Lately I’ve been thinking . . .
About the Lord’s Table
Have you ever talked to your church about what they should – and shouldn’t – be doing during the Lord’s Table? In preparing the church for this very important practice, most pastors rightly refer to 1 Corinthians to review what Paul writes about the Lord’s Table. As part of that review, we often quote verses 27 & 28 to direct people to take a look within and, if I can put it this way, get their spiritual house in order so as to be prepared to take Communion. In that way we won’t be taking the Lord’s Table unworthily.
I’ve heard this admonition often. But do we really want to convey the idea that we can do anything to become more worthy? I am not suggesting we should be cavalier with regard to sin, but the only reason we are welcome at the Lord’s Table is because of what Jesus did in his sinless life, death, and resurrection. He alone makes us worthy.
I’ve talked with people who struggle with forgiveness. They wonder if God has really forgiven them. And they wonder if they’ve confessed all of their sins. It’s not hard to imagine an overly introspective person going back over sins that have already been confessed, just to be sure that they are not sinning further by “being unworthy.”
In a 2014, pastor and author Joe Thorn put it this way:
“On the other hand the Lord’s Supper is sometimes treated as an overly-introspective and nearly depressing act. Some are encouraged to so focus on their sin that, despite the highlighted and visible gospel proclamation happening in the Lord’s Supper, the joy of salvation is nowhere to be found. In fact, some believers will decide not to participate at all because they have messed up “too badly.” There stands the table. The invitation is made. But some fear they shouldn’t go forward because the past week was one filled with sin and unbelief. Some think, “I blew it this week. I better not do it.” But here is the truth. Just as Jesus came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, so the Lord’s Supper is for sinners (Luke 5:32).”
I think it would be worthwhile for pastors to re-study this passage and read what commentators say in order to understand and explain it accurately. If we don’t, we may inadvertently turn our people’s focus primary inward rather than toward Christ. If we look at this passage carefully, I think we will conclude that what Paul is talking about has a whole lot to do with the way the Corinthians were behaving and how they were treating each other.
One more thought: rather than a long period of silence while the elements are distributed, would it be more helpful to read passages relating to the meaning of Jesus’ death responsively or in unison? A meditative song about the Cross could also be appropriate. I wonder if we’ve privatized the Lord’s Table by focusing on individual over corporate response. Just thinking . . .
About What Our Worship Services Teach Our People
We teach our people in more ways than preaching. When we plan our worship services, we should realize that – from start to finish – we are shaping the way people think about God and our relationship to him.
Our music choices need to be carefully evaluated for doctrinal faithfulness. Popularity is not close to the top of the list of what makes a song appropriate for church singing. And that goes for older songs as well as newer.
Our prayers should be thoughtful and varied. We need prayers that praise God, confess sin, show thanksgiving and dependence. We should be praying for missionary work in other places, and for those who are being persecuted for following Christ. We have to avoid what may come across as incidental, off-the-cuff prayers.
The way we talk about the offering is instructive. We should talk more about giving to the work of God, reminding people of what their giving enables. We should focus less on meeting the budget.
About Trying Too Hard to Be Relevant
About a year ago I was in a church where the speaker referred to Jesus as “that Cat” and told us that God was “a smart Dude.” I know he was trying to connect, but it was awful. So little in our world – including the Christian world – points to God’s holiness. No one wants to listen to someone spill 30 minutes of seminary-talk. But we don’t need to go to the other extreme and treat holy things so casually.
About Bible Translations
I’ve been using the English Standard Version since shortly after it was released, and it is my preferred translation. But our pastor is using the Christian Standard Bible, published by Holman. I had mistakenly thought that the CSB was published by one denomination. However, the CSB was produced by a group of scholars evangelical pastors would easily recognize, coming from a variety of traditions. I like it. I’m not sure I’ll “switch,” but the more I read it, the more at home I feel. It is a bit easier reading than the ESV. I’d recommend that you get a copy. I picked up a hardback with center-column references on Amazon.
Thanks so much for stopping by. If you have any thoughts to share, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the moderated comments section. I’d be glad to hear from you!