Fellowship in the Church
March 14th, 1974
School of the Prophets
FELLOWSHIP IN THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
We have a most interesting assignment today: talking about us as we prepare for our pulpit ministry. Before we go into the new lecture, which is on the pastor preparing for his preaching ministry, I want to say some things about our work yesterday. I did not get to complete it, the work of the pastor as a preacher and an undershepherd.
I wanted to say something to you about your, our, ministry among the people personally, up there in that office, when people come to see you. No man could be a good pastor who does not have a shepherd’s heart. There is no more beautiful sentence that I ever heard than the reply of Dr. Truett to the committee from Baylor University who asked him to leave the pastorate here to go to be president of Baylor. And Dr. Truett declining it said, “I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart.” That is a beautiful word, and ought to characterize all of us. We are interested in the people. We love them. We identify with them. We cry with them. We rejoice with them. We suffer with them. We share in every one of their triumphs or defeats; the ministry of a good shepherd.
Now what I wanted to point out to you is something that happens to every one of us. What do you do when a woman comes to talk to you about an intimate problem in her home and in her personal life? What do you do? Well, I can tell you this. That there are many, many ministers who love the intimacy of those details; they get an inward thrill out of it. Just as there are many, many sexually related thrills, they get a thrill out of talking to her, and leading her on to express her feelings, and her reactions, and all kinds of things that enter into scenes like that. Now I want to show you what can happen. One of the fine families of the city of Dallas left one of the great churches in Dallas and came to our church. He was a deacon in that church, and she was a leader among the women. And their coming to our church was an astonishment to the congregation there, to the congregation here, and an infinite hurt to the pastor of the church.
So upon a day, the pastor was talking to me about the removal of the family from his congregation to ours. And this is what he said. He said the wife of the deacon came to him and talked to him about some of the intimacies of her life, and some of the aberrations and guilty mistakes and sins of her life. He said, “I allowed her to talk to me. But,” he said, “after that, every time she saw me she was self-conscious. She knew that I knew all about her and what she had done.” And the embarrassment grew, and continued, and continued, until finally she went to her husband and asked that they leave the church in order to come to our First Baptist Church.” Now that is a tragedy. That is a shame. And all of it arises from a mistake that is so easily corrected. The woman may tell you a whole lot of things and under the burden of something, or under the interest of something, or the pressure of whatever the moment may be, she may talk to you and just keep on talking. And as she talks it feeds upon itself. But if you allow it you run several risks.
The one, first I have named, is very apparent. Thereafter she may be increasingly embarrassed in your presence. And there’ll be a something on the inside of you that feels something about her every time you see her. There’s never quite a normal relationship again. So the best way to do is, if a woman starts to tell you about her intimate life, you stop it. You are not God. You cannot forgive sin. You’ll pray for any problem. You’ll help in any marital relationship that you can. You’ll talk to her husband. You will just do everything that you can, but the course itself, the intimacy itself, the development itself, whatever it was, is to be told to God alone. And if you will be that way, you will not lose anything, but you will gain infinitely.
Now I want to show you an ultimate of what it could lead to. I went on a preaching mission in Japan one time and was there for three months. I started at the north, and preached all the way down to the south; holding three-day meetings, two-day meetings, one-day meetings, for three months. And while I was there in those three months, I got to know some of the leadership of the Japanese Baptist people rather closely, intimately. And here’s what I found out. They had had a blow in the Japanese Baptist Convention that simply staggered them! It overwhelmed them, and it was one from which they apparently, when I was there, they apparently were unable to recover. And it was this. There was a brilliant, able, capable, successful pastor in Japan. He had the largest church. He had the most effective church, and he had by far the greatest influence in the Baptist world in Japan.
Well, he finally resigned his presidency of the convention. He resigned his church. He quit the ministry and he went into the secular world. And what caused it was this. There was a Japanese woman in the congregation, who came to him with a personal problem, and he sympathized with her, and she liked it. And she went back to him, and then she went back to him, and she went back to him, and he comforted her, and sympathized with her, and was kind and good to her.
And as the thing went on and on and on, he finally quit his children, quit his wife, quit the church, quit the convention, quit the ministry, and went away with her. The brethren of the convention pled with him, wept with him, cried with him, laid before him the immeasurable, illimitable, infinite hurt it would be to that leading church and to the Baptist witness in Japan. So deep had the roots of personal love and affection, or lust, or whatever you call it, entered into his heart in his relationship with that woman in his congregation, that the men were absolutely unable to dissuade him. So he left it all and went to live with her.
Now all of those things have possibilities of infinite hurt. So whenever a woman comes to talk to you, there are certain limits that in your mind, in your own heart, you ought always to set. And beyond that, you don’t enter and you don’t let them describe anything to you.
Now, I have been a pastor, as you know, for forty-six years. And in the years and the years and the years of my pastoral work, I have never been handicapped by setting those limits. I don’t have any trouble doing it, just a brief word, a suggestion, a sentence about, “It is God who can forgive, and under no conditions are sins to be confessed to me.” Just the spirit in which you do it will automatically obviate any further disclosure that would be embarrassing to her or in anywise hurtful to your helpfulness to whatever the problem is that she has. And if you will be careful about that one little thing, it may mean an infinite blessing to you some future day.
The ministry of a pastor is the sweetest reward that you could have. I have had denominational workers—and I see one of my finest friends and denominational leaders is here today. He has come several times and I love him for it—I’ve had those men say to me, “You know what I miss in my denominational work: I have opportunities to preach world without end, and my influence extends from one side of the convention to the other, but what I miss is those ministries to the people. I miss going to the hospital, praying with the sick. I miss kneeling by the side of those who are dying. I miss the marriages I had with the young.”
That is a shepherd’s heart. And if you have it, you never get away from it. Some of these men are called to help all of us in our churches, so they forgo those sweet ministries in order to do what God is called them to do. But our part, we who are pastors, is sweet indeed. Whittier sang, “The healing of His seamless dress is by our beds of pain. We touch Him in life’s throng and press, and we are whole again.” And to bring that message of comforting, healing, presence of Jesus to our people is a glorious privilege.
And what we do in the funeral service, I have just one observation to make about that, and this is just my observation. I have been to funeral services of liturgical churches, and, as you know, they go through all of these things. They never mention the dead. They never refer to them. They never say anything. Well, I do just the opposite. In a typical funeral service that I will hold, I will say to begin with that I have two words. The first is personal, and the second is from the Word of God. My first word is personal and then I say something about the family, about the one who is deceased, just something that will bless in our remembrance. Then I bring a brief message from God’s Word. To have a formal, recitative, stereotype funeral service, to me is so cold, impersonal, and indifferent. So if we can, in the funeral service, say something personal, don’t be hesitant to do it. Just do it and God will bless it, I think.
Now in our public worship, I wanted to say a word about that. I have the choir sing during the taking up of the offering. And people will say to me, “Well, how bad that you have the choir be disturbed and the people disturbed by taking the offering while the choir sings.” Well, I asked them, “Don’t you have music in your offertory?”
“Well, how do you think the organist feels about his being disturbed if you pass the collection plate?” Somebody is going to be disturbed, so let’s just look at it—and this is my opinion and judgment as I’ve watched services the days of my life—people doubtless are not going to listen to the organ music. They’re just going to wander around in their minds, or gawk, or if they are unceremonious and irreverent they’ll talk to one another. It’s a hiatus in your service. And I don’t like them. I like the service when it starts to go right on, and the people are just right, all the way kept going, never a drop in it. So I love for the choir to sing. The music of the choir is a great blessing to the people, and it is a blessing to the choir. So you will keep your service going, there won’t be a drop in it, a big jag, a big hiatus in it, if you’ll have the choir sing during the offering. And it is a wonderful thing to do.
Now in the order of service, they shift it around because I’ve asked them not to do the same thing all the time. But in the service, if you’ll have a prayer rail, and at the beginning—as we did for years here—or in the service, if you’ll call your men up or whomsoever you’d like to call—in this School of the Prophets I just take the people who are on the front row and ask them to come—if you’ll have your people to come and to kneel in prayer, and if you will kneel, all of you that are in the pulpit, if you will kneel with the men who kneel at the front of the church, it will remake your church. It’ll remake the spirit of it, the attitude of the people, the worshipful, reverential awe by which they come before God, a sense of the presence of the living Spirit.
There is not anything that you could do that will bless the feeling, the intangible otherness of your service as, if you will put a prayer rail in front of your pulpit, from side to side and use it. And when anybody comes forward, we always kneel with them in prayer. We deal with them in prayer. Open the Bible many times but always pray with them.
And if you have a little child, to have the father on one side, the mother on the other side, if they have other children to put them between the father and mother, and to pray with them is an infinite blessing. Oh I could do no better thing in the earth than to encourage you to do this! It’s a little simple thing, but it adds to our feeling of the presence of God beyond anything that we do.
After all, posture has a whole lot to do with our talking to God. In the Bible, they held up their hands. I’ve tried it here, but it is so identified with Pentecostalism that I don’t know but that I lose more than I gain by it. But Paul said he would to God that men would lift up holy hands to the Lord, everywhere, praying to the Lord. Well, that’s one way. It’s a posture. Another way is to kneel, get down on your knees. Another way is to be on your face. I cannot remember any time in the Bible praying seated. Now I can be corrected on that because it’s just that I have not been able to find a place in the Bible where they prayed seated. They’re either standing, or they are lifting up their hands, or they’re kneeling, or they’re on their faces.
Now I’m not saying that we have to do that all the time, because in our own congregation most of our praying, or a great deal of it, just trying to think, do we ever pray here with the people seated? I don’t think so. Now I hadn’t thought of that. Isn’t that strange? I don’t think so. I don’t think we ever pray with the people seated. Well, if we don’t, I’m happy, I’m glad. Not that there’s anything wrong with being seated, but in the Bible we’re not seated when we pray. And posture has a great deal to do with the attitude and the repercussion that comes from it in our going before the Lord.
Now, some of you asked me, “Pastor, what do you do about a church staff?” Our church staff is a long story here in our congregation. I have never had—and if I can be forgiven for talking about things that maybe I ought to bury and never raise from the dead—I have never had any trouble in the church except one little bit, one little spite, spate, piece, just one.
When I came here to the church, I said to the pulpit committee that I could not do it like Dr. Truett. Dr. Truett was his own way, and I’m not Dr. Truett. And as the days have gone on, I have had many of the substantial, judgmental, discerning people of the church say that one of the reasons that God helped me to succeed was it never occurred to anybody to compare me with Dr. Truett. You just don’t do that. He was in one world, and I am in another. I could illustrate that if we could take the time for it. One of our members was a school teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. Is Creasmen still here? There you are.
One of our members was a school teacher in Louisville, Kentucky and belonged to the Walnut Street Baptist Church. So in the summertime she would come home. I had been up there preaching to the evangelistic association, the convocation of ministers for their evangelistic conference, in Kentucky, that met that year in the Walnut Street Baptist Church. And this little teacher told me that as she sat there, there was a little couple who belonged to the Walnut Street Church, seated right back of her, and when I got through preaching, maybe roaring, and thundering, and screaming, and hollering, and yelling or whatever it was that I was doing at that evangelistic conference, when I got through, she overheard the man whisper to his wife and say, “Dear, is that the man that followed the great George W. Truett?” and she replied, “Yes, that’s the man.”
There was a pause and then he said quietly to her, “Dear, I would suppose those people in the First Baptist Church in Dallas think they have traded a beautiful sunset for an atomic bomb.” That’s what she said.
Well, anyway, I could not do it as Dr. Truett did it. There’s no need to try. I am I, and I cannot help how God made me. So for me to try to be somebody else would be unspeakable and unthinkable. I’d be the poorest imitation of a Robert G. Lee or a George W. Truett you ever could think of, but I’m the best example of me that you ever could see.
Well, anyway, I said to them, “I cannot be Dr. Truett. I have to do it my way. And one of the ways that I want to do it is I want to build a church staff.” Dr. Truett had just a preaching ministry; that was all. Upon a day, somebody took him and showed him the Adult Training Union here. He had no idea that there was such a thing in his church. He was absolutely removed from organization in the church. He preached here and that was all.
Now I want to take time to parenthesize here about that. There is no man in this earth that can build a permanent church by just preaching. He cannot do it. Spurgeon had been dead seven years when he was my age. Spurgeon died when he was fifty-seven years of age. Spurgeon died at the very zenith and acme of his fame and oratorical, and homiletical, and pulpit powers. Yet before Spurgeon died, Spurgeon said to a sweet, intimate close friend, “I am afraid that London has lost its listening ear.” Why? because all through that tabernacle were empty seats. Spurgeon rebuilt that thing three times, and every time he built it with many, many, many less pews, less seats, than before. Spurgeon, at fifty-seven years of age, was beginning to lose his audience.
That was in the day before the automobile, the radio, the television, a thousand other things that press us today. I was preaching at the Brooklyn Baptist Tabernacle, which is the First Baptist Church in Brooklyn, just recently, and I asked the people there where was located T. Dewitt Talmadge’s church. And there was not a living human that could tell me. T. Dewitt Talmadge was absolutely one of the most brilliant preachers of all time. There’s not a vestigial remnant of his church that remains; not one piece of it. If you want to look at a cavernous vacuity, I invite you to the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. Four thousand separate seats in that church, little over four thousand. And I’ve had some of my members who attend the church tell me that on a good Sunday they may have five hundred in it; and on a special occasion might have a thousand. There is no such thing as building a permanent church just by preaching. It cannot be done. It will not be done.
I told the pulpit committee that the only way I knew to build a church was with a staff. And I started out, and thirty years ago I started it a different way. The only way that I had seen a church built, in my beginning ministry here, was perpendicular, like that. They’d have a Sunday school man, and a Training Union man, and a missionary woman, and a Brotherhood leader. They’d have it like that.
Well, I said in my heart, “I want to turn that over. I want to build the church horizontally, like this.” And I’d like to have a leader, say, of the children. But the leader does not just have the Sunday school in the morning, and have the Training Union in the evening, and then somebody else has each one of those categories, has the missionary children in the days of the week. I’d like to turn it over, and whoever leads the child in the morning is also the leader of the organization in the afternoon, is also the leader during the days of the week. And that’s the way I started out thirty years ago. That’s the first time I ever saw it done was when we tried to do it here in Dallas, trying that horizontal building of the church.
So I started off with about three leaders, just about three. And immediately I ran into vigorous, violent opposition on the part of three leaders in the church: the superintendent of the Adult department, the superintendent of the Primary department, who was all over the state leading primary conferences, the superintendent of the Beginner department and her husband, who was a teacher of a men’s Bible class. So I called them in, and I said to them, “You’re going to cooperate with these staff members, or you’re going to get out; one or the other.”
Well, they said to me, “We’re not going to have those little old sophisticated flips from the seminary coming over here and telling us what to do. We were doing this here in this church before they were born.” I said, “I realize that but that’s the way we’re going to build this church. We’re going to do it with a staff, and you have to work under and with that staff member.”
Well, they said, “We’re not going to do it.” Well, I said, “You’re going to do it, or you’re going to get out, one or the other.” Well, they said, “We were here in this church before you were born.” I said, “That’s correct. You were here in the church doing this work before I was born. But I can tell you this. You’re going to cooperate with this staff, or you can teach out at Gaston Avenue or Cliff Temple, anywhere you want to, but you can’t teach here, and you can’t lead here.”
Well, they thought that was the biggest joke they ever saw and heard of in their life because I was just here, thirty-four years old, just coming, and they’d been here all the years. So the thing came to a head. And I drew it to a head. And I’m telling you, when you have trouble in your church, you’d better confront it and get it done with or leave, one or the other.
I’m like Sam Jones. “I don’t mind being swallowed by a whale, but I’ll be ding-busted if I’m going to be nibbled to death by minnows.” That’s what he said. That’s what he said. If you have trouble in the church, just meet it head on and settle it, one way or the other. Don’t let it drag, and drag, and drag, and drag forever.
So we had the deacon’s meeting and Judge Frank Ryburn, God bless his ministry, the chairman of the deacons here thirty-five years presiding over the men, and I laid the case before them. And I asked them to dismiss those people.
Well, the man who was superintendent of the Adult department stood up, and he ranted for over an hour. Oh, it was something! And when he got through, the chairman of the deacons, Judge Ryburn, said, “All of you that want to stand by the pastor get to your feet.” All the deacons stood up except two. And in just about half a minute or so, the other two stood up. They were all standing except that man. So he looked around, and he said, “All right, we’ll get out.” So they got out. That’s the only little bit of trouble I have ever had in the church. And it arose over the building of a staff.
Would you like to know those people, how they fared? They went out here to another church, those four, and I tell you, within about six months they busted that church wide open. People that have a mean streak in them, and some of them have the very devil in them, now you’re going to have a hard time with folks like that. You’re going to have an awful time. And in a city church—this is one advantage of being in a city church—in a city church people like that can get out and go to another church and wreak havoc over there. But when you’re pastor in a county seat town, or a village town, or a rural place, and you’re the only church there, all I can do is commend you to the grace of God. The Lord help you. Lord be good to you.
Well anyway, in building a staff—whether they pay any attention to it or not—they have a personnel committee in the church. And the personnel committee publishes a little book. And this is it, “The Personnel Policies and Procedures.” That’s the name of it, “Personnel Policies and Procedures of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.”
If you’d like to have one of those little books, you can go to the business office and get it. It describes all the things that pertain to the staff: the retirement, the insurance, the sick leave, the outside engagements, on, and on, and on, and on. I have not read it. So if you would like to look at it, why, you can get one over there. I have, I have never been turned to going by a book; and our people are sympathetic with me, so I don’t have any trouble about it. But they’ve got it written down just the same. And I’m sure it ought to be written down, needs to be written down. Everybody that comes needs to know what they are doing, a job description, and how they are paid, and everything about it so they write it down in a little book.
Now I want to say a word, and we haven’t come to the lecture for this morning yet. These are things that were yesterday’s lecture. But I just must mention them. I want to talk to you about administering the two ordinances.
First, about baptism: when I was a boy, when I was a boy, the minister took me by the nape of the neck. He just grabbed me by the neck and just sauced me like that. He’s a great big fellow. He was a big man. And just did like that and the water just splattered, I remember, everywhere. I was glad it was over with soon because the water was very, very cold. Well, we are buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, and we are raised with the Lord in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]. There may be instances where they throw, plunge their dead into the grave, just throw them. But I have not seen it in my life, and I think the idea is repugnant and repulsive. We carefully lay our beloved dead away. Now I think all that it takes for a minister to do beautifully with his baptismal service is just to have that feeling about it. We are buried with the Lord, and we are raised with the Lord. So after the prayer, carefully, beautifully, gently, tenderly, lovingly lay them in the grave; dying and dead with the Lord, we are dead with the Lord. And we are raised with the Lord, triumphantly, gloriously.
Now I have another personal idiosyncrasy about baptism. So many times I see ministers take handkerchiefs, they display the handkerchief as though the guy was going to drown or something. They display the handkerchief. Then they grab them by the nape of the neck or they do something, they grab a hold of them or I don’t know what all. They make it very cumbersome or as though it were an awesome thing, or, I don’t know, terrible to go through. To me it is so infinitely better to do it without any of those accouterments. It is a simple thing to baptize anyone because the water buoys them up. It is very simple. The only thing that you cannot control is a female especially will have a tendency to float, to rise to the top. Their bodies are made light and not—they don’t have big heavy feet to anchor them down like a man. So the only suggestion I would make, if it is possible, is to put a bar on the floor of the baptistery to put their toes under, and that will keep their feet down.
Then when you lay them back, have them put their hands over their chest like that. I do that for one reason that I never say publicly: it also covers the woman when I put my hand on her face. I like to have her covered like that. And it is beautifully done. The men, the women, everybody, I ask them to fold their hands high. So this is the way that they are. Then when I lay them back, you’d never know anything except but that they’re going back for I put my hand, not under the nape of the neck, I put my hand at their back, just at their back, and I lay them back, just lay them back. And my right hand is free. I baptize that way.
Everybody says that’s the backward way, but I guess the first time I ever did it, I did it that way and been doing it ever since. But I like my right hand free. So I put my left hand at their back, between their shoulders or mostly between their shoulders, and lay them back, and my right hand is free. Then as they go under the water, as they go under the water, I take my right hand and I just put it over their face. It looks as though I’m just doing that. Actually, I am covering their nose with my index finger and my thumb, I just, just for a moment I just squeeze the nose just like that to keep the water from running into their nose. And then raise them up. And then after they come up out of the water you’ve got the rest of your life to bring them up to an upright position, because they’re out of the water and they can breathe. There’s not anything in it that is different from what you would just expect. There are no handkerchiefs. There are no towels. There are no anythings. They’re there just laid back and raised up. And if you’ll do it beautifully and gently, your people will be blessed by watching it. It’s a precious, beautiful way to do it, I think.
Now the Lord’s Supper: I have to confess a defeat in this. I don’t like to take a service of the church for the Lord’s Supper because we have visitors here, and they haven’t come to a communion service. We have people that are lost here, and people that ought to respond. And the Lord’s Supper elements, when you take out the pulpit, or put the pulpit there and put the communion table here, the Lord’s Supper is a handicap to people to come to the Lord.
Also, the people come to hear a sermon. And when you devote the whole service to the Lord’s Supper—this is just one of my judgments in this particular church —we lose. So it came to my heart that I would like to have the Lord’s Supper at five o’clock in the afternoon. We have been doing that here for about two years, until a month or so ago.
When I first started it, the lower floor would be filled at five o’clock, and we had to serve in the balcony. But as the time went on, no matter how much I tried to encourage the people to come to that special service—and it is a beautiful service, a beautiful service—there is nothing else but the Lord’s Supper; we are there, we are quiet, we can meditate, we can search our souls; we can talk to God, and the service itself is beautifully done.
I heard a man say to me in Seattle last week, he said, “I was at your church, and you had the Lord’s Supper.” He said, “I wept all the way through it.” He said, “It was the most beautiful and meaningful thing I ever shared.” Well, anyway, the attendance on the Lord’s Supper gradually quiesced, quiesced, contracted, until now, if we have it at five o’clock, why, just this lower floor would be about two-thirds full. And the great mass of our people are untouched by it.
So I told the deacons about two months ago that we will not try it anymore. I will give it up. We’re having it five o’clock this coming Sunday for you, so you can see how we do it. And if you can stay through Sunday, we’ll have a baptismal service. We have that at seven o’clock each evening and our Lord’s Supper at five o’clock. But, I don’t succeed in everything that I wish that I could succeed in, and that’s one of the things that I have failed in. I cannot get our people in great numbers to respond to a special service of the Lord’s Supper.
When we have the Lord’s Supper on Sunday, this is the way we do. We have it the first Sunday of each month. Now we changed it to the third Sunday on your account, so you could see it if you wanted to, at five o’clock Sunday afternoon. But we have the service normally on the first Sunday of each month. And on the first Sunday of each quarter we have it in the daytime. The rest of the time we have it in the evening.
I like to have it in the evening. It is not a brunch. It is not a tea. It is not a breakfast. It is not a dinner. It is a supper. And in every language in the earth, “supper” is the name of a meal you eat at night. And it is very manifestly an evening meal, a supper. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the same night in which the Lord was betrayed, He took bread” [1 Corinthians 11:23].
It is very carefully pointed out by the apostle Paul that it was at night when this was instituted. I like to have it at night and so we do it at night. The only reason we have it in the daytime is because there are a lot of people who apparently cannot come at night and come in the daytime. So once a quarter now, we have it in the daytime for them.
Now when we have it in the daytime at the eight-fifteen o’clock service, I don’t have opportunity to preach a sermon and to have the Lord’s Supper, on account of Sunday school at nine-thirty. So the eight-fifteen service, Sunday morning, once a quarter, is devoted just to the Lord’s Supper. Then the rest of the time in the day, when we have it that first Sunday, at the eleven o’clock hour, the ten-fifty hour, we have it after the service is over.
Now the chairman of our deacons said to me, “Pastor, you’re mistaken in your judgment that the Lord’s Supper is just tacked on to the preaching service when we have it at the end of the preaching hour. I don’t have that feeling at all.” And he said, “So far as I know, none of the other people have that feeling at all.”
Well, I said to him, “Well, that may be true, Dr. Bagwell. The people have no feeling that it is tacked on. But I have it and I have had that feeling all of my life, that when we have the Lord’s Supper at the end of a preaching service it is something tacked on.”
And I like to magnify it, but there again it is between you and the Lord and your people how you shall do. But however you do, to make the Lord’s Supper beautiful and effective and worshipful is a God’s blessing.
Now before we close—and I haven’t got to my lecture this morning at all, we’re just talking about what was left over last Sunday. Before we close, I want to tell you another one of my judgments about how to serve it. Here’s the way it was done when I was a boy.
The pastor would stand up, and he would say, “All of you who are members of the church, in good standing, will you stand up?” So all of them stood up, and the communion service—and that’s what Paul calls it, “The bread is it not the communion of the body of our Lord, the koinōnia, the fellowship; the cup, is it not the communion of the blood of our Lord” [1 Corinthians 10:16]. There are some people who object to calling it “the communion service” because they say we’re just communing with God and not with one another.
That’s foolishness in my judgment because the Book itself calls it a communion; the body and blood of Jesus. And whether we’re communing just with God alone, I also have a doctrinal conviction that the Lord’s Supper ought to be observed in the church, not out of it, in the church. So that means we have a communion of fellowship, a koinōnia, a fellowship. Koinōnia is translated “communion.” Koinōnia is translated “fellowship.” It’s the same word.
Now when we have the Lord’s Supper, why, when I was a boy growing up, the pastor would say, “All of you that are members of the church and in good standing will you stand up?” So the elements were passed just to those who were standing up. Then sometimes they would do it like this. The pastor would stand before the congregation, and he would say, “Now all of you who are members of the church and in good standing, you move to this side of the auditorium, and all the rest of you, you move to this side of the auditorium.” Now that was the way it was done when I was a boy growing up.
As a little boy, as a little boy, I used to sit there, and I’d look at that bunch standing up, or I’d look at that bunch who’d moved over here on the Lord’s side to be ministered to from the Lord’s table. And you know, as a little boy, I would look at that bunch that was seated, or that bunch of black sheep that were on the wrong side of the church, and as a little boy I would say, “Well, I do believe under high heaven, that these that are seated or these that are on the wrong side of the church are better than those that are standing up and better than those that are on this side of the church.”
Whenever you make a division like that in the congregation, you are laying yourself open to all kinds of bad things. I don’t know anything good about that, nothing. And yet that was the way that I grew up, and that was the way that they had the Lord’s Supper when I was a boy.
I think the best thing to do is to preach the truth of the gospel message, preach it. Teach it to your people. God says, one, two, three; and the order, one, two, three, is as inspired as the content. First: we are to be a Christian, “Go and make disciples of all the people.” Second: we’re to be baptized, “Baptizing them, immersing them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Third: “teaching them to observe all things,” one of which is the Lord’s Supper, “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:19-20].
One, two, three; I am to be saved. A man who is not saved ought not to take the Lord’s Supper. Second: I am to be baptized. The man who is not baptized ought not to take the Lord’s Supper. Third: being saved, being baptized, I take the Lord’s Supper; I’m invited to the table of the Lord. Now we ought to teach that and preach that. But, when it comes to coercing it, it’s in a different category. I don’t coerce. I don’t even lift my little finger about things pertaining to Christ. It has to be a moral response. So when I teach and preach the Word of God, it’s up to those who listen, how they respond.
So when we have the Lord’s Supper, we are all seated here. Anyone can leave who wishes to but they are not asked to leave. We are all seated here together, and the deacons pass the elements of the service to the people. And they partake as God would lay it upon their hearts. Now I think that is a better way to do. But again, it lies in your discretion, in your praying before God, and as your people pray with you about how to administer those holy ordinances.