God changes lives. Sometimes decisions for Christ seem superficial. Other times decisions make real differences in everyday living. What aspects of the worship environment might foster deeper decisions for Christ?
Consider opening the altar during Communion time.
Opening the altar during Communion provides an opportunity for all to come forward to receive the sacrament. At Wichita First Church (Kansas, USA) we offer Communion stations at the front of the sanctuary near the altar. Congregation members are free to stop at the altar before or after receiving the Eucharistic elements.
There seems to be a greater readiness for people to pray at the altar during open altar Communion. The spotlight is less directed at one particular person when many are moving in the sanctuary. And everyone in the congregation responds in some way.
The meaning of Communion can be very significant during a time of response. We remember that our availability to God the Father is made possible only because of the work of Jesus. This access to God can spark a sense of gratitude as we obey. The Lord's Supper also reminds us that Christ sacrificed everything in His obedience to God. We can follow the example of Jesus and give all we have to God the Father through full obedience.
In our congregation, we have learned to allow more time for response in our order of worship with open altar Communion.
It takes longer than simply passing out the elements row by row. However, slowing the pace of the service is often very, very healthy.
Too often, time seems to move faster for the preacher than the congregation. Those in the pew not only need time to hear the message, but also to process it, considering exactly how the message impacts daily life. What might it cost them to take a step forward in faith? The minister has been immersed in the sermon all week, but the listeners are not yet familiar with message. Time to process the message is an element of worship I'm learning to appreciate more and more.
People report that even standing in line for Communion is a time when God deals with them. We all live busy lives. Individuals walk into church from a world of information overload. The chance to not only hear but also process and apply God's message invites people into deeper obedience.
Consider offering open altar Communion during the Advent season. Perhaps in the busyness of the Christmas season God's message of hope and healing will impact lives in deep, long-lasting ways.
Brent Van Hook is senior pastor of Wichita, Kansas, First Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2012
Please note: This article was originally published in 2012. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.