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New Horizons

Helps for Worship #24: The Frequency of the Lord's Supper

William Shishko

"And they continued steadfastly in ... the breaking of bread." (Acts 2:42)

As a result of the Protestant Reformation, worship was "reformed" according to the Scriptures. In the process, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (which could too easily be confused with "the Mass") was separated from regular worship and celebrated less frequently. In some Protestant churches, the Lord's Supper was observed only once a year! The Lord's Supper then became a "special" event in the life of the church. In the Presbyterian tradition, "communion seasons" developed.

Some of the Reformers, like John Calvin, believed that the Lord's Supper should be a part of worship each Sunday. He was overruled in this desire by the governing authorities in Geneva, so the Lord's Supper was observed there on a quarterly basis. That became the common practice in Reformed and Presbyterian churches for generations.

In recent years, many Presbyterian churches have been rethinking the issue of the frequency of the Lord's Supper. It has become common to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper monthly. Some do so more frequently, even (in some cases) on a weekly basis.

The Bible does not specify how frequently we should observe the Lord's Supper. However, it is to be observed in the church (1 Cor. 11:18) by believers who are gathered as a body (11:20, 33-34). This is not a family meal (11:34), but a church meal. It does seem, however, that the Lord's Supper (sometimes called "the breaking of bread") was a regular part of church life—perhaps even a weekly part. Frequent communion, far from taking away the "special" character of the Lord's Supper, provides a regular reminder that Christ not only speaks to us in preaching, but also feeds us at his table.

Churches will continue to consider how frequently to administer the Lord's Supper, so that the congregation is edified by this means of grace. However often it is part of worship, the church should rejoice at this remembrance of the love of Christ and receive it as a tangible token that our Shepherd "prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies" and feeds us on the emblems of his body and blood.

For Reflection

  1. Do you resent this added part of worship or think it is really unnecessary—or do you receive it thankfully as a visible expression of your Savior's giving of himself for you?
  2. How often do you think the Lord's Supper should be part of worship?

The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. He quotes the NKJV. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 2007. First article in series. Index.