Monday, March 30, 2015

Am I allowed to partake in communion even though I do not attend a church?

QUESTION: I watch your YouTube videos a lot and really enjoy your teachings. I do not attend a church but I go through the Calvary Chapel videos on YouTube. Am I allowed to partake in communion even though I do not attend a church?  Do I have to be around other believers to break bread and drink or can I do this at home while watching online? Thanks again and God bless you guys out there in Oregon.

I'm going to answer your question on a two-fold level. First I will address the question itself from a biblical perspective, and then, if I may, I would like to comment on your question.

More and more Christians are "churching" online, meaning they are receiving ministry in the Word from various Internet sources. Even our church -- Calvary Chapel Ontario is streaming our services live and archiving our teachings both on our own website and Youtube. And the more messages we upload the more people are tuning in. There appears to be a real hunger for God's Word.

So what happens when the live service you're watching includes a time of Communion? Is there any way for someone tuning in online to participate? Sure! Why not? Grab some bread (or whatever you have on hand) and something to drink and by all means join in. The point of Communion is to remember the death of Jesus on our behalf. If you're watching from home I don't see any reason why you shouldn't feel entirely free to partake. Whatever objections someone might have about online participation in a Communion service will most likely be rooted in Church tradition rather than the Word of God. So unless anyone can show a biblical reason why you should not participate, I say go for it.

Online churches have been a wonderful blessing for those who just can't get to church. We get a lot of feedback from young parents whose kids are sick, or from those who have recently had surgery and have to lay low for awhile. And since we added a low bandwidth audio-only version of our webcast, people are now able to listen on their smartphone while driving the tractor, traveling or during a break at work. There's no question about the fact that people are loving it and benefiting from it.

I can also imagine that online churching can be a lifesaver when believers move to an area where there are no fellowships close by, or for those who find themselves traveling for work during typical service times. But with all the blessings that online options offer we need to address the possibility that someone might choose to purposely stay away from meeting with other believers so as to avoid any chance of drama that can happen with any human interaction.

Let's face it, people can be really hard to take sometimes and there are a lot of folks out there who have been badly hurt. I completely understand. In fact, in some 30 years of ministry I've experienced my own share of heartache at the hands of others. But each and every believer in Christ needs to address themselves to three fairly straightforward biblical truths:

1. When I came to Christ I was born into a family. It may be dysfunctional at times, but it's God's family and that means I was never meant to fly solo in my walk with Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

2. For better or for worse, I need others in the Body of Christ to be all God created me to be. The Apostle Paul took quite a bit of time to say that we genuinely need one another in the Body of Christ. That means functioning on my own really isn't an option. (See 1 Corinthians 12:15-22)

3. I am told not to forsake regular gatherings of God's people. Hebrews 10:25 says:

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) 

We are not to get into the habit of staying away from fellowship. Sure, people might hurt you and you might hurt them. But that's where we learn to stretch our wings of giving and accepting forgiveness.

If you're doing church online because there's really no other option, I totally understand and I commend you for doing what you can to stay spiritually nourished. But if you're choosing a computer monitor over real human fellowship, I think you need to reconsider and pray about the things God's Word has to say about our need for one another in the Body of Christ.

God bless you!



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