Category Archives: Worship

The Lord’s Supper and Worthiness

8:14 AM In Greek 2 class this past week we talked about the Lord’s Supper because I had included the Greek adverb “worthily” (and its antonym) in our vocabulary for the day. (Isn’t it so unlike me to go on rabbit trials in class?) I stressed that there’s a world of difference between an adjective (“unworthy”) and an adverb (“unworthily”). You will recall that the Corinthian church was behaving rather badly when they came together to share the bread and the cup. Paul quotes Jesus’ own words after Jesus had broken the bread: “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” Paul’s point is that we come to the table, not to remember our sins, but to remember our Savior. And yet how many of us can attest to being asked whether or not we are “worthy” to partake of the elements that day? We are requested to have a time of introspection to see whether or not we feel worthy enough to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Boy are we good at complicating the ways of Jesus. I have nothing at all against a time of introspection, or a time of confession, but that need not be left for the Lord’s Supper. In fact, Jesus never invited anyone to His table. His words are a command in the imperative mood: “Do this in remembrance of me.” As I said, we do not come to the table to remember our sins but our Savior. This focus, unfortunately, is often blurred. Remembrance is at the heart any true observance of the Lord’s Supper. Through the bread and the cup we participate in Christ. So the service is a communion as well as a commemoration. Our common participation in the meal is a sign of our fellowship and unity. Indeed, the earliest Christians took the bread and the cup as part of a communal meal. As I argued in my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, there is much to be gained by this practice. Fellowship is a vitally important aspect of the Lord’s Supper. Rather than the pulpit being the center of attention, the elements (Christ and His death!) are. As we partake with others, we are united with Christ as one body. That’s why there is only one table of the Lord. There’s not one table for the rich and another for the poor; one for slaves and another for the free; one for Jewish Christians and another for Gentile Christians; one for the educated and another for the uneducated; one for men and another for women; one for Calvinists and another for Arminians; one for clergy and another for laity; one for homeschool families and another for families whose children attend public school. The entire focus is on Christ, on whom we feast together. That’s why I called my chapter on the Lord’s Supper “Christ-Centered Gatherings.” It is Christ we celebrate! “This is our Servant-King-Savior. This is our Senior Pastor. And now He calls upon us to follow Him. Yes, we will follow You, King Jesus!” The closer our relationship with our Head, the better we will be able to spur one another on in the Christian life. We should go to every church gathering not just thinking, “What can I get out of it?” or even “What can I contribute to it?” but “How can I acknowledge what Jesus has done for me?” One way to do this is by lifting Him up and giving Him central place every single time we gather, as He commanded us to do. Jesus never commanded His followers to observe Christmas. He never told us to celebrate Easter. He said, “Keep on doing this in remembrance of Me.” Unless the entire church has been directed back in remembrance of the cross, no true Lord’s Supper has taken place.

For more, please read Howard Marshall’s classic essay Some Considerations Regarding the Lord’s Supper Today. I am fully convinced that God is big enough and good enough to lead us back into a biblical observation of His Supper.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

What Kind of Church?

8:22 AM Mornin’, yall! Let’s return for a moment to the picture I posted the other day of this Catholic “community” in North Dallas.

St. Rita Catholic community

Is that how you would describe your “church”? Peter Savage once wrote a fascinating essay called “The Church and Evangelism.” It appeared in The New Face of Evangelism, a book that was edited by C. René. Savage suggested four models of the church that are in operation today in North America. Here they are:

1) The lecture hall. This is the church where people go primarily to listen to sermons. I’d say that in many traditional Baptist churches, this model most definitely applies. The pastor is even called the “preacher,” the service “the preaching service.” I myself have always been attracted to meetings like this, especially where there is excellent Bible teaching. You know, you go in with an empty notebook and come out with a full one. You know, the kind of church where the pastor says “Now the fifth thing I want you to know about this Greek verb is ….” Yep. Suits me to a T.

2) The theater. This is the church people attend because of the drama of the service, the great music, as well as a good sermon. And have you noticed — even the architecture in our churches encourages this view of the church? As in a secular concert hall or theater, you have programs and ushers, cushy chairs (instead of hard pews), and you expect to be royally entertained for about hour. Participation on your part? It doesn’t exit, except perhaps to applaud.

3) The corporation. This is the highly-programmed church. For every need there is a provision. When our children are growing up, this is the kind of church we often are attracted to. We gotta make sure there is a good children’s ministry and a good youth group and lots of exciting events to attend.

4) The social club. The focus here is not so much on the word or on entertainment or on programs but on social works. Food drives. Car washes. Community service.

Savage then goes on to discuss the church as the New Testament seems to depict it: as a community of obedient followers of the Lord Jesus. The emphasis is on sacrificial living rather than on knowing the truth about the Gospel. The note of genuine community is primary. Hierarchical titles that tend to create distinctions among the brethren are discouraged (the elders are known by their first names). Have we ever seen churches like this? Yes, indeed. They were called the Anabaptists. Here’s what they stood for:

  • serving instead of ruling

  • breaking down walls instead of isolationism

  • biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition

  • brotherhood instead of hierarchy

  • the towel instead of the sword

  • the headship of Christ instead of that of any pastor

  • the way of peace instead of “just war”

  • the church as a living organism instead of as a human institution

  • the reign of God instead of a political kingdom

  • the catholicity of the true church instead of sectarianism

  • the power of suffering instead of the cult of power

  • the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book of scholars

  • loyalty to their heavenly citizenship instead of loyalty to the principalities and powers

  • Spirit-orientation instead of forced structures of church life

  • being a “light to the nations” instead of a Christian enclave

  • suffering instead of inflicting suffering

  • knowing Christ instead of merely knowing about Him

  • faith that works (in both senses) instead of dead orthodoxy

  • effectual grace as a living reality instead of as a theological dogma,

  • every-member ministry instead of clergyism

  • baptism into Christ instead of baptism into a denomination

  • a unity that is lived instead of a unity that is merely extolled

  • welcoming the despised and marginalized instead of ignoring them

  • a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge

  • individual conscience instead of theological conformity

  • volunteerism instead of professionalism

  • and allegiance to Christ instead of allegiance to the state

Significantly, in this kind of a community, Christ’s followers are all seen as brothers and sisters, each with a vitally important contribution to make to the whole. Church is now characterized by direct relationships, by reciprocity, by obedience to the Gospel, by deep fellowship, by mutual assistance, by participation by all of its members. The church no longer exists for itself but for others. Its kingdom call is reconciliation of people to Christ through the Gospel. Church growth for growth’s sake is now seen as a form of missional mutilation. There is a reawaked awareness of the value of spiritual gifts. It is a community created and animated by the Spirit. It is, moreover, a missionary community. The gathering exists only for the going. There is a keen sense of responsibility for evangelization and church planting in other nations. Mercy ministries also have their place.

Folks, we live in a techno-age, that’s for sure. Even yours truly just got an iPhone! In this kind of a society, the church can easily morph into nothing more than a smoothly-running machine with a veneer of power. Of course, there is a biblical alternative. I think the Anabaptists nailed it. For them, church was a radically biblical, caring community of believers totally sold out to Jesus and His reign.


What a church.

What a community.


The Cult of the Speaker

6:30 AM Up for a stern warning this morning?  

Before I issue it, some background. I have nothing against public speaking. I am asked to speak all the time. I enjoy listening to other speakers (provided they are well-prepared and not just repeating the same old same old). I have been responsible for organizing two major conferences on campus that featured such speakers as Dan Wallace, Darrell Bock, Moises Silva, Grant Osborne, Keith Elliott, and Scot McKnight. I am speaking, in fact, at a conference today at SEBTS. So what is my warning?

Continue reading The Cult of the Speaker

Celebrating Communion Weekly

1:58 PM Today in the gathering brother Joel taught about the memorial significance of the Lord’s Supper and suggested that perhaps — just perhaps — our church should observe the Supper on a weekly basis. It’s my opinion that a strong case can be made from the Scriptures for a weekly observance, and indeed a return to such a practice would, in my mind, restore the Supper to the heart, rather than the periphery, of our weekly gatherings. Continue reading Celebrating Communion Weekly