like to share with you.

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to take the risk.

If you want to move forward, you have to take on risk.  From what I know, this is the first time such an endeavor has been tried within our movement of churches.  It would have been easy to wait for someone else to try it, but avoiding risk will stunt growth every time.  All risks will end in failure or success; however, both will bring you forward.  Failure doesn’t mean timing wasn’t right, it simply means there is more to learn.  Success doesn’t mean we know everything, it simply means we are on the right track.  In any case, we learned that eating together on a Sunday morning is a risk, but it was a risk we were willing to take.  As a result, we grew as a body of believers.

Lesson #2: Teaching, promoting and communicating are all keys to success.

This cannot be underestimated.  In fact, I’m not sure if they can even be over-done.  This communion experience was birthed out of a Sunday Night study and discussion on Communion.  The weeks and months that followed included Church Board discussions, further Sunday Morning sermons, related topics, blog posts, social media posts, and even one-on-one conversations.  With that said, if there was one thing I wish we did more of before the event, it would be even more communication.  People want to know the benefits of risk, and everyone processes their understanding on different timelines.

Lesson #3: Don’t let the few who won’t participate, decide if you will take the risk.

Although we tried to be optimistic, we knew it may happen – some just didn’t participate, or want to be a part of something new.  It’s true, we could have always taught more, promoted more, or provided more opportunity to ask questions.  At the end of the day, however, some just refused to listen to the potential benefits of doing something new.  My prayer will continue to be: “God, help them see the Gospel before their tradition, so that their tradition is fueled by the Gospel, and not the other way around.”  Our second lesson was clear – we didn’t let the few who didn’t want to participate decide whether or we pursued God’s call.  We are all on different journeys and we need to respect each other while moving forward.  At the very least, it will be a great reason to try this experience again in an effort to give everyone the chance to participate in the future.

Lesson #4: Completely changing a traditional experience can help in spiritual growth.

While new experiences can be uncomfortable, they often force us to put tradition aside.  When we lay aside the “normal” way of doing something, the usual routine becomes a whole new experience.  In this case, Communion took on a new form and that new form created an environment of spiritual growth.  It wasn’t just a meal, it was an experience that linked our tradition of communion with the Jewish Passover and Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples.  Our communion service was successful because it was so different from the tradition that people allowed for a new connection to be made – it made spiritual growth a reality.

Lesson #5: The spirit of unity must be the central focus.

Out of all of the comments and feedback we received, “unity” continued to be a strong theme.  When Paul discussed Communion in 1 Corinthians, one of his concerns was the lack of unity among the Church.  Unfortunately, our Communion tradition normally expects us to separately examine ourselves before God, before partaking of individual cups and wafers in our individual seats.  While we commune in one building, the practice is very individualistic.  By eating together, like the early Church would have done, the concept of Communion encouraged the church family to partake in the experience together and not separately.  It also encouraged both families and couples, young and old, male and female to join together in unity.  The spirit of unity was undeniable.

Lesson #6: Expect the unexpected.

In a natural fashion, we had planned for a few people to share a few testimonies after we shared in communion.  To get the ball started, we asked one person to think about what they could share before the morning started.  What followed that testimony, however, was amazing!  Several people, from different generations and situations deeply shared about how God has challenged them, strengthen them or otherwise impacted them.  The key for us was to make sure this moment was as free as possible.  I was willing to plan to a degree, but God was welcomed to take over at any moment.  As these testimonies progressed, God took over, and we started to pray for the sick.  The final call was for anyone dealing with sickness, or wanted to stand in for someone dealing with sickness.  Nearly everyone gathered around the altar and was prayed for and anointed with oil. It was a powerful moment! Expect the unexpected!

 

This new experience was a huge success for us, and I would recommend any assembly to give it a try.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send a message (andrewholm@gmail.com), and I would love to help you in any way!

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.