Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine who was telling me that his family had attended a new church on Sunday for the first time. The church that this family attended is one of the largest in town and is a church that has experienced tremendous growth over the past 10 years. But what struck me was a comment that he made.
While we were there, they had communion. And they did something I had never seen before. They had these little individually packaged cups containing the juice with a separately sealed cracker on the top. It was really neat, you just opened the top and took the cracker and then finished opening the juice to drink. I wish I had thought of that.
I could not believe this person was telling me about the Fellowship Cup (or as I have been known to call it, The Instant Communion Cup) today of all days. As you know I wrote about these little cups several months ago and re-posted the article last week as part of my Vacation Week Re-Posts. Since the original and the second coming of this article has run, I have had several people tell me about the benefits of using these cups. There are many applications in which they have proved to be a valuable resource.
Locally, we have a music festival. They give the crowd communion and use these. One year I was an altar minister and one of the leaders called these “Christian Lunchables: The body and blood of Christ vacuum packed for you.” (Paul Alan Clifford)
I have seen these used in a powerful way though at a huge conference… 10,000 people taking communion at the same time, was pretty awesome, and it would have taken quite a bit for them to have plates passed, people waiting, etc. But for everyday usage… it’s ridiculous (Seth Caddell)
Last night I received a much appreciated comment on the original post.
The first time I saw these I was extremely sceptical. Having been raised as an Episcopalian they were way outside of my comfort zone, and they still aren’t anything that my church would use. However, after building two Websites for two different companies to market these products, I have to say I changed my mind.
As Bill and Seth mentioned in their comments, missionaries and large churches, or churches hosting large events have found these products to be perfect for those situations. But another thing that we’ve seen as people purchase these products is that many times people are using them for individual Communion or home church services. In fact one of the most common requests is for quantities of less than 50.
Tradition in the church is so important to everyone that there, of course, will be churches who never consider using these Communion wafer & juice sets (like my church). But I think anything that is bringing people together in Communion more often and easier is probably not a bad thing. (Dana)
Every since I read that comment I have been thinking about these communion cups. I knew when I wrote the original article that there were times when this could come in handy. The problem is that I am skeptical of anything that minimizes the sanctity of the sacrament. And that was the thought that I was originally trying to express in my article.
I could not help but wonder last night if I had been a little too quick to poke fun at this product. And then today when my friend was excited about having received communion using these cups, I knew the reason I had been thinking about these cups. I knew that God was tugging at me trying to get me to realize something that I had missed. The reason that I was so quick to pick on this product was that they were messing with my tradition.
Traditionally in the churches that I have grown up in (mostly Baptist) we would take communion once a quarter and it was done by passing out the silver trays with the little block of bread, followed by the trays with all of its holes filled with the little glass thimbles of grape juice. That’s what I grew up with, that’s what I was comfortable with, that was my tradition. After all, the little wooden holders on the back of the pews are there to hold the empty glass thimbles.
All too often today in our churches we reject new and positive ideas and ways to promote the Gospel simply because “that’s not the way we have always done it.” That’s not our tradition. “We can’t do it any other way because that is the way my great-grandfather did it when he was a member of this church and that is the way that our family has always done it since we have been members here for the past 175 years.”
Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t use tradition as a reason not to usher in His Gospel. After all, that is not how it had been done since the beginning of time. Abraham didn’t do it that way, neither did Solomon, or David. Tradition is what the Jewish people built their faith upon. But that didn’t stop Jesus Christ from stepping up and saying “that’s not right anymore, you have to get with the times, I have a new way; a better way.” If Jesus Christ didn’t let tradition stand in His way, why should the church let it stand in our way today.
I have always thought of myself as one that was open to new ideas and one that embraced change. However, I have come to realize that I might not actually be as open as I would like to say that I am. It is amazing to me how God uses the things and the people around you to open your eyes at times. The comments on the blog, my decision to re-post the original article, new comments that were generated all leading up to a statement made to me almost as an after thought. All of these things combined to get me thinking about my own attitudes and beliefs.
And as Paul Harvey used to say “Now for the rest of the story.” This person that mentioned this to me in passing was attending church for the first time in many years. He wanted to find a church to attend so that his children could be raised in a church. The communion cups may have made me laugh but they made an impression on him. To him this meant that this church was on the cutting edge. This church was doing things in a different way and that intrigued him. It was different from the church he remembered as a child. And as a result, he and his family will be back in church next Sunday.
This certainly shows how wrong I was in my original thinking. It shows that I was not open to thinking about new ways to do things because I was being held back by tradition. It shows that I don’t always get it right. But thankfully, God allows me to mess up and when I do, He gives me a little nudge to push me back in the right direction.
Has tradition ever stopped your church from expanding its ministry?