Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Wine or grape juice, bread or wafers, intinction or separate actions, served at the front or in the pew. There are many decisions evangelical churches and denominations make when setting up the Lord’s Table. But the question posed in the February Evangelical Leaders Survey was on frequency: How often does your church serve communion? The vast majority (70 percent) said once a month.
“Throughout church history, Christians have celebrated the Lord’s Table in many different ways and with varying frequency,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “Right now, the trend among evangelicals is once a month, which seems to balance taking communion regularly while not replacing the central role of the sermon in most evangelical worship services.”
Ron Hamilton, Conference Minister for the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, said, “The communion service is always a special time. The annual Maundy Thursday communion service is one of the best of the year.”
With the exception of one leader whose church serves communion several times per week and another who is a member of The Salvation Army, a denomination that does not practice communion, the other options (every other month, quarterly and weekly) received equal shares of the remaining 30 percent, according to the February Evangelical Leaders Survey.
One leader whose church practices weekly communion is David Neff, Editorial Vice President for Christianity Today. Neff emphasizes the link to the early church. “As early as the mid-second century, descriptions of Christian worship treat the Eucharist as the basic form of weekly worship. Recovering this has been one of the achievements of worship renewal in the second half of the 20th century,” he said.
Anderson said, “In practicing communion, evangelical Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many, it is a special and reverent experience they share regularly with their Christian community. The Scripture does not address the specifics of how to celebrate the Lord’s Table, so there is considerable variety in how the practice is understood and expressed in evangelical churches.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.