By Mark S. Krause
Some in the church world today ask, “Why celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week?” In the Christian churches/churches of Christ, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper each Sunday because we find that pattern reflected in the early church described in the New Testament. While it is inevitable that the church has changed over the centuries, we believe there are basic patterns worth preserving, and this is one of them.
But this leads to a more basic question: “Why did the early church celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week?”
The answer is very simple, but it requires a different way of thinking for some Christians. Most believers are well acquainted with the church tradition and expectation of meeting together on the first day of the week. Local churches, (the word literally means “those who gather together”), assemble on Sundays. But why?
Believers might give any one of many answers. Some might say they come out of habit but don’t really understand why. Others might say church is a chance to see friends. Some might cite their enjoyment of the splendid music. A few might even say they come because of the preaching. But in most Protestant churches, there would be little mention of the Lord’s Supper.
Yet meeting for the Lord’s Supper is exactly what the congregants of the early churches did. Why did they assemble on Sunday? They came together to participate in the great sacrament of fellowship, to commune together in the shared acts of the Lord’s Supper, to meet around the table of the Lord. In so doing, they were remembering the core beliefs of their faith: that Jesus died for their sins and rose on the third day.
It was not a passive experience. They did more than hear the spoken word. They remembered Christ’s broken body as their fingers touched the bread . They recalled Christ’s blood, shed for them, as their tongues tasted the wine. They celebrated the new covenant, the gracious invitation of God to believe in his Son and thereby be saved.
This is why it takes a new way of thinking, a paradigm shift, to understand the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The question is not, “Why do we have it every week?” The question is, “Why do we meet every week?”
We come to meet around a table of fellowship offered by Christ to all believers. If we sing a little, that is good. If we hear some Scripture read, that is good. If we listen to a choir sing a stirring anthem, that is good. If we give our tithes and offerings, that is good. If we are challenged by a helpful sermon, that is good.
But none of these things takes the place of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, nor is any activity more important than partaking in Communion. Let us come to the table in joyful remembrance of our Savior. Let us come as the gathered body of Christ, the fellowship of the saved.
Mark S. Krause recently accepted the call to serve as vice president of academics at Nebraska Christian College, Papillion, Nebraska.