Every Christian instinctively knows that he or she ought to value the things that God values. After all, believers have a new nature, a nature like Christ, so that the appropriate valuation of the things of Christ is normal Christianity. But most of us are so prone to distraction and having other things compete for our time and energy that normal and godly desires are only maintained and acted on with much diligence and discipline.
One realm in which this principle applies is that of attendance at meetings of Christians. Going “to church” but once a week for an hour on Sunday morning has become the norm for many Christians. Because of the lack of energy in spending time collectively in the presence of the Lord Jesus, many sadly miss out on the full enjoyment of Christian experience and fellowship that can be found in the various kinds of meetings taught and patterned for us in the Scriptures.
Almost as soon as the assembly of God was founded by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the testimony of the scriptures is that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (teaching) and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). It seems clear that the early Christians understood the value of each of these meetings, whether for teaching, for worship and praise, or for prayer. I would suggest that they did not soon let the various characters of these meetings get out of balance in their corporate experience as saints. We find prayer meetings spoken of in Acts 4:24-30, 12:12, and 16:16. We know that teaching took place regularly in meetings of saints by reading Acts 4:31, 11:25-26, 20:7-11, and I Corinthians 14. And of course, meetings for breaking bread by those purged worshipers were held often, perhaps even more often than weekly at the very beginning, as found in Act 2:46, 20:7, I Corinthians 11:17-34.
Let’s consider the meeting for breaking bread, designated in I Corinthians 11 as the Lord’s supper, to be enjoyed at the Lord’s table.¹ Many believers have the desire for and the privilege of breaking bread in remembrance of the Lord at his table on a weekly basis, normally on the Lord’s day. But there are several attitudes and practices, that if allowed and cultivated, will serve to devalue this precious meeting it our souls, to a level far below what I am convinced is the Lord’s valuation of it.
For more than 1000 years, a ritualistic Christianity carried on the early church’s tradition of observing the Lord’s supper at least weekly, or even more frequently, but sadly, the simple significance of the supper was lost and the communion of the blood and body of Christ became a ritual mass. It seems apparent that the Lord’s supper at His table was greatly devalued during the Middle Ages, and it is likely that the lifeless ritual it became resulted in some segments of the Reformation responding by decreasing significantly the frequency of the “communion service”. Some Christians still make the case that an infrequent communion helps them avoid the danger of having it become routine, which would apparently foster an indifference to it or a devaluation of it in their hearts. But might not the unintended result of an infrequent remembrance of the Lord Jesus be rather just a devaluation of another kind? I leave this for individual consciences to grapple with.
Some of us have observed a regrettable trend among Christians who meet to break bread each Lord’s day, and also meet for prayer and teaching (ministry) on that day or other days of the week. Among these brethren, the Lord’s supper and its frequent, fervent observance have been emphasized over many generations. There is no question that this is honoring to the Lord Jesus, and precious in His sight, as scriptures like Luke 22:7-20 and I Corinthians 11:17-29 show us plainly. But did either the Lord or His apostles intend that the importance and gravity of this special institution, this meeting of gathered saints for remembrance and worship, eclipse and render unnecessary the other meetings for which we have a clear pattern in the word of God? I trust that in the consciences of most believers there would echo an unequivocal “no” to this rhetorical question.
It takes real diligence and discipline to cultivate and maintain balance in our Christian lives.² In light of that principle, I suggest that a lack of diligence or interest in attending and enjoying meetings for prayer and ministry, while maintaining the habit of attending the meeting for the remembrance of the Lord, may result in a regrettable devaluation in one’s heart of all of the meetings of the saints. There is a danger of ritualism in each of our hearts, perhaps even in the thought that there is something meritorious in partaking of the Lord’s supper. Far be the thought. May God continue His work in us by the Spirit, so that we might enjoy Christ in all of our meetings, for He so desires to be found often in the midst of His own³ while they look to Him and await His soon return.
¹ I Corinthians 10:21 and 11:20. The Lord’s table and the Lord’s supper have distinct meanings, but for purposes of this article, we consider them together.
² See, for example, II Peter 1:5-12.
³ Matthew 18:19-20; 28:16-17; John 20:19-29