I once accompanied a friend to visit a church plant with roots in a non-denominational tradition. He was excited to take me because his church shared the Lord’s Supper weekly and he knew I was “into Communion.” On this particular occasion the Pastor concluded the service with a prayer, the exit music came over the sound system and he walked off the stage. We were gathering our things to leave when he jogged back up on stage, turned his mic on and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that on your way out we have some bread and juice on a table by the door. Christians call this Communion and have done it for thousands of years. If you are into that kind of thing, we’d love to have you grab some on your way out.”
As an Anglican, my sacramental soul shriveled. I literally stood where I was and said a silent prayer interceding for the people as the words of 1 Corinthians 11 ran through my head, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (29,30).” I felt like Moses waiting for a plague to spread like a wave until it stopped at my outstretched hands. It was a profound juxtaposition to hear the lackadaisical language of the pastor “if you’re into that kind of thing” and Paul’s clear language of warning of the importance of approaching the Eucharist with preparation, solemnity, respect and awe, “this is why some of you have died.”
While mistakes like this are common among well-intentioned planters and pastors, new missional works do not always have careless sacramentology. I have celebrated the Eucharist with linens draped over a plastic table in a gym that smelled like sweaty kids and experienced something transcendent and beautiful, something ancient but immediate. What makes the difference in a church plant between an experience of the sacraments that is holy and one that is sloppy?