The Lord’s Supper and the EC

“so let me get this straight. after examining the last supper of Jesus and the historical accounts of the early church, you have come up with a communion service that:

– excludes children, swaps a full meal for a sample, avoids any technology, forbids joy or laughter, happens in a hall with men on a stage, dispenses with conversation, has no wine whatsoever . . and you think that is more biblical? more godly?” TSK

I am having a congenial chat with the folks at Slice of Laodicea about communion. Jim, actually, who i have not encountered before. I think Jim and I are coming from different backgrounds – he from the seeker movement going reformed . . and me from the fundamentalist scene moving towards a wider perspective . . and both of us meeting in the middle. I really appreciate Jim and the others taking the time to offer their thoughts on the various communion services that happen in the emerging church. And yes, sometimes these services are very informal and CREATIVE . . bordering on strange . . but the dynamics of a large church hall and a more informal room with food and kids and couches and no pulpit are very different.

It is my opinion that many of us are attempting to restore the centrality of the Lord’s Supper to the wider body of Christ. Viva la Table!

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Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)


  • hey andrew,
    checked out the convo over at laodicea n just wanted to encourage u that it’s great that u r engaging in loving dialogue.
    there is no hint of anger or divisivness in your tone – and in the written medium that’s always easier ‘said’ than done.
    so keep it up! the last thing anyone wants is for more splits to appear in the Body…

  • Andrew,
    You have a great way of engaging with those people. I’m looking forward to reading your response to the latest comment that your soul is in danger and your missionary efforts are in vain.

  • I posted this at “slice” but though it appropriate to post part of it here too:
    aww… come on Jim, you’re moving out of a good teaching moment into judgement. I was very keen to hear a real response to Andrew’s last question(s)- which assumptions don’t apply? Why? I was ready to learn something but you lost your load. C’mon! get back on the horse and go another round! BTW, i had an interesting communion experience last night at my men’s prayer group. Together we spent 2 hours confessing our sins out loud, speaking out our prayers, intercessions, insights from the Spirit, scriptures, speaking dreams and visions. At the conclusion of this time we celebrated communion together and because of the power of the public confession and accompanying sense of real forgiveness that preceeded it, the Lord’s Supper was the source of much joy amongst us, a genuine gift of the Spirit. It was exeeding joy, to the extent that two or three laughed with joy. I viewed this as a genuine breakthrough for my friends, some who have been bound up in powerful addictions and habits for years and felt a great sense of freedom and release and victory over Satan. Laughter is not evil. It often accompanys joy in my life and is not an evil spirit of laughter. Jesus loves our laughter and joy and celebration. Woe betide a church that cannot laugh or crack a smile. The Lord’s Supper is not a funeral- it celebrates Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Jesus is alive! Let’s dance in our underwear down the street and laugh ourselves silly and dance like madmen! (Don’t tell me that’s not scriptural)

  • and grace
    i posted that new response about 5 hours ago but am still waiting for it to be read and approved – makes for a slow lingering conversation.
    but i tell you what was in vain – doing years of street evangelism and trying to make old skool church work for the new believers in Christ – that was vain. i watch many of them fall away from church and end up back on the streets.
    new wineskins for new wine!

  • Good for you. If there is anything I admire about you, it is how disarming you are in the face of anger. Hope you can build some bridges.

  • Great job, Andrew. Love how you engage with grace and generosity. I read the comments and what struck me was the assumptions they were making about you and thte communion gathering. The assumption was that you did not take it seriously and did not teach of the importance of communion [especially anything nearing… gasp… theology].
    It is sad that the have chosen to see what you experienced through a preconceived lens of what they “think” the emerging church is all about.
    Thanks for taking the lead and helping clear up the misconceptions – all with grace and love.

  • wow Andrew, I admire your patience and grace in the face of hostility. I felt some serious rage rising to the surface just reading that encounter. God bless you brother. oh and for the record, I thought your communion service sounded awesome.

  • Im glad the Lord’s Table is getting some discussion. I really think it has been sorely missing from many of the emerging church discussions. The Eucharist is a hugely symbolical, fully earthy, and real symbol of the kingdom. It’s sacramental presence is a beautiful thing to add and MAINTAIN within any service.
    thanks andrew

  • Commotion Over Communion

    One of the issues that often divides Christians is the Communion,
    Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper. This was the celebration feast that
    Jesus ate with his followers the night that he was arrested.
    Scripture tells the story with some variation in Matthew 26:17-

  • My wife and I are putting on a slide show on Memorial Day. She wrote most of it and will do most of the presentation. It includes pictures of significant memorials in Washigton DC (yes I know that London has bunches more. Just give a few centuries) and will end at the Vietnam Women’s memorial. This is expecially poignant for her since she’s a nurse. The nurses volunteered to help, and got no glory.
    Nevertheless, communion is a memorial of sacrifice for the good of others.
    Oftentimes, women have the most important perspectives on these sorts of things. It was the women (along with John) who stayed with Jesus until he died. And it was they who went early to Jesus’ grave. The stupidity of making women remain silent is like cutting of one each or your amrs, legs, eyes, ears, etc.
    Let the paint-by-the-numbers artists pat themselves on the back for staying inside the lines. Until they can imagine the artwork in their hearts, they will not understand where the lines and numbers came from nor their significance.

  • I posted a longer comment at Slice, but of course, now I’m waiting like everybody else… but I thought I should ask here- has anybody done an in-depth study on the Jewish Passover Feast? I mean, this is what Jesus and the disciples were celebrating that night. We should know how they did it then to see maybe how we should look at it now. Yeah?

  • joe
    i have seen Jews for Jesus perform the passover with a messianic twist
    but i am not sure how elaborate the last supper was – seemed more simple to me.
    Interesting note – alan hirsch last week was sharing about the outside spaces (patios) that were common in the early church and it may have been these spaces – half public half private – that were used for the agape meals
    and the coffee shop may be a better contemporary example than a living room.

  • andrew,
    i’m not an expert on it by any means (i’m still going on what we learned at my church last month, but hopefully they’ll teach this in history at seminary sometime soon), but one of the things i thought was cool was how the parents got the children involved in the passover experience. the kids would hide the leaven, and the father (i think) would have to search hard for it. the father would hide some matzah and the first child to find it would receive a prize. and there was something i vaguely remember about the children quizzing their father about the meaning of the passover. i really should go read up on it somehow, but now’s not the best time. the point i’m making (and i think you’d agree) is that because the passover and the lord’s supper are so interwoven, like DNA, that we can gather a lot of how it should be by looking at how it was. and from what i’ve gathered, it was a great, joyous occasion. (also each of the foods on the seder plate had special meaning- which is also very symbolic, and should be considered, i think.)

  • You’re a bigger man than I, Andrew (spiritually as well as in height!)
    Have they discontinued publishing your comments yet? Or are you taking a break?

  • I’ve gotta sigh to as it seems they’ve decided not to publish your comments anymore…
    Thanks for dialoguing with them though, and for what it’s worth from a young kid, thanks for being an example.

  • They also chose not to post my comments. Ah well, Wikipedia has a good article on “Passover Seder” that explains what I was trying to say. It seems to me that it was a very joyous feast, and that is probably what Jesus and his disciples experienced. Later, I can only imagine the joy was all the greater, not only because Christ lived (and they saw it), but because of the extra meaning that Passover now had. We are now covered in Christ the Lamb’s blood, saved from God’s wrath, and free from death ourselves. Of course this is a happy thing.
    Keep it up, Andrew. I appreciate what you guys are doing.

  • Joe,
    There are lots of fine studies on the Passover feast, and it is probably easiest to begin with a good dictionary article.
    Let me begin this with a comment that Matt/Mark/Luke seem to suggest that the meal was a Passover meal, while John suggests that Jesus died at the same time as the slaying of the Passover lambs.
    Now lots of folks have lined up the various cups (Luke has the most here) with the various cups of a traditional Seder (Jewish order for Passover). The major issue here is that the Passover seder is from a much later time and we run the risk of doing some serious historical anachronisms by doing this.
    In my book, Jesus and His Death, which is an academic monograph readable only for the determined, I suggest that Jesus used the Passover meal to state that as the blood of the passover victims protected the ancient Israelites, so the blood of Jesus will protect his followers.
    Maybe this isn’t what you are asking about so I’ll stop now. I could be just wasting my time, your time, and Andrew’s blogspace.

  • We have done seders for years – both orthodox Jewish ones and messianic ones and let me tell you, the Orthodox can celebrate us under the table. Remember what the Passover was – it was when the Isrealites were spared and also preceded their release from slavery – a celebration to be sure. But honestly, that’s not what these people have a problem with anyway – and even Jesus couldn’t reason with the most hardened of pharises.

  • A couple of things amaze me about the interaction that happened of the Slice of Laodicea blog – beyond the fact that they shut down commenting…
    The first is this issue of propriety around the Lord’s table. I just have a quick comment about eating the Lord’s supper in an “unworthy manner” comment that is made in the same spirit. In our culture I think we often assume that it is referring to some kind of examination of personal piety between the individual believer and God. If you look at the text of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is rebuking the Corinthians because rich believers are excluding the poor from the feast. Paul seems more concerned with communal piety as it relates to the relational unity of the body and what is to happen around the Lord’s table to preserve that unity. Those that “have” sacrifice so that those who don’t can participate.
    It is really is amazing to me that discussions and admonitions to read the Scripture and commentaries related to this “unworthy manner” admonition neglect the textual reality of who is really in danger of judgment and why it is so. It is also amazing to me that despite the biblical witness of the inclusive nature of both Jesus’ table and Paul’s incarnation of it in the churches he planted, we are still fighting about mint, dill, and cumin (Mt. 23:23-24).
    The second thing that caught my attention was Ken’s comment. He wrote, “But then again we are so oftentimes dealing in the Emergent Church with men and women who have not been born again. As such they simply cannot see the degradation and idolatry with which they are doing things like this in these so-called churches in Christ’s name. Following the Biblical admonition of 2 Timothy 2:24-26 let’s continue to encourage one another to pray for these people that the Lord may grant them repentance.”
    This comment is stunning, especially in light of the direct teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5. For people who seem to be so certain of being biblical, how is it then that what the Bible actually says, both interpretively in the Lord’s Feast passage, and relationally in the following passage, seem to have so little traction?
    “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord that judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait til the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people’s hearts.”
    Like Scot I, too, will stop taking up time and space. Amazing.

  • Dr. McKnight, thanks. That does help. My reference to the seder is probably not applicable as a precedent for how we should look at the Lord’s Supper because it came after. Maybe when I get out of seminary I’ll have time to read your book. Thanks. I appreciate it.

  • Andrew,
    I must echo my namesake Bob — how do you do it? How do you consistently deal so graciously with people who have omnisciently decided that we’re not even Christians?
    Anyway, I applaud your graciousness at Slice; you are a worthy example to all of us.
    HT’s to you, all around.

  • Bob
    you said: “Have they discontinued publishing your comments yet? Or are you taking a break? ”
    It has been almost a day since my big response was submitted and it has not appeared. Neither have my last two other comments. Although comments from other people are being allowed
    i feel bad because people are asking me questions and it seems like i am avoiding the questions or do not have any answers.
    That doesnt seem like a fair conversation to me. Were you thinking of picking up the conversation? Let me know.
    I did want some clarity on what appears to be a 3-tiered communion system in their churches.
    Maybe i will just start another post on this blog so i can get out what i wanted to say.

  • I can hardly blame Slice for shutting the conversation down, if in fact that’s what happened. As someone who watched it closely, there was a lot of dodging of questions going on. Andrew wanted to talk about the things that he wanted to talk about, and avoided many of the questions about Romans and doctrine. A true two way coversation is one in which both sides answer each other’s questions. When that doesn’t happen, then it’s simply a matter of talking at one another. I understand that you want to talk about your new styles of communion, but it ought to matter to you what Christians believed about it over the past 500 years. Don’t pick and choose your history (ie: “I think I’ll accept the conjecture of what I think the very early church did, but I’ll totally ignore 1500 – 1900AD”). That shows an extreme bias. Consider the arrogance of the thinking that the EC is the first group in church history to REALLY know the right way of doing communion. Perhaps some of your communion ideas are better. Fine. Now move on. Move on to address the issues that have the potential to make Ken’s statements valid; the issues in which wrong beliefs about could cost you your eternity. What good will it do you to have perfect communion practices, if hell really does turn out to be true, and your other beliefs are such that you end up there.

  • hell turns out to be true? what do you mean?
    Jesus often talked of hell.
    Anthony, I appreciate your comment. I wish you could have read one of mine which did not see the light of slice, in which i talk about our commitment to doctrine and our insistence that emerging church networks and ministries assent to and abide by the Lausanne Convenant.
    In fact, i do not requesting funding for emerging church networks unless they do so.
    I asked Jim if he would recommend a better creed or covenant that would work across the world, considering the vast cultural differences in each country . . and i am hoping he will come back and suggest one.
    as i said on an unpublished comment, i do not believe that emerging church or the reformed church have plummeted the depths of what Jesus meant when he said “Do this in remembrance of Me”
    we cannot ignore the history from 1500 – 1900 because we are still so influenced by it. but neither can we jump from the last supper to 1500 and assume it was all heretical.
    lets take the whole sweep of church history and learn from it.

  • I read this a couple days ago but didn’t get the chance to comment. And now the conversation seems to have moved in another direction in the other post (and at Slice). So I’m feeling a little left out. 🙁
    But I’m wondering, back to the original idea of this service, does anyone else think the cellphone thing is a bit…I dunno…cheesy? Not sinful, not heretical, just…off?
    I’m all for presenting the gospel in new ways, in “culturally relevant” ways. But I (and I suspect many others) have a lot of cellphone preconceptions, and most of them are not good. (Rude people talking for all the world to hear, dangerous people driving and talking, etc). Are there limits to the acceptable use of technology in worship?

  • could be cheesy but jonny and the grace team have a knack of making things work and avoid the cheddar at the same time.
    sms is a quiet way of using phones (no talking) and there are programs out that send your sms message directly to the computer and onto the screen.
    (arkaos works with another program to acheive this)
    is that any worse or better than someone typing on a computer keyboard to project the words on a screen?
    i generally like things that allow people to participate in worship.

  • I generally like things that allow people to participate also. And I don’t mean to put down Johnny. I’m sure he is familiar with his folks, and what would be acceptable to them. And I love lots of his ideas on his blog. But others…don’t think they would be too well received in my community.
    Cellphones better or worse than a words on computer screen? Seems to me that most folks have more cellphone hangups (hey, I made a pun!) than computer screen hangups. When’s the last time you saw someone typing on their computer in traffic?
    Again, I don’t mean to put down Johnny. I’m just wondering about the limits of technology (if indeed there are any) in the local worship setting.

  • Andrew,
    I’ve only recently begun reading your blog, but have found it interesting, encouraging, entertaining, challenging, etc.
    Keep up the good work. Your responses to the crowd at slice were great, it’s too bad they had to leave you out of the conversation; one-sided debates are generally not very interesting or enlightening.
    Have a grace-filled day!

  • Anthony-
    For the record, it doesn’t seem to me that the conversation at slice was shut down. It looks like only selective (ie: affirming of slice’s position) comments were allowed after a certain point. Looking at the timestamps on the comments it seems the discussion was freewheeling and productive through Jim’s comment on 5/18 at 5:55am. Andrew posted on here at 8:17am that morning, and shortly thereafter I posted a comment on slice (available at It was never published to slice. Andrew posted several comments that didn’t make it through the censor, as did at least a few others who have added their comments here. However, four pro-slice comments were allowed through throughout 5/18. Andrew’s final comment was posted there on 5/19 (approx. 24 hours after the comments started being censored), but only after Andrew posted it here first, which seemingly forced slice’s hand a bit. Jim replied shortly thereafter with another inflammatory and derogatory attack, and that’s the end of the published comments on that post. So, no, the conversation wasn’t shut down. It was censored with only friendly comments allowed through. There’s a big difference.

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