"Why do our evangelical Lord’s Supper services so often look like the clinical communal rinse-and-spit of fluoride at an elementary school rather than like a loving family gathered around a feast table?"

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Susan R's picture


It's one thing to drink after 12 of your best friends, and quite another to drink after 100 people you barely know, even if they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I'll pass on the communal cup, thank you. I don't think the spiritual focus was ever on the sharing of one cup or one loaf of bread, but on the memorial of Christ's death and the judging of one's heart.

ChrisC's picture

communion would take too long with 100 people and only one cup. we have about 50 on sunday and use two cups. last weekend was a regional conference with a few hundred people and 10 or 12 cups. the cups get wiped periodically, but at the conferences there are 30 people in the row who all take a sip before the cup is wiped again. maybe someone will pull out a tissue and wipe in the middle of the row, but not necessarily.

edit: although, the few times i've been in a catholic mass, no one seems to mind slowly forming a single line for one cup.

Susan R's picture


I've never seen a Lord's Supper that looked like a rinse-and-spit... if I had to make a gross comparison, it looks more like doing synchronized shots.

Charlie's picture

At our church of 300ish we do the Lord's Supper every week. Our elders stand at the front holding the loaves of bread and the two common cups. There is also a central table with individual cups - including a ring of grape juice for people that don't want to take wine - and some gluten-free wafers. It usually takes about 10 minutes to finish. We wouldn't want to shorten it much, however, because because it's so edifying to take that time to pray, remember, taste, and see all your brothers and sisters go to the table. After a liturgy that focuses on the law/gospel dynamic and preaching that is purposefully Christ-centered, it makes perfect sense to do the Lord's Supper, and not rush.

Yes, the common cup creeps some people out. That's why we give options.

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Susan R's picture


Charlie wrote:
At our church of 300ish we do the Lord's Supper every week. Our elders stand at the front holding the loaves of bread and the two common cups. There is also a central table with individual cups - including a ring of grape juice for people that don't want to take wine.

Do you think there is an important spiritual meaning to the common cup?

I'll admit I'm a bit grossed out- I have this mental picture of the poor person standing behind a kid who backwashes, and being the last person in line...

Daniel's picture

In our morning service we do the synchronized shots Smile
But in our Sunday night young adults group, we do something similar to common cup/loaf. We have about 4 cups/loafs and four guys start holding them. Then as people have prayed and thought on what Christ has done for them, they go to the front and tear a piece off and dip it into the cup. The person holding says a phrase. (I forgot what it was, something like you have been justified through Christ.) The person who took communion then holds the basket with the loaf and the cup for the next person. I think last time it took about 20-25 minutes for everyone to take communion. (probably about 140 young adults) During that time, people are given the opportunity to pray by themselves, or take people aside and pray with them. Towards the end, they start playing a song softly and people begin to sing, if they feel led to.

TimothyJ's picture

Here's another question about diverging from the biblical early church tradition: why do many churches limit communion to once a month or once every couple of months to preserve the "specialness" of the time when the early church believers broke bread weekly or sometimes daily? Apparently the early believers were not concerned about losing any special sacredness of the moment by doing it regularly; they remembered Christ's death through this ceremony weekly. It's almost like out of convenience and not wanting the hassle of filling up cups and trays weekly, we limit an important time of remembrance. Not saying that it's absolute biblical command to do it weekly, but it does seem that our mindset is different from that of the early church when it comes to communion.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I grew up in the Lutheran church where we received communion from the pastor at the front of the church, from one common cup. There could be as many as 300 people in such a service, and the service was carried out with great pomp and circumstance. If you know anything about Lutheran hymnody, there are special communion hymns for just occasions, many of which have 15 verses (sung in sections of two or three with organ interlude in between).

In my own experience, when I first converted to a fundamental Bible church, I found their practice of the Lord's Supper to be a refreshing change (as with many other things). Later, however, with maturity and the passing of time, I found myself missing some of the practices I learned in my youth and trying to discern what good things I could learn and take from them.

I do think that the celebration of the Lord's Supper is quite vapid in many of our Baptist churches, and there could be creative ways to change it up. As a pastor, I did some of them, like having communion at the beginning of a Good Friday service.

Truthfully, I have not seen too many organists or ushering crews in Baptist churches who could conceive of handling a Lutheran communion service. It would be sort of like the Greeks of the early NT times trying to learn Jewish customs (1 Cor. 1:23) Smile

On a more serious note, I learned from Dr. Myron Houghton that a secondary significance of the bread of communion is that is signifies the oneness of the local church body (1 Cor. 10:16). Thus, it would certainly seem to make more sense to use one loaf of bread than a box of crackers -- and it would also be a little more pleasing to the senses.

Furthermore, a pastor could clean his hands with sanitizer and then tear apart a loaf of bread. That would seem to be less objectionable than a common cup.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry