Three Arguments for Weekly Communion

Editors’ Note: Weekly communion may be standard in Anglican churches, but it’s become a badge of honor in a growing number of Presbyterian and Baptist churches. Is this a good trend, and should other churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper every time they meet on Sunday? We solicited three perspectives to help you make up your mind.


I am an avid proponent of weekly communion for our churches. This practice is not directly commanded in Scripture, so I am not accusing others of sin. The issue is the pursuit of “best practice,” what best fits the patterns found in Scripture and makes best use of the resources God has given us.

First, then, I think there is strong evidence of a pattern of weekly observance in the New Testament. Already in Acts 2:42, we see communion listed as a central piece of Christian worship. The four activities listed here are not four separate things but the four elements that characterized a Christian gathering. One of the key things the early church “devoted” itself to was the “breaking of bread,” i.e. the Lord’s Supper. The wording suggests that each of these activities occurred when they gathered.

Perhaps the most striking reference to the frequency of the Lord’s Supper occurs in Acts 20:7: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

Paul, on his way to Jerusalem has stopped at Troas. Here “on the first day of the week” he meets with the local church, and Luke directly states that the purpose of their gathering was “to break bread,” i.e. to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This passage need not mean the Lord’s Supper was the only purpose of their gathering, but it certainly is one prominent purpose and the one emphasized here. The centrality of communion to the weekly gathering is stated casually without explanation or defense, suggesting this practice was common among those Luke expected to read his account. These early Christians met weekly to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Of course the longest discussion of the practice of the Lord’s Supper is in 1 Corinthians. Many issues can be raised here, but the fact that abuse of the Lord’s Supper was such a problem in Corinth strongly suggests the Supper was held frequently. Could it have been such a problem if it only occurred quarterly? Is this the sense that arises from the passage? Notice the wording of 1 Corinthians 11:20: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” It is widely agreed that the terminology “come together” here is used as a technical term for gathering as the church. This wording suggests that when they gathered they ate a meal which they intended to be the Lord’s Supper.[1] Though they are abusing the Supper, their practice (which is not considered odd by Paul) is to celebrate each time they gather. Even the wording in 1 Corinthians 11:25, “As often as you drink,” which is often used to suggest frequency is unimportant, in context actually suggests frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Commenting on this verse, Gordon Fee notes, “This addition in particular implies a frequently repeated action, suggesting that from the beginning the Last Supper was for Christians not an annual Christian Passover, but a regularly repeated meal in ‘honor of the Lord,’ hence the Lord’s Supper.”[2]

Centerpiece of Worship

Second, in practical terms, in our man-centered age where so many services are shamefully devoid of any meaningful reference to the cross, could we not benefit from a move to a regular use of the Christ-ordained means for reminding us of the cross? If we want to be gospel-centered why not make the Christ-ordained portrayal of the gospel a centerpiece in our weekly worship? In an increasingly “visual” age might we not benefit from regular use of the visible, tangible portrayal given to us by Christ? In a day seemingly interested merely in Our Best Life Now, do we not regularly need the Christ-ordained means of reminding us of the Lord’s return and the wedding feast of the Lamb? Might not the Bride be more pure if regularly reminded of the coming wedding? In the end, the issue, to me, is not whether or not we have to celebrate communion weekly but that we have the privilege to do so.

Questions will quickly arise on how to do this. Some doubt that this can be done well. Many Baptist churches in Scotland do this, and the practice flourishes. Also, my church has practiced weekly communion for about eight years, and members consistently testify that their appreciation of communion has only increased. We are often told by people who move away that they particularly miss weekly communion.

A typical argument against this idea is, “If we do this so often it will become less meaningful.” At first this has the appearance of wisdom; but with just a little pondering the illusion fades. Do we apply this reasoning to other means of grace? Are we worried about praying too frequently? Reading the Bible too much? Shall we be safe and make biblical preaching less frequent? These practices become rote not because of frequency but because of lazy minds and hearts and the lack of robust biblical proclamation alongside the ordinance.

Some also say we can better appreciate communion when we set aside only certain Sundays for it and on those days focus directly on communion. However, we do not need more elaborate observance or contrived production, but regular observance of this simple rite tied into the regular preaching of the Word. We do not need to “build it up” with any extras. We need to preach the gospel and then display and participate in the gospel in communion.

Last, communion at the close of each service has a way of tying the service to the gospel. Too easily a well-intended sermon can end up preaching only the commands of Scripture, failing to undergird the people with the hope of gospel provision and power. The Table anchoring the conclusion of the service has a way of shaping all that comes before it, focusing on the cross of Christ and his return as our hope and joy. Unbelievers are also confronted visibly with the gospel as they see the work of Christ portrayed before them and yet are reminded that these benefits are only available to those who believe.

With these benefits, why not celebrate communion weekly?


Note: A fuller version of my argument in the broader context of the practice of communion can be found in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (B&H, 2011), ed. Thomas Schreiner and Matthew Crawford.

[1] So also Howard Marshall, “The Biblical Basis of Communion,” Interchange 40:54, “it would seem that when the members assembled ‘as a church’ it was specifically to eat the Lord’s Supper.”

[2] Fee, 1 Corinthians, 555.

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  • JWebb

    For myself the self examination before communion as pointed out in 1 Cor 11:28 is huge for me. Upon examination I am reminded of how helpless I am apart from Christ.

  • John Carpenter

    First, one can be in favor of weekly communion but to make it an uncompromisable principle is unwarranted and divisive. It may have been the pattern of the Apostolic church (although that’s not indisputably clear) but it is not commanded. There is a difference between a precedent of the early church and a command that we have to follow.

    Second, if we preach the gospel in the sermon, as we should, that “has a way of tying the service to the gospel.”

    Third, the way Dr. Van Neste comment is written goes beyond telling us to have weekly communion but exactly where in the service it should properly be: at the conclusion. Why can’t having it at the beginning on in the middle tie the service to the gospel?

    Finally, I’m a bit intrigued by the appeal to having a “visible” portrayal of the gospel? So then, why not a passion play every week? Or show “The Passion of the Christ”? Or paintings or even statues of Christ, so as to remind unbelievers of the “work of Christ”. It’s true that the Lord’s Supper is a visible reminder of the work of Christ but it is one for believers. I don’t know any where in scripture that we are told to present the gospel to unbelievers through the Lord’s Supper. Unbelievers are to encounter the gospel through the preaching of the Word of Christ (Romans 10).

    • Nathan

      John, I feel like your comments are legalistic. The author wasn’t commanding and condemning. It’s all about best practice, and the New Testament must be read that way in many instances. I’m sure this isn’t the case, but it almost sounds like you do not respect the Lord’s Supper that Christ instituted. It is Holy. Are you defending some denominational practice? Let’s just humbly try to do what the Bible says.

  • Rae Whitlock

    “Finally, I’m a bit intrigued by the appeal to having a ‘visible’ portrayal of the gospel? So then, why not a passion play every week? Or show ‘The Passion of the Christ’? Or paintings or even statues of Christ, so as to remind unbelievers of the ‘work of Christ’.”

    Simple, John. Observance of the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament (or an “ordinance,” at the very least) of the Church, given by Christ himself. These other things you’ve suggested are not. While our partaking of the meal shows the Gospel forth to believers, by that same token, the fencing of the Table shows the Gospel to those who don’t believe.

    • John Carpenter

      Hi Rae,

      Please re-read my original comment. I noted that the Lord’s Supper is given to believers. But there is not Biblical statement that it is given as a visible portrayal of the gospel to unbelievers. The Bible doesn’t say “the fencing of the Table shows the Gospel to those who don’t believe.” So, again, why not show “The Passion of the Christ” every week?

      • Rae Whitlock

        Hey, thanks for the response. True enough that the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the Lord’s Supper (including the fencing of the Table) can indeed be an opportunity to show forth the beauty of the Gospel to those who don’t believe. When we warn against unworthy partaking, what else is implied but “repent, believe, and partake with God’s people”?

        (Also, to whom are we “proclaim(ing) the Lord’s death until he comes” in our partaking? One could argue that we are proclaiming to eachother, but are we not doing so to unbelievers as well, since it’s assumed that they’re there?)

        re: “The Passion of the Christ” — as a guy who holds to the Regulative Principle of Worship, I’d say that such a thing is impermissible. :)

        • John Carpenter

          Hi, So first you admit that using the Lord’s Supper as an evangelism tool isn’t mentioned in scripture and then you exclude showing “The Passion of the Christ” based on the regulative principle (which states that to be used in worship something has to be prescribed in scripture). Is there a problem here?

          The bottom line is that the Lord’s Supper is for the church, for believers.

          • Rae Whitlock

            Dr. Carpenter — In my understanding, the Regulative Principle of Worship speaks only to the scripturally commanded elements of corporate worship, not to their forms, nor their effects. So, the Bible says “partake in the Lord’s Table.” The Bible does not say “watch movies.” Simple as that.

            If an unbeliever repents and believes the Gospel through the proclamation of the Lord’s death at the Table, then praise God. It seems that Dr. Van Neste is saying that we should at least be cognizant of such a possibility… not that we should view the Table primarily as a means for evangelism.

            • John Carpenter

              The Bible tells us that the Lord’s Supper is for believers. You’re statement and that of the article is that it is for an evangelistic purpose. But, of course, it only fulfills that purpose if it is explained by the Word.

  • Dr. Philip C. Eyster

    Dr. Van Neste is exactly right. Just read what he says and don’t read into it what he doesn’t say.

  • Ryan Vincent

    “First, one can be in favor of weekly communion but to make it an uncompromisable principle is unwarranted and divisive. It may have been the pattern of the Apostolic church (although that’s not indisputably clear) but it is not commanded. There is a difference between a precedent of the early church and a command that we have to follow.”

    Read the first paragraph again. Dr. Van Neste isn’t in any way making this an uncompromisable principle but an issue of best practice. He also says very clearly that it isnt directly commanded in scripture and is not accusing anyone of sin by not observing the Lord’s Supper weekly.

    “Finally, I’m a bit intrigued by the appeal to having a ‘visible’ portrayal of the gospel? So then, why not a passion play every week? Or show ‘The Passion of the Christ’? Or paintings or even statues of Christ, so as to remind unbelievers of the ‘work of Christ’.”

    When I read John’s comment, my response was going to be what Rae said. So well said Rae. Passion play isnt something commanded to observe in scripture. The Lord’s Supper is.

    • John Carpenter

      The Lord’s Supper is NOT commanded as means to communicate the gospel to unbelievers. You’re simply wrong.

  • Robert Barnes

    I agree with this article. I believe a biblical (with wise previous practice to support it) argument can be made for yearly communion and for weekly. Since my PCA BCO says we must take communion “frequently” that means yearly is out.

    There are several other practical issues that are helped through weekly communion that I didn’t consider before our church moved to it 3 years ago.

    1) It promotes the understanding of children of the Gospel as they experience it in food form
    2) It promotes parents and non-communing children having discussions about spiritual matters. “Mommy, why can’t I eat the bread?” “Mommy, why was Daddy crying while drinking the wine?”
    3) It promotes the authority of Scripture. Paul and I make a big deal out of doing exactly what Jesus said we should do when it comes to communion. We explicitly tie word/sacrament together.

    There are others, but time forbids more.

  • Matt Svoboda

    Rae speaks a good word.

    My church doesn’t even practice the Lord’s Supper weekly, but one more than one occasion we have had lost people get saved during our time of Communion. We encourage Christians to come forward to partake in the Lord’s Supper and non-Christians to come forward and take Christ.

    The Lord’s Supper is a great way to present the gospel as a reminder to believers and as a call to repentance for lost people.

    • John Carpenter

      In the NT the Lord’s Supper is given only for believers. There is not a hint of it being for an evangelistic purpose. Further, the Lord’s Supper will make no sense for unbelievers unless the gospel is proclaimed to explain what it means.

      • Matt Svoboda


        I think you are missing what everyone is saying. Just because their isnt an explicit command to use it evangelistically, it is nearly impossible to have the Lord’s Supper with lost people around and them not hear the gospel- if you are doing it right.

        If someone is rightly explaining the Lord’s Supper to the congregation they are going to hear of his death and resurrection and why we long for his return.

        • John Carpenter

          And if we preach the gospel in the sermon — which we should — we do that too.

          By the same logic, anything is permissible — such as showing “The Passion of the Christ” — if some unbelievers sitting there will see the gospel in it. In fact, apparently a visible representation is better than the Word. This is a problem.

          • Matt Svoboda

            Again, that isnt what I or anyone else is saying.

            When trying to have a conversation it is best to listen to those you are speaking with.

            I never said that a visible representation is better than the Word. I simply said the Lord’s Supper is a visible representation.

            You are making logic leaps and assumptions that have no grounding in what I have actually said.

            The Lord’s Supper is a command in Scripture, which is why we do it. If we are rightly administering it to the believers in our church then it is impossible for the lost people present not to see a visible representation of the gospel- hopefully after or before they heard a gospel-centered sermon.

            No one is saying you do it specifically for lost people. That is simply a consequence of rightly partaking in the Lord’s Supper with other Christians when lost people are present.

            This isnt difficult and you are trying to make people say things they are not. Enough already.

            • John Carpenter

              Perhaps you over-looked this statement by the author: “In an increasingly “visual” age might we not benefit from regular use of the visible, tangible portrayal given to us by Christ?” Is he not suggesting that a visual representation is now better.

  • Paul

    Two words: A-MEN (ok it is one but if said slow enough with emphasis it can be two :)

  • John Carpenter

    The first two sentences make no sense back to back: Why should a Christian be an “avid” proponent of something he knows isn’t directly commanded in scripture? If it’s really a “best practice”, why didn’t the Lord tell us to do it?

    Further, the NT twice overtly commands us to sing psalms (e.g. Col. 3:16). Why don’t more churches do that? Shouldn’t that be something we can “avidly” propose?

  • Mark Donaldson

    Very well said Dr Van Neste! As a Scottish Baptist myself I can certainly relate to weekly remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. Like the author I am ambivalent about being prescriptive on the issue since Scripture itself is not. Of this I am certain … the practice hasn’t hindered my spiritual walk over the years. I particularly enjoyed reading the “less meaningful” rebuttal advanced by Dr Van Neste.

  • Brian Talbot

    This is an important subject, but pleased to note that although the NT recommends frequent communion it does not give a strict rule on it. It is most likely that the Early Church of the 1st C AD had weekly Sunday evening communion as part of an agape meal, but we are not required to follow that particular pattern.
    As a Scotish Baptist pastor who is familiar with the weekly observance I understand that we are the only branch of the Baptist part of the Christian family that has historically observed weekly communion. If anyone reading this article knows of another Baptist union or convention that normally has this practice I would be interested to hear from them

  • blendahtom


    When you say that we are not required to follow it as a pattern… What do you do with clear commands from Paul to follow the traditions that he taught and wrote?

    1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14

    • John Carpenter

      He didn’t command weekly communion. So there is no “tradition” commanded to have to follow. Even if it is proven that the Apostolic church practiced weekly communion, that doesn’t prove it was commanded. Don’t confuse indicatives with imperatives.

    • Brian Talbot

      My post has been misunderstood by the two comments relating to it. My comment about not being required to follow it as a pattern related only to the weekly observance of the ordinance -not the content of what we do in communion. In terms of the content of communion I Cor 11 does provide a good pattern to follow in communion services -and I will happily use it -hope that is now clear.
      John you have also missed my point here. What you say in your first two sentences is in agreement with my point. So I don’t understand your final sentence. My pastoral concern is concerning the Christians who see a weekly communion as a ‘red line’of soundness. I humbly want to suggest Christian Churches should have liberty in Christ to determine the frequency of the observance of this ordinance

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  • kevin c.

    “as often:” *as often* as you celebrate your anniversary, be sure to buy your wife some flowers…this doesn’t mean to do it weekly, it just tells you what to do when you celebrate it.

    “breaking bread” simply means sharing a meal; it is traditional jewish practice to separate a loaf of bread and say the “hamotzi” blessing before eating (“blessed are you, Lord our G-d, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth” / baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melech ha olam, ha motzi lechem min ha’eretz). we see Yeshua doing it in the feeding of the 5000…it’s not some new institution, just plain ol’ eating.

    • John Carpenter

      I agree with you. I think you’re analogy illustrating the meaning of “as often” is good.

  • Terry Kessinger

    I love to read articles from TGC and many others whom I trust. As well, the comments section is often interesting and gives a fuller scope of perspective. However, I find more and more the voices of those whose statements ring as combative. It’s like talking through a gospel issue with a non-believer who doesn’t want to understand, they want to only prove their point. It’s hard and disappointing. I’m not a scholar, just someone who loves the LORD and loves His Word.

  • GB

    John Carpenter,

    Was the Lord’s Supper established for believers only?

    “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.” -Luke 22:19-21

    It seems to me that Jesus offered communion to Judas. In fact, it seems that Judas partook. It also seems to me that Judas was not a believer.

    • John Carpenter

      The Lord Jesus said, as you quoted, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Hence, He explicitly states the purpose: for remembrance is for those whom Jesus died, those who participate in the new covenant not for unbelievers, like Judas. Notice the “But” — a contrast word. The Lord’s Supper was for those whom Jesus died “but” Judas the betrayer was there. He likely took of it but it wasn’t for him. And he took it for his further condemnation. He wasn’t evangelized by it.

      • kevin c.

        additionally, Passover (the context of the “do this” instruction) was restricted to the covenant community; nothing in Scripture would indicate opening it up to whomever/whenever.

    • GB

      But wait, the text doesn’t necessarily say any of that. Again, our interpretation is informed by our presuppositions, maybe even preferences. Therefore, since I can see with my own eyes that the first century church partook weekly, I will follow suit. It may not have been “commanded,” but their witness have far more authority than any opinion on this board.

  • John Carpenter

    The author tries to refute the accusation that weekly communion will become routine thus: “Are we worried about praying too frequently? Reading the Bible too much? Shall we be safe and make biblical preaching less frequent?”

    But the analogy is inapt. If we prayed exactly the same prayer, read exactly the same Biblical passage, and preached exactly the same sermon every week, then the analogy would be fitting. But we don’t. We change the prayers, passages, sermons and songs. Therefore, these things are much less likely to become routine than something that is not changed, like the service of the Lord’s Supper.

    For this reason, by the way, I sometimes change the manner in which we serve our monthly Lord’s Supper. Most of the time the people are served in their seats but at least a couple of times a year I have them come forward; most of the time it is at the conclusion of the service; but I’ve had it at the beginning; most of the time we serve it on the first Sunday of the month but this month we had it on Good Friday instead; we had it at the conclusion of the service on the last Sunday of the year and then at the beginning of the service on the first Sunday of the year, etc. In part, this variation is to help keep it from becoming routine and so taken mindlessly.

    • David Schweissing

      “But the analogy is inapt. If we prayed exactly the same prayer, read exactly the same Biblical passage, and preached exactly the same sermon every week, then the analogy would be fitting. But we don’t. We change the prayers, passages, sermons and songs. Therefore, these things are much less likely to become routine than something that is not changed, like the service of the Lord’s Supper.”

      Curious how you define what becomes “routine” and on what basis – is there a Biblical foundation for your practice in this way? I do have some sympathy for what you’re saying. However, having been raised Baptist where I often heard that the Lord’s Supper would become routine if it was practiced too frequently, I remember finding later in an Episcopal church that the Lord’s Supper practiced weekly held far more meaning than it ever had in my Baptist church. Now a minister in the PCA, I have served in both churches that practice weekly and monthly (my current church celebrates monthly)- and I have never felt that a weekly practice minimizes the significance of the Lord’s Supper.

      One other question: Do you fence the table when you administer communion? If so, does this not presuppose the presence of unbelievers? And if unbelievers are present, is the gospel proclaimed when your congregation comes to the table?

      • John Carpenter

        The real issue is whether it is done “discerning the Body”, with reverence, remembrance, and joy, not the frequency.

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  • Derek

    This debate was mentioned briefly on one of Ravi Zacharias’s podcasts. Some had mentioned that they felt that observing communion too often would strip it of its significance; the question was then asked of the same pastors if they felt that the offering being taken weekly removed its significance as well.

    While I don’t think this ends the debate as a whole (as there are varied reasons for people’s argument in this, it does give many reason to pause and consider how their reasoning plays out.

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  • Gordon Loop

    I think the author needs to explain this to his readers:

    Do we apply this reasoning to other means of grace?

    If the partaking of the Lord’s supper is a means of the believer receiving grace, then the more you partake of it the more grace is experienced. I am all for weekly communion, perhaps daily, as the daily devoted themselves to…

  • joe

    Protestants have historically said that the preaching of the word is properly the “centerpiece of worship,” not the sacraments.

    • GB


      This is true post-reformation. However, history shows this not to be the case in the early church. One must be careful using the term “properly” then.

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  • Ken Stewart

    Thank you for an irenic piece on this subject. Of the Scriptures brought forward in support, I see two difficulties. The first is that — whatever is our position about frequency — we must determine whether among the various NT Scriptures that speak of ‘breaking bread’ — there is any one of them which so unambiguously refers to the Supper, that we are entitled to interpret a second or third reference to ‘breaking bread’ as meaning the very same. For example, if we can agree that this keystone Scripture is Acts 2.42, then we could interpret 20.7 in light of this, and so forth. I myself used to think that ‘breaking bread’ in 2.42 was just such a reference, capable of being used as an interpretative key for other such Scriptures. But then I came to the conclusion that a more likely candidate in 2.42 for a reference to the Supper was “tn koinwnia” which is reminiscent of the double usage of this same term 1 Cor. 10.16. All this to say that we are far from being in the clear that ‘breaking of bread’ is an unambiguous reference to the Supper found in multiple NT passages.

    Your second line of interpretation, the use of 1 Cor. 11.20 “when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat” is one with which I have not been previously familiar. I acknowledge that this is a phrase which could be construed as indicating that this was a major reason for their assembling (weekly). But even an English Bible readily demonstrates just how frequently this phrase appears with no such implication at all. See for example 11.18, 11.33, and 14.26. Perhaps this last usage is the most suggestive, for here it is plain that the purpose of the “coming together” was a worship assembly, and believers are instructed to come prepared to contribute by participation. Is it significant that in this, one of the more explicit sets of instructions about early Christian worship given in the NT, there is no reference made whatsoever to the Supper? It can hardly have been as central as some allege if these instructions for worship can make no mention of it.

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  • Keith

    John Carpenter, you’re not doing your church (Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Providence, NC) a favor here with your debating, which exposes how you miss the forest from the trees.

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  • Dale Anderson

    My wife and I moved to the Charlotte area about a year ago,and still have not found a church home here.The biggest hurdle has been lack of communion.In Indiana we were members of 1st Christian church and had communion every week,and miss it terribly.We’ve been wandering from church to church in search of anew church home.

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