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How we fence the Lord’s table at our church


Have you ever noticed that when you watch a movie or television show and a nightclub is part of the scene, there seems to be two different types of security strategies?

One strategy employs a door man who stands at the front of the line and lets people in whose names are on the list. The second strategy utilizes a bouncer, who allows everyone in and only removes people when there’s trouble.

Sometimes a form of these strategies is used by churches when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Some churches have a door man mentality, where requirements are in place and enforced, while others have a bouncer mentality, where no requirements are in place and issues are dealt with only when they arise.

At our church, we use the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to inform our strategy for observing the Lord’s Supper. Article 7 states the following:

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”

Our church understands this to mean that the Lord’s Supper is for members of the local church only. So who is a member of a local church? Again, our church turns to the BF&M 2000, Article 6, for guidance:

“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord.”

As we read it, a member is a baptized believer by covenant in faith and fellowship with other believers and operating under the commands of Jesus for that local church. Since our church believes the Lord’s Supper must have requirements that need to be met for someone to partake, we reject the bouncer strategy, which represents open communion.

That leaves our church with the door man strategy. This strategy has two options: closed communion, where only members of that local church can partake in the Lord’s Supper, or close communion, where a baptized believer in good standing with a local church can participate in the Lord’s Supper even if they are not members of that specific body. Our church believes both options are permissible in accordance with BF&M 2000 guidelines, and the local autonomous body can decide which option it practices.

So how do we fence, or protect, the Lord’s Supper at our church? I’ll give you four statements we use every month when we partake in the Lord’s Supper:

  1. We state that the Lord’s Supper is for Christians who have followed in believer’s baptism after salvation, and if they do not meet those requirements, they cannot partake.
  2. We state that if there is a guest who meets the above requirements and is a member in good standing of another local church, they are welcome to partake.
  3. We state that if parents have children in the service who are not Christians or haven’t followed in believer’s baptism after salvation, they cannot partake. We encourage parents to use that opportunity to have a gospel conversation with their kids about why they could not partake of the Lord’s Supper.
  4. We state that anyone watching online cannot partake, but that we look forward to the day they can participate when they are back in fellowship with the local body.

While these practices work in our context, each church must decide how to scripturally administer the Lord’s Supper in its own context. Even so, I believe these four statements will enable you to gracefully administer the Lord’s Supper in your local church and effectively lead your people to remember the death of Jesus as He instructed us in His Word.

Aaron Scarbrough is senior pastor of Graceview Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas. This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

    About the Author

  • Aaron Scarborough