Administering the Lord's Supper in a mission church?

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Sebastian Heck

Puritan Board Freshman
What are your thoughts: we are a three forms of unity mission church/church plant. Some of the folks are still members in evangelical churches, some are not at all.
As a firm believer in "close communion", what does that mean for the administration of the Lord's Supper? If I fence the table in such a way that only members of Reformed churches can participate, I will be administering it to myself and my wife...! :) That's simply the situation in the missions context: sometimes there ARE no Reformed church bodies...

So, what do you advice? Obviously, the consequence CANNOT to tone it down and require less of these folks simply because this is the mission field. (There's a name for that and it is pragmatism!)
But should we wait until we are constituted and take a membership roll?

Thanks for your advice!
When you say you are a firm believer in a "close communion" what do you mean by that?

I think we need to be careful not to put more a burden onto people than what the Lord requires for communion. With that said, I would look hard and long on what was the requirement of the first communion we have recorded in the bible, where Christ gave bead and wine. Use Christ as your guide upon how you should distribute communion.

Additionally, the scriptures give instructions to those who would take of the bread and the wine.

With that said, I am not aware of any scripture in scripture where a pastor is obligated to fence off the communion table, or even deny communion to anyone.

For did not Judas take of the bread and the wine, even though Christ knew that he was going to betray him? And Judas did take of the bread and the wine in what I believe to be in a unworthy manner, and judgment came upon him.

Oh, well. I know that not many agree with me on this point. However, I am standing by willing to lesson to people argue from the scriptures where fensing is authorized. Again, I am ready and willing to learn on this matter on what God's word has to say.
Thanks, Michael. Actually, I didn't want to discuss "close communion" per se as a conviction (which I hold!), nor do I want to discuss the value of confessing the Three Forms of Unity (which we do!), nor the justification for fencing the table (which we believe in!). All of that can be discussed (and has been discussed) in another thread or forum. I was asking an inherently practical question ON THE BASIS of these aforementioned beliefs and convictions. (Hope you understand!)
Presbyterian Church in America
Book of Church Order


The Administration of the Lord's Supper

58-1. The Communion, or Supper of the Lord, is to be observed
frequently; the stated times to be determined by the Session of each
congregation, as it may judge most for edification.
58-2. The ignorant and scandalous are not to be admitted to the Lord's
58-3. It is proper that public notice should be given to the congregation, at
least the Sabbath before the administration of this ordinance, and that, either
then, or on some day of the week, the people be instructed in its nature, and a
due preparation for it, that all may come in a suitable manner to this holy
58-4. On the day of the observance of the Lord's Supper, when the sermon
is ended, the minister shall show:
a. That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of
institution, either from one of the Evangelists, or from 1 Corinthians
11, which, as to him may appear expedient, he may
explain and apply;
b. That it is to be observed in remembrance of Christ, to show forth
His death till He come; that it is of inestimable benefit, to
strengthen His people against sin; to support them under
troubles; to encourage and quicken them in duty; to inspire them
with love and zeal; to increase their faith, and holy resolution;
and to beget peace of conscience, and comfortable hopes of
eternal life.
Since, by our Lord's appointment, this Sacrament sets forth the
Communion of Saints, the minister, at the discretion of the Session, before
the observance begins, may either invite all those who profess the true
religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church,
to participate in the ordinance; or may invite those who have been approved
by the Session, after having given indication of their desire to participate. It
is proper also to give a special invitation to non-communicants to remain
during the service.

58-5. The table, on which the elements are placed, being decently covered,
and furnished with bread and wine, and the communicants orderly and
gravely sitting around it (or in their seats before it), the elders in a convenient
place together, the minister should then set the elements apart by prayer and
The bread and wine being thus set apart by prayer and thanksgiving,
the minister is to take the bread, and break it, in the view of the people,
That the Lord Jesus Christ on the same night in which
He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He
broke it, gave it to His disciples, as I, ministering in His name,
give this bread to you, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body
which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." (Some other
biblical account of the institution of this part of the Supper may be
substituted here.)
Here the bread is to be distributed. After having given the bread, he
shall take the cup, and say:
In the same manner, He also took the cup, and having
given thanks as has been done in His name, He gave it to the
disciples, saving, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood,
which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink from it,
all of you."
While the minister is repeating these words, let him give the cup.
58-6. Since believers are to act personally in all their covenanting with the
Lord, it is proper that a part of the time occupied in the distribution of the
elements should be spent by all in silent communion, thanksgiving,
intercession and prayer.
58-7. The minister may, in a few words, put the communicants in mind:
Of the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, held forth in this
sacrament; and of their obligation to be the Lord's; and may
exhort them to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are
called; and, as they have professedly received Christ Jesus the
Lord, that they be careful so to walk in him, and to maintain
good works.


It may not be improper for the minister to give a word of exhortation
also to those who have been only spectators, reminding them:
Of their duty, stating their sin and danger, by living in
disobedience to Christ, in neglecting this holy ordinance; and
calling upon them to be earnest in making preparation for
attending upon it at the next time of its celebration.
Then the minister is to pray and give thanks to God,
For His rich mercy, and invaluable goodness, vouchsafed
to them in that Sacred Communion; to implore pardon for the
defects of the whole service; and to pray for the acceptance of
their persons and performances; for the gracious assistance of
the Holy Spirit to enable them, as they have received Christ
Jesus the Lord, so to walk in Him; that they may hold fast that
which they have received, that no man take their crown; that
their conversation may be as becomes the Gospel; that they may
bear about with them, continually, the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in their mortal
body; that their light may so shine before men, that others,
seeing their good works, may glorify their Father who is in
An offering for the poor or other sacred purpose is appropriate in
connection with this service, and may be made at such time as shall be
ordered by the Session.
Now let a psalm or hymn be sung, and the congregation dismissed,
with the following or some other Gospel benediction:
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead
our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the
blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every
good work to do His will, working in you that which is well
pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for
ever and ever. Amen.
58-8. As past custom has been found in many parts of the Presbyterian
Church, our congregations are urged to have a service of spiritual preparation
for the Lord’s Supper during the week previous to the celebration of the

The PCA's Book of Church Order on the Lord's Supper may prove helpful.

It is biblical and time tested.

In verbally fencing the table, you may warn nonbelievers not to partake and invite believers who are members in good standing of an evangelical church or "a church where this gospel is preached."

You could also notify visitors, regular attenders that they may meet with leadership before the service to be briefed and/or examined before taking communion.

It is worth taking time to explain the Lord's Supper, to share the gospel during it, to warn nonbelievers not to partake but to use it as a time to consider their need for Christ, and to advise those not walking an orderly Christian life to refrain.

If this is a brand new congregation, and there has not been time for new member training, you may want to require a (brief) examination before allowing congregants to partake. An "examination" that they are believers, are in membership process there or are members at an evangelical church, and are not walking a generally disorderly life pattern (e.g. by not being part of a local church body where they are accountable).

You might explain during the service that being a new church, members must be briefly "examined" before the service in order to participate in the Lord's Supper.
I agree with Scott's points. You can fence the table (which I wholeheartedly agree with) without excluding all but your wife.

The issue is where you put the fence. Only members of of your particular congregation (not yet formed)? Only Three Forms of Unity church members? Only "Reformed" church members (now including most Presbyterians, some Baptists and Anglicans... hmmm, who decides what counts and how)? Only gospel-preaching, evangelical churches (but who decides what those are)? Or is it a matter of personal faith rather than church membership?

My two cents: You get into sticky territory when you start trying to decide on a case-by-case basis which churches are good enough that membership in them is acceptable. You need an objective rule to go by that doesn't put you in the position of constantly judging other churches. Maybe membership in any church plus a credible profession of faith. Or maybe membership in your particular church (in which case you wait until you're constituted). Then add to that, each time the supper is offered, the warning to examine one's heart.

Since you're in Germany, where I imagine nominal church membership is an even bigger problem than here in the US, and since "close communion" is a conviction you hold, it sounds like you might need to quickly move your church plant in a direction where membership can happen. Then you'll have a clear, objective statement of where people stand.
I agrre with Scott above and I believe we can welcome to the celebration of the Lords Supper all baptized persons who have made a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord andSavior, who are members in good standing in a Bible-believingChristian Church, that means Reformed Protestant, Lutherans Roman Catholics Episcopalians and non Reformed Protestants should not partake. All who have made a public profession of faith in a Reformed church and who are seeking to live in obedience to God and at peace with fellow believers......And have not been sanctioned or excommunicated by another bible believing church can be welcomed after giving this proper admonition.
Everyone please note again that, per the request of the opening poster, this thread is not to advocate or share our particular views of communion; please restrict replies to the practical outworking of the original post's own theological framework regarding administration of the supper.
nor do I want to discuss the value of confessing the Three Forms of Unity (which we do!),

It seems the practicality of the situation comes down to this. If communicants must confess the three forms of unity in order to partake of the Lord's supper then it would seem obvious that a period of instruction in the three forms of unity must precede the administration of the Lord's supper.

Although it is not open to discussion, I would suggest that there is a biblical pragmatism in the sense that the biblical position should allow for practical implementation; and where it becomes impractical to act as a church in a mission field there must be a question-mark over the biblical authority for the position being espoused.
If you and your wife are the only ones qualified to take the Lord's Supper under your understanding of fencing the table, then perhaps you should not celebrate the sacrament during the service.
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