As previously announced, we have decided to have our Good Friday Communion on Good Friday (4/3 @6:30pm). However, we are doing some things a little differently this time, and I’ve received a number of questions…so I thought I’d tackle them here on the blog.
If you had a question (or are just curious what people are asking), scroll down and see if yours is addressed. If not, feel free to leave a question in the comments section. (I may edit the post and add it.)
So what exactly is changing?
In a nutshell, not a ton. Instead of a sandwich alone for the “Love Feast,” we’re incorporating a carry-in (see our announcements for details). This also means the order of our evening will switch from Bread & Cup, Feetwashing, Love Feast (a justification-sanctification-glorification format) to Love Feast, Feetwashing, Bread & Cup. (Interesting that for Good Friday the order tends to follow the Last Supper.)
So, we’re adding a feast?
Yes and no. If you’re are thinking “buffet” when you see the word “feast,” that’s not what we have in mind. In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 instructs us that our motive should not be to “pig out.” If you know you may be crazy hungry, it may be a good idea to eat before you arrive.
However, if by “feast,” you are thinking “celebration,” then yes, we are having a feast. By adding variety, choices and more food, we’re hoping to really encourage a heart of celebration to our communion services. (Think like a wedding reception…which the Love Feast envisions…the goal is not so much a full belly as a full heart.)
What was wrong with the old way?
Absolutely nothing. Our communion services have always been quite special and very meaningful. Those who have prepared, whether table settings, or Biblical instruction, or music have always done a great job! We’re simply trying something new to encourage our three key elements of Rest, Rejoice and Review from our Vision Night.
So what should I bring?
Again, follow the announcement link above to find your specific items. However, some have asked the question with a bit of “Martha Stewart trepidation” in their voice. If getting caught up in what dish to bring and what others may think about it is a major temptation, please resist. We don’t want you to be so distracted by your food item you brought that your focus cannot be on Christ. Jesus loves store bought desserts and side dishes…and so do we. Don’t sweat the preparation.
Do you have to be a member to attend?
Our communion services have never been “closed” (reserved for membership only), but are “close.” Yes, you may bring a friend or family member as well as attenders (but nonmembers) at Grace are welcome to join us. If you know someone who would like to come, I usually state to people, “If you are a believer who is in good standing with your local church, you are welcome to come.”
What about kids?
Two part answer. Kids will be joining us for the meal at the beginning. In the New Testament, there are multiple references to the church body enjoying meals together, but it is never actually spoken of like an ordinance (as Bread & Cup and Feetwashing are). Therefore, we don’t see any problem with your child, regardless of age or profession of faith, joining you. Non-believing children are always welcome to observe (but not participate) in all elements of our communion service. (It can be a great teaching tool.)
Who decides if my child can participate? Ultimately, you (the parents) do. If your child professes Christ and shows evidence of a life of repentance and trust, then you are the one to determine if you want them to participate in the whole service or not.
As a parent, this can be difficult. How do you know when your child has transitioned from conforming to what the family teaches, or even wanting to please mom and dad, to truly possessing individual faith? I’ll tell you, I find that virtually impossible to determine on my own. I think this is a way that the local church can help.
Our church recognizes the conversion of a child the same way as we do an adult. Yes, their words and experiences are going to be different, but ultimately we want to hear an articulation of the gospel (without coaching) that expresses genuine faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
As a family (this is just what the Wrights do, not requiring it of others), we have chosen to only have our children who have been baptized participate in all elements of communion. Our reasoning is the following:
- The ordinances (baptism and communion) have long been tied together throughout church history.
- From Scripture to today, baptism remains the symbol by which a person is recognized as a believer. Praying a prayer, coming forward, signing a card is not wrong or sinful, but the way the Scriptures describe accepting someone as a believer is through their proclamation of baptism. (Be clear, baptism doesn’t save. Repentance and faith save. But baptism is the way we acknowledge publicly this repentance and faith.)
- This process gets it out of “my hands.” I do not conduct the interview for baptism for any of my children. They meet with an elder (of their choosing) just like any other person in our church. I love that I can trust the assessment to another elder and not be forced through my own bias (either being too “soft” or overcompensating and being to “hard”).
Now, as stated above, this is not “church policy.” There is room for freedom, conscious and “special circumstances” to apply. (Even in our situation, we’re making an exception this communion. One child of ours will be participating though she had not been baptized yet. She has conducted the interview and was approved. We just need to set up a date for her baptism.) I would simply encourage parents to think through two dynamics as you make your decision:
- Not “assuming faith” upon your child. While we all desperately want to see our children believe, it can be quite confusing if we treat them fully as a believer before they actually are.
- Not invoking condemnation. It is not good for a nonbeliever to take part in communion. While telling your child they are not ready may be awkward and cause some family tensions, it seems far less costly than participating in something that could bring about judgment from God.
Ok, that’s a looong post (but maybe not long enough). Feel free to post questions or further thoughts in the “comments” section.