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I remember the first time I encountered the concept of fast food communion while at a church in Texas. Since then, I have seen it on display in four other churches I’ve visited.
It’s a sad reflection on how our fast-paced society is encroaching upon the church and even its most sacred sacrament.
What is fast food communion?
It’s when a communion tray is passed down a row and rather than just taking a piece of bread and a cup to partake of the elements a few minutes later, people consume them instantly and return the empty cups to the tray before passing it to the next person.
I have also seen fast food communion take place in churches where people come to the front to get the elements. They stop at a table, quickly eat a piece of bread and suck down the wine (or juice) while standing directly over the tray before returning to their seats.
It’s just baffling to watch. These Christians have taken one of our Lord’s most important instructions and turned it into little more than a routine. If that’s all that communion has become, why not set out a tray for people to grab their snack as they enter the sanctuary?
Paul faced a similar situation when he admonished believers for not taking communion seriously as described in 1 Corinthians 11:
“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
There is a reason why communion is considered to be holy. Yet, this concept of fast food communion does not allow people to examine themselves. It’s gulp and go.
In verses 23 to 26, Paul is very clear regarding what communion is about:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
I may be needlessly judgemental, but I don’t see how people can contemplate their lives, let alone reflect upon Jesus’ body and blood, in the three seconds it takes to select an element, consume it, return an empty cup to the tray and pass it on to the next person.
A similar situation occurs before communion when a pastor tells his flock to take a moment to be still before God and let the Holy Spirit bring to mind any unconfessed sin.
Taking a moment to pause and reflect is a right view of communion, and the pastor should encourage it.
However, as soon as he steps off stage, often a five-piece band starts playing as four or five singers lead people into the next song. The music is so distracting that it is hard to even hear yourself think.
How can people “be still” before God or even hear his quiet, small voice when God has to compete with music for his followers’ attention?
For some reason, the modern church seems to have an aversion to silence.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul describes what happens when we take a flippant attitude toward communion:
“That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.”
So many believers lack God’s power in their lives. They are spiritually weak. Some are physically weak. Most people – especially American Christians – have fallen asleep in their faith.
As a result, they have become powerless to resist sin, effect change in their own lives, influence the culture around them, or make a difference within their circles of influence.
We need to pause — in silence — and give God permission to speak to us individually.
Next time you’re presented with the opportunity to take communion, pause and invest a whole minute into genuine reflection or prayer. You’ll find it is time well spent.