Tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.
I have spent most of my life in pastoral ministry, with the exception of seven years evangelizing and 12 years as a religious executive with the United Pentecostal Church. Throughout this time, I have written over 25 books.
In your opinion, how important is communion to the body of Christ (the church)? Do most churches give communion the importance/seriousness it deserves? Why or why not?
Communion was one of the few things that Jesus specifically told His disciples to repeat. My observation is that the practice of communion is not well understood and does not serve the same important place it had in the first century church. For example, Paul spent only a few years with the Corinthians who were primarily Gentiles, having no background in Jewish traditions. Yet one practice he left behind was the “Lord’s Supper.” The Corinthians made a number of mistakes in their practice of communion, but it is clear that Paul had left this as a priority.
Is there any scriptural indication of how often a church should partake in communion? Is once a year often enough? Why or why not?
To my knowledge, there is no specific scriptural instruction on how often a church should partake in communion. In many liturgical churches, communion are offered daily. Perhaps the practice of one time each year comes from the Passover being an annual event, but there are times when I have led a church to communion repeatedly within a short period of time.
Many denominations take communion weekly. What is your opinion on this? Is there historical support for this practice in church history?
Taking communion weekly was a common practice originating with the early church fathers, but I am not comfortable making the practices of the early church fathers a prototype of how the first century church behaved. It does seem clear, however, when Paul addresses the Corinthians that communion was taken often.
What benefits should a church receive by participating in the Lord’s Supper?
- It is a call to personal reflection. Paul speaks of taking communion unworthily. This unworthiness reflects a lack of self-examination. The self-examination should not result in our feeling as though we are outstanding saints. The objective is not the score we give ourselves, instead the benefit is in having experienced the self-evaluation.
- It brings us past Pentecost to the premise of the gospel, beginning with Christ’s death. We celebrate Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but we must remember that those events would not have occurred without the spilled blood and broken body of Jesus Christ.
- It establishes common ground for all. At the Lord’s Supper, there are no rich or poor, but all cultural distinctions are set aside and we become common in receiving the memorial of the body and blood of Christ.
- Communion is an opportunity to bless and be blessed. For example, Jesus used one of the traditional Passover cups of blessing to institute the Lord’s Supper. In those days, a patriarch’s blessing on his descendants was a significant part of the first century Passover. Jesus chose to re-purpose one of those blessings for a different cause. In His shed blood, there is profound blessing.
- Communion has an “until” associated with it. The “until” gives specific behavior, the Lord’s Supper, into an unknown point in time. Jesus is coming back and we do not know the time, so there will be a further cup or cups of blessing, but for now we are living in the age of “until.” We must practice this memorial toward the past with a promise and expectation regarding the future.
In your opinion, what is the meaning of 1 Cor. 11:27-29: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” What is meant by “unworthily?” Should a pastor discourage people from taking communion if they have unrepentant sin in their life?
I think the words worthy and unworthy are often misunderstood. Paul was not limiting communion to perfect people. As noted earlier, he called us to judge ourselves. He wanted self-examination. The term unrepented sin complicates the matter a bit. Hopefully, all who examine themselves will feel to “turn around” from any sinful behavior. It is important to note that most who struggle with the feeling of unworthiness also struggle with the challenge of guilt and shame from failure. This is even if the failure has long since been repented of and forgiven.
Why did you write Until He Comes? What is the target audience, and what is covered in the book?
Until He Comes was the first book out of the 25 I have written that I did not specifically set out at the beginning to write. The four lessons contained in it were first taught to our church. Afterward, I preached a communion service for four consecutive weeks. It was when the audio was posted on the church website and I began receiving requests for the material from other pastors that I began to compile this book.
The four Bible study lessons are about 40-45 minutes in length and contain the following material: 1. Understanding the Passover, 2. Eliminating the Leaven of Bad Influences, 3. Communion-Identifying Priorities, and 4. Proper Practice of the Lord’s Supper.
The sermon material is designed for 20 to 30-minute sermons and deals with the following topics: 1. You MUST Remember, 2. The Essential Examination, 3. Fathers at Communion-Blessing, and 4. Reasons to Celebrate — He’s Coming Back. The target audience for this resource is pastors who will adapt it to fit their own needs.
How to purchase your book? Cost?
Until He Comes can be purchased at carltoncoonsr.com for $14. It is available in both hard and electronic copy. This allows one to easily make the content their own. Carlton Coon can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.