We had a lovely time together yesterday morning (Easter Sunday). This year we had an early communion service for committed Christians (and those who could be bothered to get out of bed!). We then had a fry up in the cafe with some guests and people from the community (food is always a winner here in Niddrie), we had a 20 minute Easter evangelistic message, followed by Hot Cross Buns and a buffet lunch together.
One of the reasons we did this was because, for a time, we were having problems when it came to communion. Despite our teaching and warnings from the pulpit, unbelievers were still taking the bread and wine. This left it very awkward for those handing out the ‘elements’. Should they refuse or not? Could they say for sure or not who who was saved? Is that even their responsibility? One suggestion was to have communion for members only but we do have quite a number of visitors from other congregations as well as believing non-members who would have felt excluded. That is why we decided (for Easter at least) to invite only our committed Christians to our early morning service and have a special fry up and an Easter message for the community. We don’t sing or pray or do anything particularly ‘churchy’ for them. We just preach about the resurrection of Christ and the hope it brings to those who bow the knee in repentance and submit their lives to his will.
For the rest of the time we just make it very clear that this is a time for believers only and if someone has not turned from their sins and put their faith and trust in Christ alone (v. important in or ‘catholic’ culture) then they should not eat or drink. On one occasion one of our elders even refused to serve an individual (not saved) who was so offended that they walked out and refused to come back to the church again! They did return (the next day) and as we talked through the incident it offered a clear gospel opportunity! Discuss. Several others have been treated likewise and were also offended. Again, it led to the gospel being explained one to one and in this case, one person has come through to salvation and the other attends and now does not participate in the communion part of our service. It is a tough one though!
One final thought. Many of the people in the community are more comfortable with eating and hanging out together than the believers. Some of them feel ‘we do it too much’. I haven’t quite worked that out yet. Eating together is not a biblical prerequisite (although it is interesting how much of Jesus’ interaction with others happened around meals) but I do feel that if we are reaching out into a ‘fallen’ community of people we should be inviting them into a ‘redeemed’ community of people. It is so hard to get people together so many of our members lead such busy lives. What better way to show our ‘community’ than by hanging out together in a way that is not just about an ‘organised meeting’. I suppose that’s why we make such a big deal of food in our work here.