By: Michael Stephenson
We have all experienced remembrance meetings that we felt were very inspiring and uplifting and surely brought pleasure to the Lord. At the same time, we have all likely sat through worship meetings that seemed to us dull and lacking in joy, enthusiasm, and even spontaneity. Can our Lord’s Supper services be improved? Certainly! Anything that human beings are involved with can be improved.
Something Is Lacking
So how can our remembrance meetings be enhanced? Truthfully, the Lord’s Supper is no better than the priests who take part in it – or do not take part in it for that matter. If we want breaking of bread services that are consistently vibrant, it is imperative that we men spend regular time with the Lord and in His Word throughout the week. A. P. Gibbs correctly stated,
“The fire of worship needs the constant renewing of fuel if it is to rise like the smoke of the morning sacrifice to God. The fuel needed is the study of, meditation in, and obedience to the word of God, plus a life of prayer and devotion. If this fuel is not forthcoming, then the fire of worship on the altar of the soul will die, and God will be denied the worship He seeks.” 1
If we are not willing to do this, we will have to accept worship meetings that are dry and lifeless. Even spending as little as 15 to 20 minutes a day with the Lord can provide that needed fuel for meaningful worship.
Give Way to the Holy Spirit
Once in the meeting itself, it is vital that we give our full attention to the words of every hymn or chorus we sing, every prayer that is offered and every Scripture passage that is read and commented on. By doing so, we can better detect how the Holy Spirit is leading us in the meeting. If we are to enjoy a harmonious service with a clear direction, as opposed to a meeting that is disjointed, we must allow the Spirit to do the leading. After all, Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “He will testify about Me” and “He will glorify Me” (Jn. 15:26; 16:14). Paul adds, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3); and “We worship in the Spirit of God” (Phil 3:3). If we consciously permit God the Spirit to be in charge of the meeting, it will be spontaneous and refreshing, not predictable and boring.
Part of allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control of our Lord’s Supper observance involves our waiting upon Him to indicate if and when we should participate vocally in the meeting. If every week the very same men share and share at length, the meeting does become quite predictable. In addition, little time is left for other men, especially the less assertive ones, to take part. It is highly questionable if a meeting of this nature is really being led by the Spirit. The mindset of every man in the breaking of bread should be to give way to others whom the Spirit may be moving to participate. This would seem to be the teaching of Paul in I Corinthians 14:27, where he instructs the Corinthian believers to contribute to their meetings “each in turn”. In verses 30-31, he adds, “But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one”. Our goal should be to see more and more men participating audibly and briefly. That approach would increase spontaneity, make the meeting more interesting to those attending, and, I think, be more satisfying to the Lord.
Make a Joyful Noise
Another way to enhance our Lord’s Supper meetings would be to encourage the expression of a broader range of emotions. At times, a somber mood is completely justifiable when we contemplate that our wonderful, innocent Savior had to die because of OUR sins. But let’s not forget that His death made possible the forgiveness of all our sins and our eternal salvation and that He also rose from the dead and that He’s coming back for us. Praise God! We have much to rejoice in and get excited about. If we don’t at least on occasion get thrilled about our Lord and what He’s done for us, that’s our fault, not His, because GOD . . . IS . . . EXCITING! In Psalm 95:1-3, we are exhorted, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.” Am I proposing an emotional free-for-all? No, but I do believe that some heartfelt exuberance in our worship meetings would be most appropriate.
Speaking of music, I’ve grown over the years to absolutely love the hymns in the “black book”, Hymns of Worship and Remembrance. Nevertheless, as a young man, I felt that many of those hymns were draggy. In deference to our younger people, maybe we should consider making available, along with the black book, a collection of contemporary songs and choruses for use in the breaking of bread, as long as those songs are focused on the remembrance and worship of the Father and the Son. We might even consider having a skilled guitarist provide accompaniment for those choruses. I think we would find this to be a genuine aid to our making a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Remember: You’re in Public
Yet another practical suggestion for improving our corporate worship would be to make sure that we can be easily heard when we stand and lead out in worship. A few weeks ago at the Lord’s Supper in my own assembly, there were at least three men who spoke so softly that I could not hear much of what they were saying. We must use a public voice when speaking in public. It is also quite common to see men standing and speaking out with their backs to most of the congregation. Have you ever seen a preacher go up to the pulpit and then turn his back to his audience throughout his entire sermon? Well then, we should not do that in the Lord’s Supper either. No matter how spiritually rich our contributions may be, they will be of no value if people cannot hear them.
We Have Much to Lose
I am not assuming that the above suggestions for improvement in our remembrance meetings will be easy or even possible to implement in every case. Indeed, I have heard that a number of assemblies have opted for changes resulting in a shorter, more structured Lord’s Supper. My concern with this trend is that I am afraid it will eventually lead to the demise of the Lord’s Supper as we have practiced and enjoyed it for the past two centuries. I am concerned that we will ultimately lose this meeting that is focused entirely on remembering our Savior and worshiping our God, a meeting that at the same time promotes the exercise of the priesthood of all believers. In my estimation, that would be too high a price to pay. This concern should serve as a powerful incentive for us to work at both preserving and improving the way we remember our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Alfred P Gibbs, Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation, (ECS Ministries/ Walterick Publishers: Dubuque, IA, 2011), p. 224.