The Lord’s Supper provides an excellent opportunity for the men in an assembly to exercise their priesthood. Yet many of those men rarely, if ever, take advantage of that opportunity by participating audibly in the breaking of bread. Is it possible to persuade more of these men to take part, and, if so, how specifically?
Encourage Their Priesthood
While I can make no guarantees of increased participation by those who seldom share in the Lord’s Supper, I do think that there are concrete steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood of such participation. To begin with, it’s expected and necessary for the elders of a local assembly to participate at the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. By doing so, they set the spiritual tone of the meeting. Moreover, they are responsible not only to teach God-honoring worship publicly but also to model it practically. The other worshipers will learn much from the elders’ participation concerning reverence, spiritual depth and the appropriate use of the Scriptures, prayers, and spiritual songs.
To begin with, it is critical that the elders and others who share regularly in the remembrance meeting make it clear that they would love to see participation by an ever larger group of men. The elders could express this sentiment publicly in sermons or even in announcements. Perhaps it would be more effective, though, for the elders and other spiritually mature brothers to meet with men who have indicated an interest in starting to participate vocally. Such meetings could be individual or collective, with the objective of giving those men specific direction as to how they can share simply and appropriately in the Lord’s Supper.
What should be our goal as we seek to encourage participation in the Lord’s Supper? Since the New Testament clearly indicates that all believers are priests (I Pet 2: 4-10), and that it is the responsibility and privilege of the men to lead God’s people in corporate worship, our goal is to promote vocal participation by as many men as possible on a regular basis. However, realistically, if a man is not walking closely with the Lord or spending time in His Word during the week, it will be an uphill battle, if not impossible, to get him to participate because he will be spiritually dry come to the worship meeting. If they will permit it, the first step should be to work personally with such men, encouraging them to spend time daily in the Word and thereby to begin to grow spiritually.
Help Them Overcome Their Obstacles
In a typical assembly, there are those men who are spiritually inclined, yet hesitant for a variety of reasons to say anything at the Lord’s Supper. What might be preventing them from participating? Some would say that they just don’t have the ability to speak in public. Yet I have observed those same men stand before our congregation and calmly give a very competent announcement about an upcoming event at our chapel. It should be pointed out to such men that they are not expected to deliver complex and long-winded orations at the Lord’s Supper. Short and simple is preferable, especially for men who have little experience speaking in public. They should also realize that this isn’t a competition. They don’t have to outdo or even equal other men in their sharing. Instead, their focus should be solely on pleasing the Lord by what they pray, by the hymn they suggest, by the Bible passage they read, or by the brief comments they make. The Lord is most impressed by heartfelt expressions of worship however simple they may be. Now, when the quieter men actually do participate, by all means, be encouraging of them and appreciative of their contributions, avoiding criticism, or correction unless absolutely necessary.
Regular Participants: Determine Not to Dominate
Some men who are anxious and hesitant to share publicly may not participate if the brothers who currently take part in worship continue to dominate. The tendency of some men is to share in the worship meeting every single week. I would encourage such men to consider actually refraining from vocal participation during an occasional breaking of bread to give way to others that might like to take part but are more reluctant.
In addition, those who are regular participants must be careful not to expound at length, speaking for ten minutes or longer every time they share. Obviously, if several do that every week, the less outgoing men will have little opportunity to add their contributions. Indeed, those who frequently share in the Lord’s Supper should make a point of keeping their own offerings brief. Concise prayers and comments on Bible passages leave more time for others to participate. Short contributions also make it a lot less daunting for men not accustomed to sharing. They will be more likely to feel that they can capably follow what has just been offered.
Also, we should not feel unsettled by brief periods of silence. Those men who are hesitant to share often need more time to get their thoughts together and to work up the nerve to stand and speak. Thus, a time of silence can be of real help to them, as well as a good time for all of us to reflect on what has already transpired in the meeting.
What Say the Scriptures?
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul provides us with some guidelines for the conducting of a spontaneous meeting similar to the way the Lord’s Supper is observed in many of our assemblies today (1 Cor. 14:26-40). Take a few minutes to open your Bible and read over verses 26-33. Notice several implications in this passage. First, in the case of the Corinthian believers, ALL of them typically came with something to contribute and were so eager to share that Paul had to impose some regulations. We must strive for and promote this same eagerness in our assemblies today. Second, those who shared audibly had full control over whether or not they spoke in the meeting and, if so, how long. Clearly, the attitude that Paul was trying to cultivate among the Corinthian brothers was that of giving way to others who might want to speak, as opposed to dominating the meeting every week. Third, it appears that Paul was encouraging all of the men to participate in such spontaneous meetings, though not all of them at every single meeting.
A Success Story
On two occasions, I have held teaching sessions with some of the men in my home assembly in order to encourage participation at the Lord’s Supper. Did those sessions lead to greater participation by men who typically were not sharing vocally? Regrettably, several of them still do not contribute to our remembrance meeting. However, a couple of those men now do participate regularly. Both of them, like me, are brothers who are not originally from the assemblies. One of them, in particular, is by nature a reserved person who prefers to stay in the background, yet he is a man with obvious spiritual interest and depth. After our sessions, he began to share in the Lord’s Supper on occasion; but since then, he has continued to do so regularly, confidently, and always appropriately. Because he and the other brother were both teachable and willing to change, we now have two more significant contributors to our breaking of bread, and we are all the richer for it. Perhaps there are men in your assembly who need a bit of encouragement to join in and enrich your remembrance meeting with their unique contributions to the glory and for the pleasure of the Father and the Son.