I’ll be uncharacteristically brief — having covered this before.
- Give your small groups permission to take the Lord’s Supper as part of their common meal — a love feast — as well as the congregational Lord’s Supper at the Sunday morning assembly. I personally guaranty you that Jesus won’t be offended that you remembered his sacrifice twice instead of just once. In fact, powerful things will happen if you do this. You might want to plan some assembly time for a testimony or two six months into the change.
- Take communion in a joint service with another congregation or congregations. “Love one another” is not bounded by your membership list. Every church in town should feel loved by you — and if you love them, you’ll want to eat with them. And if you want to eat with them, you’ll want to do so in the name of Jesus — which only naturally leads to the Eucharist.
Community discipline 4: Baptism
Yes, I’ve read about the Ethiopian eunuch. But I’ve also read Acts 2. And Gal 3. And every other baptismal passage — real or just barely arguable — and while the baptism “takes” on the road to Ethiopia, its design is community in nature.
Every recorded NT baptism was by a Christian. Unlike the Jewish mikveh washings for cleanliness, baptism was by a church member of a non-church member. That was a change and, surely, for a reason. And part of the reason for the change is that baptism means God adds you to a real, present, living community. You aren’t merely forgiven and saved. You are forgiven and saved into the Kingdom — added to the number of those already forgiven and saved.
In Acts 2, when 3,000 people were baptized, they didn’t go home and begin daily Bible reading. They ate together. They studied together. They praised God together. They were immediately and powerfully formed into community. Baptism in the name of Jesus Messiah into the remission of sin was into community.
There is something about a baptism that, if we’ll let it, can be transformative of the whole Christian community. I mean, my church applauds. Sometimes we shout and cheer. We celebrate. This is followed by intercessory prayer, and sometimes hands are laid on the new Christian (I’ve done this myself).
We’re too low-church to ever ritualize all this, but we long ago got over the sad notion that celebrating a baptism in church is not “decent and in order.” In fact, being reserved and meditative at such an event is pretty indecent and disorderly to my way of thinking.
(Phil. 4:4 ESV) 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(1 Thess. 5:16-19 ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.
How do we love one another? Well, for one thing, we celebrate baptisms. Hugs, well wishes, prayers, hands, all that. When I see you pray for my newly baptized daughter, well, that’s a bond that’ll last a very long time.