How Often Should a Church Take the Lord’s Supper?

How often should a church take the Lord’s supper?

Let’s cut straight to the chase: I think the New Testament indicates that the early church took the Lord’s supper every Lord’s day, that is, every Sunday. My key piece of evidence for this is in Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we gathered to break bread . . .” Earlier in Acts we read of the earliest church, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes” (2:42, 46).

The question, from these two references, is what they do when they “break bread”? Because Acts 2:46 seems to refer to ordinary meals, what I’m going to argue here has to be held loosely. Some say the frequency with which we take the Lord’s supper is a matter of preference, even, but I think Acts 20:7 is stronger than that.

The phrase “break bread” often refers to the Lord’s supper, growing out of what Jesus did at the last supper (Luke 22:19; [cf. 24:35]; see Acts 2:42; 20:7, 11; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23–24).

So here’s my reconstruction: in the earliest days after Pentecost, the church celebrated the Lord’s supper daily, in conjunction (probably) with their evening meal. And who wouldn’t want to celebrate it every day! Imagine the enthusiasm of the wonder of the resurrection, the rushing wind, and the thousands converted. . . As the days and years passed, things stabilized and the church began to take the Lord’s supper in conjunction with the meal they shared together in the evening on the Lord’s day. I would suggest that Acts 20:7 (with 1 Cor 10:16; 11:23–24) indicates that the celebration of the Lord’s supper was central to the early Christian gatherings—look at it again: “On the first day of the week, when we gathered to break bread . . .” (Acts 20:7). They gathered to break bread(Paul also preached all night, so the gathering probably started in the evening, 20:7–11), and the gathering happened on the first day of the week.

So let’s say this is right. Everywhere the apostles went to make disciples, they planted churches. They always baptized new disciples into membership in those churches, and those churches met on the first day of the week to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, looking for his return, by partaking of the Lord’s supper.

What difference does that make to us today?

Well, the whole point of being a Baptist is being biblical. We Baptists aren’t Baptists because our parents were Baptists, because we think Baptist culture is superior to all others, or because we think identifying ourselves as Baptists will improve our standing in society. We’re Baptists (or should be) because we think that being Baptist is the most biblical way of being the church. That is, we claim that the structure and practices of our churches is closer to the pattern we see in the New Testament than any other (or should be).

This means, I think, that if we become convinced that the earliest church took the Lord’s supper every Lord’s day—and if this was so widespread that when Paul and Luke are traveling from one place to another, they know that if they find a church gathered on the Lord’s day that church will have gathered to break bread—if we become convinced that the earliest church in every place took the Lord’s supper every Lord’s day, we will want to do the same.

Some object that taking the Lord’s supper every week will demean its significance. I think boring preaching and bad music demeans the significance of preaching and singing, but most Baptists churches take the risk and have preaching and singing every week. So I don’t think this argument that taking the Lord’s supper every week will make it dull is either convincing or significant. We should take the same steps to keep the Lord’s supper from becoming rote that we (should) take to keep the preaching from being boring or the music from being bad.

Someone may object: Paul preached all night. Do you think we should do that, too? No. The pattern we see in the NT is that the church was devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, and Paul told Timothy to preach the word, so we have preaching every week because the churches in the NT had preaching every week. But Paul’s preaching all night was driven by the fact that he was leaving the next day and had a lot to say. This was a special circumstance, but the gathering to break bread on the first day of the week was a regular feature of their lives. I think it makes sense for it to be a regular feature of our lives, too.

So what do you think?

Related: “The Lord’s Supper in Paul

 

82 Responses to How Often Should a Church Take the Lord’s Supper?

  1. Eric Schumacher May 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    Jim:

    I like your argument.

    Question: Do you think that the Lord’s Supper was connected to a meal?

    I’m wondering what the dynamic of the church would be like if, instead of Sunday morning, we met at 5pm for a meal, concluding with Lord’s Supper, followed by singing, prayers, preaching.

    • JMH May 4, 2011 at 7:45 am #

      Initially it was connected to a meal. The “do you not have houses to eat in” stmnt in 1 Cor 11 probably initiated a move away from a meal (though I’m not sure that’s what Paul intends)

  2. Joel May 3, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Jim,

    I couldn’t agree more. Why wouldn’t we want to as often as possible? It sure would be awesome to see them worship first hand.

  3. Rich Barcellos May 3, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    I agree with Jim. Here’s something from a sermon I preached recently at a conference.

    Now I know that the New Testament nowhere commands weekly communion, but neither does the New Testament command weekly singing. We believe in weekly corporate singing by the church because we believe it is necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture – and rightly so. But let’s think about singing a little. Singing is an element of public worship, it can be conducted more than once, and it ought to be done at least on the Lord’s Day when the church gathers. But we also believe that the Supper is an element of public worship and it is repeatable, unlike baptism, and ought to be conducted on the Lord’s Day, at least ordinarily. But how many Lord’s Days per year? How many Lord’s Days per month? The early church apparently celebrated the Supper weekly. The Didache 14:1 says, “On the Lord’s own day gather together and break bread and give thanks.” The Supper was, apparently, the climax of the worship service in the early church. It was so central and sacred that they even excused the unbaptized before they partook (cf. John Jefferson Davis, Worship and the Reality of God. 166). So much for making the public worship of the church attractive to the lost. :-)

    The Lord’s Supper has links with the past, the present and the future and we need to make sure we are highlighting each when we take of the Supper.
    a. The Supper is clearly linked with the past (“Do this in remembrance of me”).
    b. The Lord’s Supper is also linked to the present (This is My body and 1 Corinthians 10:16 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?).
    c. But the New Testament also links the Supper with the future (26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Matthew 26:29 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”).
    d. These connections with the past, the present and the future provide conceptual links between the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Day.
    1) Like the Lord’s Supper the Lord’s Day looks back to redemption accomplished – the Lord’s Supper looks to His death and the Lord’s Day to His resurrection.
    2) Like the Lord’s Supper the Lord’s Day is a celebration of redemption historically accomplished and presently applied.
    3) And like the Lord’s Supper the Lord’s Day is a down-payment of the future, it is a pledge of the age-to-come. Christ’s resurrection on the first Lord’s Day inaugurated the over-lapping of the ages and since we commune with our Lord Jesus who is in heaven in his age-to-come glorified humanity and receive age-to-come blessings at the Supper by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s Supper, like the Lord’s Day, is a pledge of more glory to come.

  4. Brian Mann May 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    I agree, and we as a Baptist church practice this; hope more will join us by God’s grace. I would be glad to share how God permitted our transition to such a practice if anyone desires.

  5. Eddie Exposito May 4, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Agreed 100%

    It is my contention that the church got stuck along the reformation path which is evidenced by much of our church ontology being stuck in the remnants of the monolithic error that became Romanism. I’ve long felt that our entire presumption about church ‘services’ is wrongly rooted in OT paradigms and mystic-infused dregs rather than the simplistic and familial meetings/gatherings we find in the NT under the New Covenant.

    Too many churches still see themselves as meeting each week in a temple service instead of seeing the shift to living stones as expressed by Peter in his epistle and Christ in John 6. This has tremendous influence on our weekly practices and purpose including the Lord’s supper.

    We use increased the frequency of our Lord’s table observance and have seen no ‘burn out’ or lack of zeal as a result. Our focus now is on the content of the ordinance and how we should go about it. The majority of the methods in this area seem to fall short. The eating an entire meal together as a church concept is appealing, but we don’t see much out there regarding that aspect.

    • Arthur Sido May 4, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

      Eddie, I think you are on to something. We seem to think we have evolved beyond simple, familial gatherings and into a rigid and formalized meeting that looks more like Rome than it does the early church.

    • Scott Paulson May 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

      As far as eating an entire meal together as a church, it is something our church in Granite Falls, MN, does each week. Currently, we celebrate the Lord’s table once each month.

  6. Kris May 4, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    Jim

    In answer to your question, I think we really should be celebrating communion weekly. Coming from a Baptist background it’s not something I’m used to (and was always weirded out by other denominations who did it every Sunday).

    But more than this, I think the manner in which we execute of the Lord’s Supper is more central than it’s frequency (to which I’m sure you agree).

    At the moment, I’m in the middle of teaching church history at my local church and am learning a lot. One of the most surprising things to learn is that communion used to be more of a party, a celebration where they gathered and dined and were actually happy! – with the focus on the resurrection. And then, how half a century later, the Lord’s *Supper* is reduced to just communion, along with a shift in focus from the resurrection to only the cross – and consequently, the whole mood changes from smiles to somberness.

    All that to say, I think it’d be remarkable if we got back to a celebration theme (with a legit meal), rather than a streamlined, cross-oriented approach. I’m just not convinced that typical Sunday morning services can handle this. Maybe like Eric originally suggests, a 5pm gathering would be better.

  7. Steve Clevenger May 4, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Jim,

    I agree, weekly communion is the practice of my local church.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Jake Todd May 4, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    Dr. Hamilton,

    I agree. Our church is currently debating this very issue. There is a tendency in the evangelical world to shy away from Roman practices such as weekly Eucharist (which is somewhat understandable given their view of transubstantiation), however, it seems to me that this fear is giving way to what I believe the Bible teaches…weekly partaking of the Lord’s Supper. If the Eucharist is the climax of Sunday worship, what then does this mean for the structuring/flow of a protestant service where preaching seems to be the climax? I am a staunch proponent of Sunday preaching and in no way do I think that the preaching needs to be cut back. My personal belief is that services should be longer and we should be the ones adjusting and changing our cultural norms (1 hour services) to allow both sound biblical preaching and a reverent, biblical partaking of Communion.
    A church plant in Kansas conducts weekly services divided into two sections. The first is about an hour or so and involves singing, prayer, and the preaching. There is a break for a community lunch followed by a 30 minute Eucharistic service. An interesting model. We evangelicals are constantly studying how to become better preachers. I think it would be wise to learn from our brothers in other denominations (Anglicans, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc) who have been taking weekly Eucharist for centuries. Not that everything they do would be profitable but no doubt we could learn from their practices.
    Lastly, as I am reading C.J. Mahaney’s, The Cross Centered Life, I see no better way outside excellent biblical preaching, to daily remain focused on the Cross than a regular partaking of Holy Communion.

  9. RD May 4, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    I’m on board! I think that many of the ideas expressed here offer fantastic avenues for the Holy Spirit to move within a congregation. I’ve always taken Jesus’ message of “as often as you do this do it in remembrance of me” to mean that communion should become a much more vital part of our lives. When we have “dinner on the grounds” why do we not finish up with communion?

    I think part of the aversion to more regular partaking of the Lord’s Supper is an overall protestant reaction to Roman Catholic practice. I attend a Nazarene church and directly next door is the local Roman Catholic church. Every morning the Catholic church observes the Eucharist and I believe this is common throughout the entire Catholic world. I would very much love the opportunity to meet daily with members of my faith community and share the Lord’s Supper.

    As to wine vs grape juice: I don’t think it matters at all. If the elements are hot tea or cola, yeast bread, unleavened bread or Doritos, I think the power is in the presence of the Holy Spirit through the observance.

  10. JMH May 4, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I think the fruit of the vine, even if unfermented, is acceptable.

    But I would want to maintain the use of what comes from grapes b/c of the associations with biblical imagery.

  11. Rich Barcellos May 4, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Jesus consecrated bread and wine.

  12. Eddie Exposito May 4, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Indeed, wine is not of the devil, too many baptists need to reform their views on alcohol to a more biblical understanding. God made it for our enjoyment and use.

  13. Craig Hurst May 5, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    I am a Baptist and yet, and yet when it comes to communion I have found myself agreeing with weekly communion for a long time….even though I don’t think I have told anyone yet:) I think monthly communion is very hard if not impossible to support.

  14. TM Nichols May 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Something I didn’t see anyone mention- a thought I have had before about communion that I never hear spoken of- is how it unifies us as Christians one to the other. Not only the brothers and sisters we are taking it with, but breatheren wordwide, and not only currently; it’s a communion or tie between all true Christians who ever did take it from to the unborn that will someday will be a disciple of Christ and also take it.
    Our congregation takes the Lord’s supper EVER Sunday, and when I do, always in my mind I try to think of all of us there together , united for those moments through the breaking of bread, until we are truly all together.

  15. Chris P. May 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Jim,

    I totally agree. As someone who is in the process of planting a church, it is our desire for the Lord’s Supper (along with communal meal) to be the centrality of the Lord’s Day gathering and that it should be surrounded by praise, prayer and proclamation. There is something to the breaking of bread, when done in a worthy manner of course, that not only reveals Christ, but draws peoples hearts to Him and to one another. Think of when Jesus broke bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

    In addition, we have the writings of the early church fathers, and they too confirm the tradition and practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, or as they called it, the Love Feast each and every week.

    In Christ,

    Chris

  16. Seth Beebe May 8, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    yes! Thank you Dr. Hamilton. Every week!

    1.When we see the pattern of the Jerusalem church being that of “devotion” to the Apostle’s Teaching, Fellowship, The breaking of Bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42) this should force us to ask whether our local churches are also “devoted” to these four disciplines. It is difficult to see a quarterly or monthly practice of the Lord’s Supper as a devotion. Would we study the Apostle’s Teaching corporately only once a month or fellowship or pray once a month. A “devotion” is something that you celebrate and intentionally do frequently.

    2. Also, the biblical ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are pictures of the Gospel of Christ at their core. The weekly devotion to the Lord’s Supper is a weekly devotion to the Gospel as a body. Nothing is more important to the local church than keeping the Gospel at the center. Our Lord instituted this ordinance in order to keep it so.

    3. I would argue that the Lord’s Supper is “the key ongoing biblical visible manifestation” of what a covenant local church is and does. Think of what it demonstrates.
    a. the Gospel (1 Cor. 11:26)
    b. the unity of a covenant local church or in other words “church membership” (1 Cor. 10:17)
    c. Edification (Discipleship and Discipline) are centered around this ordinance (1 Cor. 11:30-32; also 1 Cor. 5:11 surely at least includes the Lord’s Supper “not to eat” in this context)
    d..Preaching (1 Cor. 11:26 and Acts 2 and 20 demonstrate the devotion to Apostle’s Teaching and the Lord’s Supper were hand in hand)
    e. Even if you take Rick Warren’s classic purposes of the Local Church (fellowship, worship, evangelism, serving/ministry, discipleship), you can easily see that each of these purposes are fulfilled in the practice of the Lord’s Supper.

    So, I agree with Jim Hamilton, and would go a step further to argue that the Lord’s Supper is the key biblical visible manifestation of what a Local Church is and does, therefore it should be central to the weekly gathering.

  17. Steven McKinion May 9, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Our Southern Baptist church celebrates the Lord’s Supper weekly, joining it with the preaching of the Word (Luke 24). When we expound the Scriptures to proclaim Christ we also want to proclaim him through the Table.

    • JMH May 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

      Praise the Lord! Good to hear from you . . .

  18. Matt W. May 9, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks for a great article. I totally agree with you, but you might expect that from me since I’m an Anglican. I never thought I’d see the day when Baptists and Anglicans would passionately agree on the frequency of Communion! Goodness, what’s next?

    • JMH May 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

      Well, I hope that Anglicans and Baptists will agree on everything that the Bible teaches!

  19. Ken Stewart May 9, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Jim:
    I hate to rain on your parade, but there are at least two substantial difficulties attached to the position you are advocating. The first is exegetical and the second is pastoral/practical

    First, it is not nearly so straightforward as you suggest that ‘breaking of bread’ in the NT has a sacramental association. There is substantial reason to question this, especially, in two of the major passages you have introduced. In Acts 20.7, the interpreter wanting to maintain that the ‘breaking of bread’ means something sacramental needs to suppose that it does also in verse 11, where nourishment is furnished to the revived Eutychus (and it is said that he ‘broke bread’). Your hypothesis doesn’t look so unimpeachable in this passage. As well, in the Acts 2 passage cited, there is a much stronger reason for doubting that ‘breaking of bread’ means Lord’s Supper. That is that there is a stronger case for supposing that the Lord’s Supper is being referred to under the terminology, ‘the fellowship’, which linguistically is tied to 1 Corinthians 10.16 where the same word is translated (NIV) as ‘participation’. Having said this, the door would seem to left wide open to the possibility that the fellowship meal (communion) was associated with ‘breaking of bread’ inasmuch as 1 Cor. 11.17 ff describes the Lord’s Supper as part of a larger meal. On closer examination, I think it is demonstrable that arguments from these passages for weekly Lord’s Supper are too often influenced by statements from the second century in writers such as Justin Martyr; but it is good to keep in mind that second-century writers can only describe what they observe in their locale.

    Second, gospel churches which opt for weekly Lord’s Supper observance need to ask themselves frankly,”what will the implementation of this practice bring with it for the preaching of the gospel to the unconverted”? I do not at all mean to suggest that the church’s services are to be fundamentally ordered by questions about the needs of the unsaved (such a course leads to revivalism). But I do mean that the practical tendency of weekly Lord’s Suppers will be to ‘cap’ the number of occasions on which the gospel is pressed on the unbelieving — especially where congregations hold only a morning or single worship service. Since the ‘push’ in the early nineteenth century to restore the Lord’s Supper to a weekly practice (the Plymouth Brethren and Stone-Campbell churches led the way), care had to be taken to either ask unbelievers to depart before the Lord’s Supper would be observed or else the Lord’s Supper was observed in a believers-only setting (which the Brethren, at least, called ‘Breaking of Bread’). To their credit, the Brethren recognized the independent need for preaching the gospel to the unbelieving and held (also on Sunday) a ‘Gospel Meeting’. But do today’s advocates of weekly Lord’s Supper uphold both ends of the spectrum? Not in the churches I observe. Churches already meeting only on Sunday mornings, decide to go to weekly Lord’s Suppers and the ripple effect is that church services become even less likely an opportunity for an unbeliever to be confronted with his/her need. It would be a tragedy if increased sacramental emphasis came at the expense of the other. To their credit, the nineteenth century Restorationist movements didn’t let this happen.
    But in the end, the exegetical argument is surprizingly weak.

    • Jeff Weaver May 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

      Mr. Hamilton,

      Would you restrict this breaking of bread/communion to the gathering of the church body as a whole (being led by elders/pastor), or would you permit members of a church to participate in this in smaller settings, i.e in their homes?

      • JMH May 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

        I think it’s a church ordinance, that is, something that Jesus gave to the church. It signifies the unity of the church, and I think that in 1 Cor 5 Paul indicates that those under the discipline of the church are not to be welcomed to the table. So as it signifies the unity of the body, it is also used in the enforcement of discipline.

    • JMH May 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks for your note, Ken,

      I’m not holding a parade, so I take your rain as water for my flowers : )

      I don’t think the difficulty is as significant as you suggest. The breaking bread language is used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and that’s going to influence its usage and re-usage–significantly. I grant that it may well be used in contexts that don’t have the LS in view, but I’m not ready to concede Acts 20:11. Paul is the subject there. After raising Eutychus, Paul goes back up and breaks bread. So I’m inclined to think that Paul led the gathered church in a celebration of the LS in the context of a communal meal.

      As for 2C writers, they’re a lot closer to what the apostles led the churches to do than we are, so I think their testimony is helpful for understanding what the earliest church did.

      On the second issue you raise, I’m not sure I feel the difficulty. We take the Lord’s supper at Kenwood Baptist Church every week, and we also have an expository sermon every week. In this sermon, the gospel will be preached, sinners called to repent, and unbelievers will be invited to trust Christ. I would argue that the LS is a good and helpful capstone of the service.

      We fence the table, stating week after week that only baptized believers in good standing with a church that preaches the same gospel we preach are invited to the table. I could elaborate on this, but here I’ll just say that I think it’s helpful for us to say to unbelievers: this is the bread of life, but before you can partake you have to repent and believe and be baptized. We invite you to do that, but don’t eat and drink judgment to yourself before you do . . .

      Blessings!

      Jim

      • Ken Stewart May 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

        Jim:
        Three things in reply:
        1. On your understanding of Acts 20.7-12, there is the possibility that Paul and the church at Troas had the Lord’s Supper _twice_ on one occasion as both verses 7 & 11 use the phrase. Or is it that the revived Eutychus was given the sacrament alone after his resuscitation? As for what second century writers thought on the subject, this caution: before accepting their counsel on this question, you need to clarify what is the criterion for accepting them as accredited interpreters of the Apostles. By borrowing from them selectively, you open Pandora’s box. Will you also accept their _theology_ of the Lord’s Supper, as well as their ideas of its frequency?

        2. I am glad that your Sunday observance of the Lord’s Supper involves gospel preaching and a fencing of the table. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the trend among those who opt for weekly Lord’s Supper. The practical tendency of a weekly Lord’s Supper in settings which have but one Sunday service is for the congregation to be even more inward-looking than before.

        3. If it be granted that Acts 20.7 is the only NT Scripture with the possibility of support for a weekly Lord’s Supper (and we adopt the rule that we do not establish doctrines on the basis of single passages) there is good reason to ease up on this idea. I know of congregations that have divided over the question of the frequency of this meal of unity. And if Acts 20.7 can be said to bear on the question, so might also the fact that the Lord’s Supper is an outgrowth of Passover which was observed but once a year. What we all need to realize is that we have _no_ dominical instruction from Jesus on this matter and thus, resist arm-twisting.

        • JMH May 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

          Ken,

          Thanks for your reply. Responses numbered by your points:

          1) It looks to me like they got together to take the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day, then Paul preached all night. After Eutychus fell out the window, they went back upstairs and finally got to the LS.

          Re. the Apostolic Fathers, I’m inclined their theology of the supper was closer to Paul’s than not. I say this only partly tongue in cheek: I recognize most of those guys as part of the one holy Apostolic universal baptist church. : )

          2) Well, while we’re trading anecdotes, the two churches I’ve been apart of that have embraced weekly communion have both been very evangelistic, fenced the table, preached the gospel in expository sermons, called sinners to repent and believe, and I hope their tribe will increase.

          3) I don’t think Acts 20:7 is the only relevant text. I think the “when you come together” language in 1 Cor 11 is also relevant, esp. in light of Paul’s instructions about what they’re to do on the first day of the week in 1 Cor 16. In view of the NT’s indications that the earliest church got together on the first day of the week, from Acts 20 and 1 Cor 11, I think that included in their coming together was the breaking of bread in the celebration of the new exodus conquest of the Lord Jesus in the Lord’s Supper as they celebrated his resurrection on the first day of the week.

          Blessings!

          Jim

          • Lanier Grady July 16, 2011 at 10:55 am #

            I know for a fact every christian should take the Lord’s supper every sunday according to Acts ch20:7 and Corinithians 1 and 2

    • Chris P. May 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

      A few points in regards to this comment.

      1. The breaking of bread in verse 11 is the bread that is broken in reference to verse 2. The bread in verse 11 is not another bread or some nourishment for Eutychus. The bread in verse 2 is the Love Feast/Lord’ Supper.

      2. In regards to worrying about unbelievers and the preaching of the gospel: First the Lord’s Day gathering is for believers to come together, not for preaching the gospel to the lost. It is not an evangelical meeting (or revivalism as you say). Evangelism and preaching the gospel to the lost is to be primarily done outside the church gathering (one-on-one, house to house, public gathering, etc.) It is certainly fine for an unbeliever to come in, but the focus of the Lord’s Day is for believers to commune with one another and Christ.

      3. If we are so concerned about confronting the unbeliever with his/her need, then we should go to them directly…to their home, their business, to their hang out as demonstrated by Christ and Paul. As individuals we need to stop relying on a church service and a paid, professional minister to confront them. We have 6 days during the week to confront the unbeliever, let the believers have the Lord’s Day to build each other up, have some deep, intimate fellowship and worship God together.

      4. You can celebrate the Lord’s Supper with a full communal meal each week and still have plenty of time for praise, prayer and the preaching and teaching of God’s word…you simply extend the length of the service from a measly 90 minutes to 3-4 hours. Now I know what some are thinking…I can’t get people to come for 90 minutes how am I going to get them to come for 3-4 hours? My answer to that is, those are people who should not be coming at all. If believers don’t want to gather with one another for more than the typical hour and half to two hours, then you really do not have much unity and you certainly are not “members of one another.”

      • John Thomson May 22, 2011 at 8:24 am #

        The B/B is also declaratory. It preaches: in it we ‘proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’. It is a visual, an enacted, gospel Word.

  20. Richard May 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Good article. I agree completely, we celebrate the Eucharist weekly. Do check out Mason’s A Spiritual Banquet: John Calvin on the Lord’s Supper who is now Stateside at Church of the Resurrection, Washington DC.

  21. John S May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    I think a more important, or at least equally important, scripture to examine is:

    Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
    1 Corinthians 11:25

    Does ‘as often’ mean mean frequency is up to the partaker or is it referring to the manner in which it is to be partaken is ‘in remembrance’ and frequency is assumed?

    I’m no greek expert or English grammar expert either, but apparently the greek word ‘hosakis’ is an adverb meaning as often as (imagine that) so doesn’t it modify the verb ‘drink’ which would mean Jesus is saying basically whenever you choose to do this? If this is the case doesn’t it answer the question b/c Jesus says frequency is essentially a preference issue? If He is referring to manner not frequency it’s odd to me that no where else in Scripture is frequency cleary established. So I’m going to stick with this is a preference issue.

    Another question I have is that you seem to be making tradition of the early church essential even though scripture does not clearly indicate this as an instruction. What other early church traditions should be followed or not and on what basis do you determine this – house churches? apostolic (small ‘a’ not one of the 12) oversight? offering for church in Jerusalem? having all things ‘in common’? et al.

    On a personal note our church does once a month which I’m fine with. Sometimes our small group has communion together as well. I imagine as my children get older we will partake together as a family. I would be happy to do it each Sunday, I think any Christian who has a love for the Gospel would be, but I’m also fine with once a month. Once a quarter seems too infrequent.

    • John Thomson May 22, 2011 at 8:00 am #

      Then again, we are not explicitly commanded to meet as believers every Sunday. We draw inferences from the resurrection and a few texts. I am not seeking to undermine Sunday worship, far from it, However, the only thing we are told the church met to do on a Sunday was break bread. Why make preaching every Sunday (with no such command) and breaking of bread not?

  22. FAS May 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    The Lord’s Supper has always been a vital weekly meal:

    The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. In summarizing the early Fathers’ teachings on Christ’s Real Presence, renowned Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly, writes: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

    From the Church’s early days, the Fathers referred to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Kelly writes: “Ignatius roundly declares that . . . [t]he bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup his blood. Clearly he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of the reality of Christ’s body. . . . Irenaeus teaches that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostic and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity” (ibid., 197–98).

    • JMH May 10, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      FAS,

      Please see Michael Haykin’s essay in the volume on the Lord’s Supper that I link above – ed. T. R. Schreiner and M. Crawford.

      Blessings!

      JMH

  23. DennisS May 9, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    I like it. Our congregation celebrates the Lord’s Supper about a dozen times a year. I really like the idea of meeting for an evening for worship, a meal, and communion.

    Question – during the time of Christ, the start of the first day of the week would have been after dark on Saturday – so if a church had an evening meeting that started after dark (during winter it gets dark about 5:30 here), would it be best to meet on a Saturday evening or a Sunday evening?

    I’m glad someone finally mentioned the reformer, John Calvin, as he believed the sacrament should be observed every week (but Zwingli’s idea of once a quarter won out in Reformed circles). Also, Calvin was reacting against the RCC by advocating weekly communion, as the Romanists offered the sacrament once a year – and generally it was only the priest who partook (which is something Luther reacted against as well. The RCC finally changed, and offered communion to the confirmed members (not just baptized), and began doing so at every Mass – which was every day in many locations.

    I’m probably going to stir up some local controversy – but let’s get with it! I’m thinking Sunday late afternoon or evening provides opportunity for more people to be present (as some are often gone on weekends). I know people will show up if a meal is being served – and we could set at round tables to see and speak to one another for true dialogue (spurred by the sermon and the needs of the people seeking prayer).

    • JMH May 10, 2011 at 5:47 am #

      I think Justin is referring to Sunday morning when the start of the first day of the week is referenced.

      At Kenwood Baptist Church, we have a Sunday morning worship service that’s fairly standard – read the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible, see the Bible (Lord’s Supper) – followed by a pot-luck lunch, which is a great time of fellowship.

      • PM November 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

        Very interesting article! Besides Kenwood, Immanuel, and Sojourn, what other Baptist churches in the metro Louisville area practice weekly communion?

        • JMH November 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

          I don’t know! Sorry!

          JMH

  24. Luke May 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Weekly frequency is great, and clearly explaning that the table is for bapitzed believers is very instructive biblcally. What about indigeneous churches where grapes and wheat are not availble? No Communion? Import?

    • JMH May 10, 2011 at 5:49 am #

      Hadn’t thought of a situation where there isn’t wheat or grapes, but surely some form of bread is available, and surely there’s some “fruit of the vine” made into some kind of juice . . . .

  25. Steve May 10, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    I like this article. But, you said, “They always baptized new disciples into membership in those churches..”

    Paul said:’
    “…baptized into Christ…” Gal 3: 27

    “…baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Rom 6:3-4

    • mark cowperthwaite May 10, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Being an itinerant evangelist and teacher, I have been blessed to see the weekly remembrance of the Lord Jesus take a primary role in many local churches. I would suggest David Dunlap’s “His dying request” concerning the Lord’s Supper. This is a compilation of essays by brothers of ages past concerning the breaking of bread in remembrance of Christ has been quite helpful to me.

      I would also add that this weekly time, in my experience, has never grown stale, never been out of order, nor have I ever left this meeting without feeling that we truly were united in worship. This is spite of no clergy officiating, no canned speeches, just men who felt led to share as the Holy Spirit leads. I have seen it done a dozen different ways concerning seating, timing, leavened and unleavened, juice, wine, etc. These symbols are not sacred in and of themselves, but precious reminders of the body and blood of our Savior, in obedience to His call to remember Him.

      I find that simplicity is best, no need for a big show or anything to draw the world, yet a time one should prepare for in humility as we consider the great blessing and responsibility we have as priests before God.

      Thanks for bringing this up, for truly desiring to seek God’s Word, specifically the NT pattern, for worship, evangelism, discipleship, and truly being the church, the bride of Christ.

  26. Dave May 19, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    This is excellent. Thanks for sharing this with us. I am a member of the Church of Christ and I believe fully that one can partake of the Lord’s Supper weekly as is the example of the New Testament church and still keep the sacramental nature of this practice pure. Where error comes is when we begin making the Lord’s Supper a part of an ecclesiological check list that must be completed each week in order to more fully satisfy some requirement by God. The Lord’s Supper is meant to be an edifying occasion in which the Christian is given time to feast on the knowledge and symbol of what the Lord Jesus Christ is for the sinner. I have found that if churches take the Lord’s Supper once a week or once a year, in those churches there are going to be some who take advantage of this time and some who do not. This then becomes a discussion about the teaching of that church. If the gospel is taught properly and Christ is held in his proper place each and every church service (that is as Savior to me/sinner) then the chance of someone taking proper advantage of the Lord’s Supper to focus even more sincerely of Christ’s ransom for their soul increases.

  27. Theology Samurai May 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    So…the bottom line is that this is just your opinion. Ok

    As long as you’re not placing a burden on the conscious of other christians on the issue, or asserting it must be practiced this way by all churches…it’s all good.

    I have more of a problem using grape juice in the LS though, since Christ instituted it with wine. Why should we let the Prohibition and Welch Grape Juice change the elements of the sacrament?

  28. John Thomson May 22, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    I agree. It is interesting that the one thing we are told they met weekly to do is ‘break bread’. We are not told they met to preach etc (though it is fair to assume they did). Ironically, I find my felow Christians who insist that the breaking of bread is a sacrament more than an ordinance (has some intrinsic means of grace) seem most reluctant to break bread weekly. This seems to me most strange.

  29. John Thomson May 22, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    My tradition is Christian Brethren. We have a separate service each week for breaking bread. It lasts an hour and during that time readings, short comments on a text, prayers, and hymns are contributed by all (male) members who wish. Contributions are spontaneous and there are likely to be some silent points for meditation. Contributions focus on Christ and his work considered from creation to new creation keeping especially in focus his death and its implications. The purpose is doxological.

    This tradition I find provides a fine context for the breaking of bread. It is less formal and so more appropraite to B/B; creates a natural context of worship; provides a 1 Cor 14 context for many contributing; and as a side effect but an important one, begins to develop the gifts of younger members. It also encourages others than the formal teachers of the church to know their bibles and so participate profitably.

    • Steve May 24, 2011 at 5:54 am #

      Dave,
      Just curious. You say you have a separate service for breaking of bread. Do you have another separate service for preaching, singing, praying…? How large is your gathering? I find that the larger the group the more formal the service tends to become. A thousand people in one room takes some preparation and organization.

      Thanks
      Steve

      • John Thomson May 24, 2011 at 6:00 am #

        Hi Steve

        On a Sunday we have an Hour communion service. Followed after a break by an hour Morning/Family service (much as you will be familiar with). In the evening we have an hour and a quarter Bible Hour (roughly same as Family Service but with a more indepth study of Scripture).

        You’re right it would be hard to do with a congregation of a thousand plus. In fact I think churches of this size are a mistake. They make local church fellowship fairly meaningless and mean most people are simply pew fillers.

        Our church hovers at around the 200 mark (not a bad size in the UK). In fact we have been considering a church plant if the church grows much more.

  30. Steve C May 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    I grew up Plymouth Brethren 40 years (exclusive then open) and now attend a Baptist Church (but also love old-school Presbyterianism). If Jesus or the NT writers ever explicitly expressed a frequency, time, and day, we wouldn’t be having this blog – we’d probably be focusing on the nature of the elements and other particulars like covering the emblems, wine vs grape juice, a single cup, a single loaf….. By the way, from Genesis, the first day of the week starts Saturday Night (evening then morning), not exclusively what we call Sunday. Acts 20 flowed right after the end of Sabbath (Jewish) day. To be honest, I “sense” a frequency of the sacrament more from 1 Corinthians chapters 11-16 (particularly chapter 11), but again, there’s no specific set frequency, time, and day given for the Lord’s Supper. Remember, the original Lord’s Supper was done on what? – Thursday night! Would only celebrating it on a Passover Thursday be the most biblical? Perhaps I’m confusing it too much with the Quartodeciman question….I ramble too much…. Again, it should be a matter of leadership and church agreement and then to practice and enjoy in faith – but it’s good to wrestle with these things and when we practice in faith, we’ll receive from our Lord the reward.

    PBs (and others) ought NOT to belittle other Believers with their proud assertion of Acts 20:7 (i.e. doing it every week – being formerly a PB, I know they do that because I did it – forgive me all). While there is no absolute linkage of The Lord’s Supper/Lord’s Table with “Breaking of Bread”, there are commonalities in some verbiage. My supposition is that one flowed into the other – i.e. a common meal flowed into the “Communion” – like the Passover to the institution at the Last Supper. If you take the Acts 20 position as being the Lord’s Table/Supper, you have to show where Paul also gave thanks for the cup (this is also missing when Jesus was recognized in the “breaking of bread” in Luke 24:30-35). While Paul preached into midnight, then broke bread, he then also spoke with them (not preached) until the morning – i.e hung out – that is what believers love to do, and it’s test of a believer (1 John 1:7, 3:23), we love to be with each other and fellowship.

    While 1Cor 10:16-17 shows Lord’s cup and table as a sharing in the blood and body of Christ (notice the reversal of the emblems), and the bread does represent the one body, no Scripture states that it is the church membership acceptance that PBs (exclusive) place on it. Remember, 1Cor 10 is the final statements on what began in 1Cor 8 in regards to meat offered to idols and their association (almost like sex w/a prostitute – which was covered in 1Cor 6). Our associations have responsibilities and consequences. By the way, notice 1Cor covers 2 of the 4 items in regards to the Acts 15 decision on what Gentiles should abstain from…..

    Church is for the church, because the church is the body of Christ. The Gospel is to unbelievers AND for believers. The same Gospel that saved me is the same Gospel that sustains me, keeps me, and brings me to the fulfillment of the Gospel – God Himself, through Christ! Now, if, as Paul states, unbelievers happen to come in to our congregation, and we are expounding on the Word of God, won’t they get convicted and fall on their face, worshipping God and declare that God is truly amongst us? By the way, when was the last time THAT happened in your congregation? If it hasn’t, maybe the Word of God isn’t being preached in truth.

    The Lord’s Table/Supper is for believers only and we love to do it since he both asks us and it reminds us of Him – this is something an unbeliever can’t enter into. And the Lord can guard and keep His table and discipline those who partake unworthily. But frequency, day, and time are never explicitly given. Our love for God grows more, and we grow in Christ more, as we learn of Who He is, what He has done, and what he asks of us – that comes from the correct understanding of His Word. And even faith itself comes by a report of the Word of God, and the Lord exalts His Word, even above His Name – that is why preaching is vital. Psalm 138:2.

  31. Jerry December 12, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    The Eucharist is the uniting sacrament and central act of the Christian faith and has been since the first century. Long before an actual bible as we know it today was compiled. This is evidenced in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians as well as the early church document known as the Didache. I also hate to break it to some, but the meaning of the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) is far greater than simply a symbolic one as is made abundantly clear in John chapter 6 as well as in writings of early church fathers like Justin martyr and Clement of Rome. Does this sound familiar? It should. The same ecclesiastical authority that through the Holy Spirit gave us the new testament is still in existence today and holds this same teaching of the Eucharist. Agree or not. It has been being taught since 33 ad.

  32. Dan January 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Great Article.

    There is a difference shown in Scripture between taking the Lord’s Supper and the brethren getting together for a common meal.

    Note Acts 2:42 vs. Acts 2:46. One they did from house to house – a meal together. But vs. 42 is something they did as part of worship.

    I do not believe they partook of the Lord’s Supper everyday. I believe they partook of it every Sunday. WHY – because it’s the day the Lord rose from the dead. (Rev. 1:10)

    Here’s a good link discussing this: http://www.biblequestions.org/archives/BQAR143.htm

    Thanks again for your article.

  33. chaz the catholic February 16, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    I stumbled a cross this site & read your comments about the Eucharist & found it very interesting on what Baptist thought about the Lord’s supper . We as Catholics have the right to celebrate the Lord’s supper every day .This is done through a daily mass . ( I don’t mean to offend any one by my post I’m only giving an in sight to what we believe as Catholics & take part in. As taught to us in the early teachings 333 AD Did-ache ). A wright given to us & you by the lord Jesus Christ . We take the eucharist VERY serious & believe very much in the power or sacrament of it. We don,t believe in denying any baptized & confirmed catholic his right to the blood & body of the lord . Some people are fine with only taking communion once a year & that’s fine for them but some peoples hart & sole yearns to be as close to Christ as they can be so they attend a daily mass. I wish i could only be so devoted but sometimes life’s busy schedule only allows me to go on Sundays . I would like to thank you brothers for this site its very interesting & refreshing to see the different views on this simple subject & to see so many lovers of the word of god & want to discuss its meanings & merits ! Respectfully yours a Catholic brother in our walk with Christ Chaz . PEACE & GODS BLESSINGS BE WITH YOU ALL.

  34. Ck February 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I disagree. The Passover was once a year.this replaced the Passover for TRUE CHRISTIANS.

    • Justin Dobbs February 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      In Acts 20:5-7, a passage referenced in the article, the disciples “gathered together to break bread” on a Sunday “after the days of Unleavened Bread.” Therefore, it couldn’t have been on the Passover when they took the Lord’s Supper since the Passover occurred before and marked the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

  35. Matt Rollings April 19, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I would say like many events in Acts, communion whether daily or weekly was descriptive rather then prescriptive.

    For all those like yourself who feel convicted to do such, amen.

    My question though is, how do we guard against legalism in this subject and when does it cross over into sin for those who do not practice the ordinance weekly?

  36. samir October 10, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    I believe you are right. The Lord’s Supper is very important: http://jesus-is-gentle.tumblr.com/post/33090324964/lords-supper-very-important

    God bless.

  37. Justin Dobbs February 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    I really appreciate the tone of this article as well as the truth it expresses. There is a pattern, a modeled standard of truth in the new testament (Rom 6:17). I especially appreciate the statement that the argument about the Lord’s supper becoming commonplace is neither “convincing or significant.” If the bible shows we should take it every Sunday, it’s up to us to do so in a God-honoring way.

    I was, however, surprised by one statement, and I wonder if you could clarify it for me. “Well, the whole point of being a Baptist is being biblical…we think that being Baptist is the most biblical way of being the church.” I appreciate your desire to be biblical, so in what way is the moniker, “Baptist,” biblical? How can “being Baptist” mean “being biblical” when the term “Baptist” isn’t used of Christians in the new testament?

    Thanks in advance for your answer, and thank you for your stand for biblical truth.

    • JMH February 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      Being baptist means being biblical in the same way that being trinitarian is being biblical.

    • JMH February 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      Though admittedly the Trinity is a first order issue and baptism is a second order one.

  38. Justin Dobbs February 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    By the way, Acts 20:7 isn’t the only passage that suggests that Sunday was the day the early disciples took the Lord’s Supper. Looking at 1 Cor 11:18, Paul wrote, “when you come together as a church,” and in 1 Cor 16:1-2, he wrote, “As I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside…” It implies that the Christians in Corinth (as well as in Galatia) were already gathering together on Sunday for the Lord’s Supper. Paul instructs them to take up a collection at that time, as well.

  39. Chad July 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    All we need now is to teach baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit and we will be set. Never understood how many claim to be baptist, but deny it’s importance in salvation.

    • J D April 3, 2014 at 1:15 am #

      Amen

    • shanna June 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

      You should go even deeper and determine why you denomination even has to debate regarding baptism and the 5 acts of worship. Even more, why can one not find any denominations in the Bible. .. Christ died for our sins and established His church. The only church you can read about in the New Testament and God saw fit that his disciples be called Christians. Not baptist, not methodist. All the denominations came after Christ and follow man made doctrine. Hence why the have to debate regarding God’s will.

  40. J D April 3, 2014 at 1:14 am #

    Thank you for your comments. Christians in the Bible partook of the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week, without question. History books relating to 200 to 400 AD, indicate the Christians took the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week. I hope your message causes some Christians to rethink what they are doing and return to taking of the Lord’s supper weekly.

  41. Jon Xavier October 18, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    The witness of early church fathers seems to confirm your thesis. And even though I’m in a setting providing weekly communion, I do think something was lost when the meal aspect was dropped. It made practical sense as churches grew, of course. But I think we should at least use a real loaf of bread and some kind of wine.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Midwest Center for Theological Studies: Owensboro, KY > Blog > Dr. Jim Hamilton on frequency of Lord’s Supper - May 4, 2011

    [...] Read the whole thing here. [...]

  2. The Lord’s Supper, How Often? | G. A. Dietrich - May 4, 2011

    [...] frequency of the Lord’s Supper in the church. It is a good read and can be found by clicking here. Share [...]

  3. How Often Should a Church Take the Lord’s Supper? | TAUGHT OF GOD… - May 7, 2011

    [...] had tweeted about this blog post by Jim Hamilton yesterday. I discovered Jim on a video I watched awhile back on the millennium. He [...]

  4. A Risk Worth Taking | Somewhere North - May 9, 2011

    [...] Here is a link to the entire post. This entry was posted in Hittin' the Links. Bookmark the permalink. ← The Gospel of Habakkuk LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  5. How often should a church take the Lord’s Supper? « Standing on Shoulders - May 9, 2011

    [...] professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives an answer at his blog. I think the New Testament indicates that the early church took the Lord’s supper every Lord’s [...]

  6. Jim Hamilton on the Weekly Celebration of the Lord’s Supper | Soli Deo Gloria - May 10, 2011

    [...] pastor and PhD supervisor, Jim Hamilton, makes an important and compelling case for celebrating the Lord’s Supper every week.  Give his post a thorough read and careful [...]

  7. Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud - May 11, 2011

    [...] And while we’re talking eccesiology, Baptist theology professor James Hamilton considers the frequency of communion services; How Often Should a Church Take The Lord’s Supper? [...]

  8. It’s Meant for Sinners – The Gospel Coalition Blog - August 12, 2011

    [...] the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month, and I could see the benefit of doing so even more frequently. Knowing that we will come to the Lord’s Table at the end of a worship service gives added [...]

  9. A great perspective on the Lord’s Supper! « McConnells.tk - August 13, 2011

    [...] the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month, and I could see the benefit of doing so even more frequently. Knowing that we will come to the Lord’s Table at the end of a worship service gives added [...]

  10. It’s Meant for Sinners « Before All Things - August 18, 2011

    [...] the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month, and I could see the benefit of doing so even more frequently.  Knowing that we will come to the Lord’s Table at the end of a worship service gives added [...]

  11. The Frequency of the Lord’s Supper | Ad Fontes - April 19, 2012

    [...] week (Jim Hamilton) (Ray Van [...]

  12. How Often Should Churches take Communion? | God is Better than All - April 23, 2012

    [...] Hamilton also has a post arguing for weekly communion (HT: Patrick Schreiner) Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  13. Weekly Lord’s Supper at Kosmosdale Baptist Church | Soli Deo Gloria - September 8, 2013

    […] the excellent reflections on this topic by Jim Hamilton, Ray Van Neste, Mike […]

Leave a Reply