How do you do the Breaking of Bread
Donald L. Norbie, Greeley, Colorado, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
I was asked the above question recently. How would you have answered it? Apparently this is an issue now among some assemblies that claim to be following the scriptures. Nearly two hundred years ago there was a revival of interest in the British Isles in getting back to the simplicity of the early church. The denominational churches had a short service led by a minister or priest, a very structured ritual. Leaving that behind them, these Christians met simply, without a clergyman officiating, having an open meeting with opportunity for various brothers to lead the group in worship. This simple way of meeting has spread throughout the world and has flourished under persecution and opposition.
But today this is being questioned by some. In fact among some evangelicals there is a movement back to the Orthodox Church with its pageantry and ritual. An elder in an assembly said to me, ‘I don’t think it matters how you do it, just so long as you do it’. With that attitude the way the Orthodox Churches celebrate the Mass is just as scriptural as the way many Protestant churches conduct their communion services. The Lord Jesus said, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me’. He also took the cup after supper and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you’, Luke 22. 19-20. He asked His disciples to do this to keep alive His memory and especially that of His death. He knew that we would be prone to forget Him. But does it matter how we conduct this remembrance? The Lord Jesus was very opposed to the idea of a special priesthood or ministry that had special access to God. He condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their clergy mentality, desiring a place above the common people. He warned his followers not to take titles, ‘But you, do not be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren’, Matt. 23. 8. Jesus emphasized that His followers should be marked by a servant spirit, Matt. 23. 11-12, not by a desire for prominence.
The early church followed His exhortation and refused to have a clergy class. The apostles never ordained a man to be the priest or minister or pastor over a local church. They only established a group of elders to give leadership in an assembly, Acts 14. 23., and they were urged to serve humbly with a servant spirit, 1 Pet. 5. 1-5. The apostles also taught that all believers were priests, with equal access to God. Christians are ‘a holy priesthood, to offer up spirituals sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ’, 1 Pet. 2. 5. Those who get back to the practice of the early churches recognize the priesthood of all believers. They reject the idea that only a certain ordained man can lead God’s people in worship and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The example of the early church was to allow for the Holy Spirit to guide in worship and the exercise of gifts. This freedom is seen in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 with the admonition, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’, 1 Cor. 14. 40. The Spirit of God should be free to move among the Lord’s people.
Does it matter ‘how you do’ the Lord’s Supper? Should the service just be arranged with certain ones delegated to take part? This is what some are advocating today. We reject that concept. If the meeting is dead with little participation it is of little spiritual effect. To organize the time and have only certain ones take part who are delegated is to confess our own spiritual poverty. An open, Spirit-led meeting proclaims the priesthood of all believers. It is a denial of the clergy-laity mentality that marks most of Christendom. It proclaims our dependence upon the Spirit of God to lead His people. It causes Christians during the week to be reading the word of God and to be exercised in heart to take part in the meeting. When the Lord’s people are filled with love for the Lord and led by the Holy Spirit that meeting can be like heaven on earth. Does it matter how ‘we do the Lord’s Supper’? Indeed it does. Let us follow the example of the early churches. If the meeting is slow and lethargic, it is a spiritual problem and should cause God’s people to cry out to Him for the moving of His Holy Spirit in our midst. Let us cherish this worship time and come with hearts prepared to remember our blessed Lord.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Donald Norbie is in fellowship with the assembly in Greeley, Colorado, and is a commended full-time worker. A regular contributor to Precious Seed and other assembly magazines his ministry is widely appeciated throughout N. America and the UK.