I’ve long been an advocate for weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the God-ordained picture of the climax of our worship of God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, by faith—Communion with God.1Read Josh Buice’s article on the matter for some more good reasons. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been a part of churches that celebrated the Supper more frequently, and now weekly, is that observing the Lord’s Supper weekly makes it routine.
This reality is often raised as an objection to weekly Lord’s Supper observance. If we celebrate weekly, the objection goes, then it will become routine; it won’t be as special as when we celebrate monthly or quarterly.
Well, yes, weekly observance does make the Supper seem routine. I’ve come to expect it every week. The same passage of Scripture is read every week. Some of the same words are spoken every week. I hold the same cup and bread in my hands every week. We sing the same Doxology after eating every week. The Lord’s Supper has become routine.
And that’s a good thing.
Routines Reveal Our Priorities
When we establish routines for ourselves, our families, or our churches, we reveal what is important to us. They become routine because we have prioritized them so that they become so regular we simply don’t have to decide to do them anymore—they become a regular part of our lives.
Brushing your teeth every day is clear evidence that clean teeth is a priority to you. You don’t even have to think about it anymore—you wake up groggy, stumble into the bathroom, and grab your toothbrush. It’s habit. The fact that brushing your teeth has become a routine does not mean you don’t think clean teeth is important, rather the opposite.
The same is true for weekly celebration of the Lord’s Table—it reveals how important we believe the Table to be. Our children notice when we do something regularly. Without even telling them, they can see that it’s something important. A visitor who has attended a couple of times will recognize that this observance is something we prioritize.
And perhaps most importantly, routine celebration of the Table ingrains the importance of what we are doing on our own hearts. This fact leads to the next two reasons routine celebration of the Table is a good thing.
We Miss Routines When They Are Absent
When we establish something as a routine, we miss it when we don’t do it. We may hardly think consciously about the routine as we do it regularly, but if it’s gone, the absence is striking.
Dinner in your home is routine; no one in your family wonders if you’re going to eat dinner. When I ask my wife, “What’s for dinner tonight,” she doesn’t reply, “You’re assuming we’re having dinner?” No, it’s routine. But try skipping dinner one evening. Everyone would notice.
This was one of the biggest reasons I objected to trying to observe the Table “virtually” (an impossibility) during Covid lockdowns. It’s why I even objected to even trying to replicate a Sunday morning service through the internet at all. If we are unable to meet in person, we should feel the weight of that. If we can’t meet as we normally do for whatever reason, we should miss it. If we’re out sick or even traveling on vacation, we notice when we’re unable to do what has become routine to us.
This is a great benefit of routines. If celebrating the Lord’s Supper becomes routine, we come to expect it, and in some ways we don’t even think about it anymore. But if I were to walk into the sanctuary one week and the Table is not set, I would wonder why. It may take me a moment—something is different; something is missing, but I would feel its absence. If I’m away on a trip and unable to eat with my family, I miss it.
This is also the important connection between the Lord’s Supper and church discipline. When a church member is living in unrepentant sin, they are not barred from coming to church services. We want them there under the preached Word, experiencing the convicting work of the Holy Spirit through the regular means of grace he has prescribed for the church.
But an unrepentant church member is barred from the Table. We warn them not to eat in an unworthy manner. Don’t partake. And that is a means of grace for them, too. If your church only celebrates the Table quarterly or monthly, barring an unrepentant member from the Table wouldn’t seem like that big a deal. They might not even attend the day the Table is scheduled. But if you celebrate every week, then they will feel the weight of missing the privilege of eating with their church family at Christ’s Table, and that will be a means to bring them back to Christ.
Routines Form Us
When we really want to learn to do something, whether it be playing a musical instrument or excelling at a sport, we practice. Developing a good golf swing or learning to play the piano requires rehearsing the necessary skills over and over again. Skill development requires doing; it requires the cultivation of habits that become second nature.
The same is true for cultivating a life of communion with God that impacts every aspect of how we live—it takes practice. Holiness, according to Hebrews 12:14, is something a Christian must “strive for.” Paul told Timothy to train himself for godliness (1 Tim 4:7).
This is one of the most powerful, God-ordained purposes of the routines we develop in corporate worship—they form godliness within us. They are means of grace by which the Spirit of God progressively works his Word into our souls so that Communion with God, love for God, and living a life that is pleasing to him becomes, well, routine. We don’t have to think about it anymore. This is why Christians have traditionally called the elements of our worship, including the Lord’s Supper, “ordinary means of grace“—these are the primary means we should expect the Holy Spirit to ordinarily work his grace into our lives. That’s why they are ordinary; that’s why they are routine. Charles Spurgeon’s catechism reads,
The outward and ordinary means whereby the Holy Spirit communicates to us the benefits of Christ’s redemption are the Word, by which souls are begotten to spiritual life; baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and meditation, all by which believers are further edified in their most holy faith.
The routine, disciplined use of Word-prescribed means of grace, like the Lord’s Supper, progressively forms us into the image of Christ. They are the means by which we “work our [our] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13). When we routinely celebrate the Lord’s Supper, communion with God through Christ becomes habit, and that forms us to live in light of that reality.
When faced with temptation, we resist, because pleasing God has become our habit. When we sin and break fellowship with God, we’re struck with an emptiness because communion with God has become routine. We miss it, and that compels us to repent and return to Christ.
Celebrating the Lord’s Table weekly reminds us every week what Christ did on our behalf to restore broken fellowship between God and his people, and we are progressively formed by that reminder. Eating and drinking gives us a God-appointed tactile experience of Christ’s broken body and shed blood for us, and that sanctifies us. This sanctification is not mindless, it is not an ex opera operato (“from the work worked”) sort of magical infusion of grace. We must indeed “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb 10:22). But it is Word-ordained routines that God uses as ordinary means of grace to form us into his image “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18).
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly will indeed become routine. But that is a good thing, because it is one of the most significant means by which we engrain the importance of the cross upon our hearts, keep us committed to fellowship with the body of Christ, and pursue Christlikeness in every aspect of our lives.