A closer look at close communion

We have a responsibility to make sure that the people we commune are truly penitent and that they realize that they are receiving the true body and blood of Christ.
The March issue of this magazine contained a letter from a WELS member who was in a WELS church on a communion Sunday. She noticed an usher talking to a woman who was obviously a visitor attempting to receive the sacrament. The discussion ended abruptly when the woman took her purse and left.


A way to avoid this kind of incident would be to practice open communion. But that’s not an option. The Bible charges us to be faithful servants of Christ with the secret things of God (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). We have a responsibility to make sure that the people we commune are truly penitent and that they realize that they are receiving the true body and blood of Christ so they receive the sacrament to their good and not their harm. Also, our participation in the Lord’s Supper is to express the unity of our faith and not our religious diversity.


If we follow our scriptural beliefs we won’t be able to avoid all awkward situations. Many people will not agree with us no matter how carefully and lovingly we try to explain our practice. Not everyone agrees that faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection is the world’s only hope of salvation. But we can’t back down from scriptural teachings and proclaim only doctrines that couldn’t possibly displease anyone.


We must, however, strive to present our doctrines in as loving a way as possible to win others and not drive them away. I’ve always felt that the loving thing to do is to not offer Holy Communion at a service at which we would expect many visitors. I can’t imagine sending out an invitation to the neighborhood saying, “Come and join us for our church dedication service, but don’t try to take communion.”


Another thing we could do is greet all guests as they enter church. Visitors are less apt to get upset at our communion practice if they’ve been warmly welcomed than if the first words spoken to them are, “You can’t take communion.”


An important tool for presenting our communion practice in a loving way is a carefully worded announcement or bulletin insert. Keep it brief and positive. If you’re not satisfied with what you have, check with other WELS churches.


Communion ushers should be carefully trained to present themselves as warm and caring servants of our loving Lord who are trying to help people have a blessed experience at the Lord’s Table. They should avoid appearing as stern security guards on the lookout for unworthy guests.


When you invite friends to church, explain our communion practice. If a visitor is upset, speak to him immediately and ask for an opportunity to discuss his concern.


Our communion practice is drawn from God’s perfect Word. We won’t try to change either of them. But we’re not perfect. We will make mistakes as we apply our practice in real-life situations. God will forgive us, but let’s also learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them.


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