Earlier this week, we asked the question, “Is it wrong for churches to cancel worship services?” I appreciate the many positive comments regarding the post.
However, as one of our readers responded, “This brings up another question. Is it scriptural to partake of the Lord’s Supper individually at home?”
Others have asked and commented on this issue as well. Here are a few thoughts for your serious and prayerful consideration.
First of all, we are not writing because we have a hidden agenda or an “ax to grind” with anyone. We’re not seeking self-justification to defend our actions. In fact, during this time, the churches where I’ve been scheduled to preach and am scheduled for the next three weeks have not cancelled services. So my wife and I have not currently faced this issue.
Secondly, all Bible believers are aware of the admonition in 1 Corinthians 11 for them to “come together as a church,” “in one place,” and to “wait for one another.” Apparently, the brethren were abusing the Lord’s supper and turning it into a common meal. Possibly the rich among them were bringing an abundance of food and shaming the poor who had very little. Paul sets the record straight regarding the elements, purpose and design of the Lord’s supper to remember Jesus and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
What is occurring today, in this “present distress” is not the same thing for which Paul was condemning the Corinthians. They were a divided church. The book addresses many problems that plagued them, including a denial of the resurrection as well as the desecration of the Lord’s supper. So, the Corinthian abuse and the question of communion during our current crisis is not parallel.
Thirdly, our question deals with the appropriate, scriptural response when you are not able to “come together.” Then what? Brethren in isolated areas with only one church have no other choices. Even in some large cities all of the churches may have canceled services. One sister messaged me that her local church had canceled services, but so had all the other churches in the metropolitan area of 7-8 million people. There was no place to “come together” for communion. She wanted to do what was right. She desired to worship. Her heart is in the right place. So her family worshiped at home. And took communion.
This leads us to a fourth and very important point. What is the attitude and motive for observing the Lord’s supper at home? Through the years, I’ve heard of brethren who went deer hunting and skipped worshiped services. The local church was close by. But they didn’t want to leave the camp. So, the took the Lord’s supper while sitting in a deer stand. Seriously? The same could be said for those who take a trip to the beach or mountains where there are places to worship, but they don’t want to interrupt their vacation. This is a totally different motive and attitude in such situations.
Fifth, I wonder what the apostle Paul did on his voyage to Rome as recorded in Acts 27-28? We know because of the “we sections” that Luke was with him. Maybe other brethren in their traveling party. When Sunday came, can you imagine Luke saying, “I brought unleavened bread and wine for us to have communion?” And then Paul condemned Luke? “What’s the matter with you? Didn’t you read 1 Corinthians? You can only worship and take communion in the local church? Come on, Luke, let’s go sit on the deck and enjoy the sunshine. It would be wrong to worship.”
Somehow I can’t envision such a response. Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Holy Spirit recorded what they did? But He didn’t. So, we have to apply our best judgment to this unusual and unprecedented crisis.
Sixth, let’s be very, very slow to criticize spiritual shepherds who made the decision to cancel services that has placed so many in this situation. One elder commented on my earlier post sharing his feelings. “As an elder of a church that chose to scale down services for the safety of our members, I can tell you that the decision by our five elders was not flippant and came at an emotional cost.”
Pastors and preachers are looking out for the spiritual, as well as the physical and emotional well being of those entrusted to their care. Let’s be charitable in our assessment. And allow local churches to make their own decisions without impugning their motives.
Seventh, individual Christians who are unable to assemble, must study this issue for themselves, come to a conclusion and be fully persuaded in their own minds. The aforementioned elder also offered this sound advice. “During these trying times, we should remember that our faith is measured by how well we persevere and continue to walk circumspectly according to God’s will. None of us, need to worry what another man’s faith may lead them to say about our decisions concerning our own worship.”
Good brethren will reach different conclusions on this matter. This is no time to get involved in social-media shouting matches. Unjustly condemning elders, preachers and churches. And judging our brother or sister who acts in good faith.
Honestly, it’s difficult to believe the God is unhappy with Christians who are unable to assembly and out of love for Him meet with their families to worship. Is He displeased with their singing? Praying? Study of the Word? And remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice? Would he rather they watch TV? Engage in recreation? Or play cards?
Finally, Lord wiling, this crisis will cease. Churches will resume meeting. We will soon be able to extend hugs, handshakes and most of all worship and commune together.
In the meantime, let us stay focused on Jesus. Hold on tight to our faith. Grow spiritually. Be patient with one another. Pray for this crisis to end. Respect each other’s consciences. And show brotherly love.
May God bless and protect you all by His grace and mercy.
Ken Weliever, The Preacherman