Open Communion : We’re Not The Gatekeepers

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I’m about to get all theological up in here, so humor me. Here’s my question: What is communion and who gets to decide who can receive it?


Communion : Defined

I was trying to look up the definition of the the word communion. More precisely, the definitions of the root words, Com- and -union. 

“Com”- a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” “in association,” and (with intensive force) “completely,”
“Union” – the action or fact of being joined

So in laymen definition terms, one might say it is something that completely joins persons or a group of people. In Christian theology, it is the ordinance of taking the bread and wine. We perform this in remembrance of that same night when Jesus shared it with his disciples.


Years ago, we were told about someone who wanted to take communion. However, the person distributing communion refused to serve her.  The server told her there were prerequisites before they could participate. Even though the person had shown great evidence of faith in their life. (*Note- this did not take place in a Catholic church.)

It broke my heart and brought my husband to tears.

My thoughts on communion have changed over the years. When I was a child, I understood as a child. For years, I thought taking communion “saved” you. I failed to understand it is our right standing with Christ and obedience to Him that is the definition of salvation.

In addition, I thought passing on Communion was a sign that you were an awful person. However, today I better understand the scripture about examining yourself.  Previously I have passed on taking communion because I haven’t felt right with God or another. In return, my faith has been strengthened by it.

And it’s this last part that I want to highlight. So many times when we partake in Communion, the minister will read from 1 Corinthians 11, “On the night that Jesus was betrayed….” Minister often read verses 23 thru 29. ” For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” And they often stop there.

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what the bible says about communion

Verse 31 says –
“But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment!”

I quote this to say that we should be discerning about our own faith and relationship to God. 

This is a touchy issue, I know. I dealt with it recently, as we’ve been “shepherding” some young people in our neighborhood. They came to church on a Sunday when we were serving communion. These kids are a little rough around the edges. Not your traditional “church kids.” Sometimes they are loud, swear, and talk out of turn. However, week after week, they want to be there.

Before we went to take communion, I sat down and talked to them about it. I explained the significance of it, and what it was (and wasn’t.) All the while I was afraid of the other people in the congregation. I wondered what they were thinking of these two kids taking Communion. Afterwards, I sat down with our minister and discussed it with her. She had no problems with them taking communion.

Invited to the Table

She thinks a lot like me. At our church we serve communion “open table” style. We stand up front and whomever wants to partake, we allow them to do so. Even if someone hasn’t made a profession of faith, we believe God can touch someone’s heart at anytime. Even during communion someone can come to salvation.

I love the Message translation of Romans 14:2-4, as I think it speaks to this perfectly.

“For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly.

But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat?

God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.“

Romans 14:2-4 The Message

Wow, that’s some powerful stuff. Who are we to cross someone off the list? If you feel someone lacks reverance regarding communion, God is big enough to handle that himself.

If he can speak to Moses through a burning bush, allow a virgin to conceive a child through the Spirit, and bring back His son to life after three days in the tomb, I think He’s powerful enough to get through to one person.


reconciliation through communion

We seem to be all in a huff today if someone “disrespects” God. How dare they?! Don’t they know who HE is?! And especially I think of Jesus’ last days on Earth, when Peter was willing to take up the sword for the God he loved, and Christ STOPPED him. On more than one occasion, Jesus was less concerned about HIS rights and more concerned about the souls of those whom He knew would come to salvation later.

Maybe we’re afraid of being “bad teachers,” that God will be angry at us if we don’t make sure that people take all the proper steps. But if this is the case, what is the point of GRACE? With God there is forgiveness, for both the teacher and the student. There is grace for any and all offenses. God calls us to be agents of grace to those around us. He gives us the role of reconcilers, to be the ones who stand in the gap.

Reaching the Lost

Our church is trying to be a better neighbor. We’re taking intentional steps to reach out to our community, love on them, and welcome them with open arms into our congregation. Many of them have never been in a church, never raised to know the “proper” way to do things.

I would be UNDONE if someone in our congregation stopped them from taking communion. I can imagine they would feel shunned, like an outsider. We live in a neighborhood full of people feeling broken and disenfranchised. They don’t need any of our help to feel that way.

Truly our only job is to love one another as Christ has loved us. That is a big enough job. We don’t need to add the responsibility of keeping track of whom should and shouldn’t take Communion. Let’s leave that up to God.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 10:9

Seeking more information on communion? These following articles might interest you.

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