Lord's Supper: Can it be done and administered by and between members?

Discussion in 'The Lord's Supper' started by ChrisJuloya, Jan 2, 2019.

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  1. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    I came (but currently going through the inquirer's class of a reformed church) from a non-denominational church who just started a consistent celebration of the Lord's Supper early last year. The church also encourages a celebration of the Lord's Supper between members administered or facilitated by anyone as long as the person is a professing Christian or at least a small group/discipleship group leader in which I have facilitated and participated in before I was introduced to the reformed tradition.

    In the reformed tradition, at least with what I have learned (please do correct my understanding if they are wrong), the Lord's Supper is to be administered by the minister of the Word, administered together with the preaching of the Word, in the context of the congregation, during the Lord's Day.

    My question is, is it sinful to facilitate or celebrate the breaking of the bread with the only minimum requirement met is the reading and exposition of the Word within a group of believers?

    Or can we celebrate the breaking of the bread with at least meeting the requirement that:
    1. Participation of professing Christians only
    2. Reading and exposition of the Word

    Or when we say "breaking of bread," do we mean the Lord's Supper or are they different with the essence remaining the same?

    Or is the only requirement to "do this in remembrance of me"?

    I ask because some of my friends, while aware of the reformed tradition, are still part of the said church and often times still facilitate and want to have the breaking of bread among us. I'm thinking whether I should participate when it happens. Or if it is wrong or sinful, how should one respond? Do you think this falls under liberty as well?

    I am already anticipating rhetorical questions like "Do those churches who adhere to the NPW sin?" or "Am I sinning if I preach at church, though not during the Lord's Day, even if I am not an ordained minister of the Word?" Or "Am I sinning if I attend a church service on a Saturday instead of Sunday?"

    I'd like to know your thoughts. :)

    Thanks in advance for accommodating my pre-sleeping thoughts (apologies for the delay in response as it is night time here in the Philippines).
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    In the consistently, or confessionally Reformed world, there are things that a church does, qua church, that other institutions and other people don't get to do. As a way of thinking about this, try to imagine what it might look like in your municipality if anyone and everyone conceived they possessed ordinary "arrest power," the sort of thing that is typically reserved (in the USA) for the Sheriff and those duly deputized by him.

    You might well demand from the armed flake with a tin-foil badge and a mad-on at you for playing your music too loud, "Uh, where did you get your authority? And who gave you that authority?" The preaching and administration of the sacraments are unique marks, or proofs, that the church really is identifiable in some particular location. The church as an institution has a ministry (government, of officers under Christ), members--people who know who each other are and are accountable to one another, and meetings for the purposes and functions of the church.

    Yes, individual believers are "members of Christ," even "members of the universal, invisible church." But the universal claim without the local expression is a bit like saying you are a member of the human race while treating your fellow men like aliens, or only some others as your loose posse while looking askance at the rest. Or saying you are a member of the citizenry of some nation; even as you might live ignorantly or willfully severed from any social connections, services, participation or obligation acknowledged. In what meaningful sense are you claiming to be a [insert nationality]?

    If you and your friends are simply sharing a meal together, that's not "the Lord's Supper." That's brotherly love, let it continue. It seems to me, possibly, from your description, that your intent rather has been in some way to try to have the Lord's Supper within your informal fellowship. Instead of trying to have the church before you actually get the church, I recommend you be content with that sharing of the Word among yourselves besides regular fellowship meals; instead of forging a ritual that tries to sit in the room of that which God presently, providentially, makes you wait for.
  3. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    29 WCF

    III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

    ~My epmphasis added
  4. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    On a few occasions when I've been with a group that wanted to observe the Supper on their own and invited me to join them, I have said something like: "I think it's best that we eat the Supper with the whole church and that the church supervise it, since eating together without divisions is a big part of the Supper in Scripture, and so is church discipline—which is the elders' job, not ours. It seems a stretch to presume our little group is a church when we don't have things that mark a church, like a preacher or elders who discipline wayward members."

    When I've said that, folks have kindly decided not to try to observe the Supper with me; they rightly don't want to ask someone to violate their conscience. But they also will look at me askance, as if I must be a bit odd to suggest that coming under the church is more important than individual religious practice. That, I think, is the hub of the matter. Does the small group think they can (or maybe even should) supplant the church? Refraining from on-your-own Communion won't make sense to them until they get a higher view of the church, which is lacking in much of Western Christianity.

    If a church decides to exercise its authority over the Supper by administering it in a way that is not fully Reformed (like having elders rather than an ordained minister officiate, or neglecting to fence the table as thoroughly as the Reformed do), I consider that irregular but not invalid. After all, if I believe the authority is given to the church, I should submit to the church's governance if it is a true church.

    But if a church goes so far as to tell its members they may observe the Supper on their own in small groups, then that church is surrendering authority rather than exercising it, and that's just wrong.
  5. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    You've gotten several well thought out, longer answers. Here's the short version:

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  6. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for your clear explanation and illustration. Indeed it is often the intention, to celebrate Lord's Supper within a group of professing Christians which while I don't initiate, but was at times asked to facilitate (twice, I think, among ministry volunteers) and I think I now regret doing.

    Christianity here in the Philippines is not that aware of the reformed tradition but with those who are, it is to reformed theology which is mainly Calvinism, which I think is the reason for such activities/actions is because of the lack of understanding or teaching on ecclesiology. The thrust for most churches, while it may be coming from good intentions, which is to adhere to the great commission of making disciples, the emphasis has always been to "make disciples" in the form of small groups and growing them in numbers as to how most mega churches are.
  7. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for reminding me to go and check with the confessions! :)
  8. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    This is great advice! I think this would help me then when asked and put in that situation. :)
  9. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    Yup. That sums it up. :)
  10. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    You should consider saying, "My new church shows me that the Bible teaches ...." Your friends sound like they delight in the things of God, and you may encourage them to think about what the Bible says rather than declaring their practice a sin.
  11. Edm

    Edm Puritan Board Freshman

    Not arguing, because I believe the WCF to be correct, however, what did people do before they had a minister, like soon after Christ, when they gathered to worship? Did they not participate? Or did they do it wrongly? Or was it just that times were different?
  12. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I'm not sure quite what you're asking, but "soon after Christ" there were apostles and elders. Church order was definitely established in New Testament days.
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  13. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks, Jean! They indeed do delight in the things of God. The reason I ask if it is a sin is for myself and not really to condemn anyone. But I appreciate you pointing this out. :)
  14. Edm

    Edm Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not the historian, or articulator that I wish I was....
    I guess I am comparing the training and roles now vs then. If an apostle went to a city, there was a conversion of people and then he went on, I guess there would be some elders when he left, or at least some with more understanding. Today we have seminaries people attend for years. I guess learning from an apostle would trump a seminary education.
  15. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I happen (providentially) to be preaching in the first half of Acts these days. The sacred record tells us a number of things about the beginning of the NT order.

    The Apostles were absolutely vital.
    The church began with a cadre of people, besides the Apostles, who had also been with Jesus extensively over the course of his ministry.
    The Spirit gave extraordinary endowments.
    The NT age was birthed among a religiously prepared population, the Jews.​

    The Apostles had their own three-year seminary course, I mean it's equivalent--three years spent under the Master's tutelage. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the NT church beginning in the synagogue was: ready-made elders.

    The first deacons (such as Stephen and Philip) were soon enough called to be evangelists, probably once they developed a platoon of such officers as were necessary for a whole city and more's worth of New Covenant believers (the original seven, soon six, would be but a necessary start). When Saul led the first persecution, those most likely to be targeted would have been prominent leaders. When the first string goes down, up step the next men, and the original diaconate would have been the "NickFoles" of the day. Philip was soon taking the gospel into Samaria (and calling for the Apostles to come and recognize these new believers from among the "half-breeds" as full-believers, not second class).

    By the end of Act.9, Peter (if not other Apostles also, or in rotation) were conducting traveling (itinerant) ministry in cities and towns well beyond Jerusalem. They seemed to go to where the evangelists had often been before them, and their activity was viewed as some kind of establishment of the church. Of course, they were not merely following men like Philip, but that sort of men frequently functioned like military scouts in the apostolic enterprise.

    The Apostles ministered over a wide area, until there was a regular ministry in place. Much later on, in a letter like Paul's to Titus, we see that Apostle Paul (having done the same kind of work himself among the Gentiles) now delegating the work of raising up elders in each city of Crete to Titus, who is doing the evangelist task, but is not likely have any more Apostles following, with Spirit-gift endowments, and ministerial training. No, the work of training ministers grows into a major church-planting task.

    It should be a standard observation that Paul's long-term labors in Ephesus included training ministers (as he lectured in the Hall of Tyranus) for his three years there. From which men like Epaphras (Col.4:12) went forth, to evangelize the Lycus valley. Collating dispersed NT data into a coherent picture of the first few decades of the New Covenant church does not have to leave the impression the church was mostly "winging it" in a very loose arrangement, and running very far ahead of any true organization (only to be imposed later on).

    We should not assume the early church was the rather informal, egalitarian confraternity (following a inchoate charismatic period of competing "schools" of disciples of Disciples) that moderns seem to want to view it. We don't have to buy the notion that the Apostles eventually scattered to serve as the first monarchical bishops (with Peter as an emperor), to believe in a simpler, flatter, yet organized and disciplined first-century church.
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  16. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    Was thinking of replying and have drafted a response, good thing I haven't. Your response was on point. :D

    I guess to add, during Paul's ministry, he didn't just evangelize then leave. He spent some time with the new believers and returned to them as we have seen in his missionary travels, to disciple and most likely to establish leadership and reinforce it.

    Our seminary curriculum would probably be something like or drafted closely from the Apostles' curriculum. :D:D:D
  17. Edm

    Edm Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you much for the detailed explanation. Makes perfect sense to me.
  18. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I have observed that there is often a closing meeting at the end of a mission or camp where communion is served.

    (When I was looking into bursaries I discovered that Baptist are categorised as "non-conformists)
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