Each time we gather for worship at the Lord’s Supper table, I make it a steady practice to clearly fence the table. Fencing the table is explaining who is and who is not welcome to partake of the bread and the cup when they are passed. As I often repeat here on this blog and in my sermons, doctrine matters. Think about it, Jonathan Edwards was fired because of his view of the Lord’s Supper. Puritans were burned at the stake because of their position on the Lord’s Supper. Calvin once passionately threw himself over the Lord’s Supper to protect it from flagrant sinners in Geneva. We must not casually gather for worship around the Lord’s Supper.
Sunday, as our church gathered and I was fencing the table, I made it a point to not only talk to the parents, but I also addressed the children. I wanted them to hear me explain why they were not invited to join with us in worship through the bread and cup. What follows are some basic reasons why you should talk to the children when fencing the table.
Include Children (Even When excluding Them)
In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus rebuked the disciples for turning away the children. He then intentionally included them and even used them as an object lesson to teach about the need to come in a lowly and humble manner. Jesus provided a great example of intentionally taking time for the little ones. Jesus was not too busy for the children.
Recently, in our annual “State of the Church” address, my fellow pastor, David Crowe, explained to the church why we will be handing out children’s bulletins each week beginning in 2018. The purpose of this is to include the children in a very intentional manner. Far too often, children are overlooked and bypassed in the life of the church. It would be to our best interest if we can include them, even when excluding them.
The statistics continually point to growing trends of teens who walk away from the church when they go off to college. Could it be that their church never took them seriously? Could one factor be that their church never intentionally targeted them with intentional discipleship? Could it be that their church was intentional about inviting them to the games and activities, but far less enthusiastic about talking to them about the purpose of the Lord’s Supper and other doctrinal matters? Even when excluding them from the Lord’s Supper, we should talk to them rather than talking past them or over them.
They Need to Understand
Many churches once practiced a children’s sermon that was embedded into the worship each week, and some churches continue that practice today. The idea was that children need to be addressed directly and they need to be taught to understand. One of the problems with preaching and church-life in general today is that little emphasis is placed on understanding. This is true for both adults and children.
When fencing the table, the children need to be taught to understand what the Lord’s Supper is, why we practice it, and who is invited to engage in the worship of God through the Lord’s Supper. When Israel called for Ezra the scribe to come and read and teach the Law of Moses, Ezra expected that the people would understand. That was his goal in reading and teaching. When we talk over the heads of the little ones in our church services, we assume that they cannot understand and we do little to help them understand.
Point Them to the Gospel
Unbelieving children who leave the worship of their church on the Lord’s Day need to know far more than they were barred from the Lord’s Supper table. They need to know why. More specifically, they need to know the gospel. During the fencing of the table, it would be wise to ask for the attention of the children and call for them to pay close attention to the practice and the teaching during the Lord’s Supper. The gospel of Jesus Christ should shine clearly and brightly from the Lord’s Table in such a way that it proclaims the Lord’s death with a joyful anticipation of his return.
We should not be content with unbelieving children remaining in a state of unbelief and ignorance of the gospel. Each time the Lord’s Supper is offered in the context of your local church gathering, it’s one more grand opportunity for unbelieving children to clearly see the glorious Christ put on display before them. The gospel is good news, but it’s also bad news. The explanation of the gospel, when done properly, explains who’s in and who’s out. The same clarity should be made when fencing the table for the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Intentionally point the little ones to the gospel of Christ—for Christ is their only hope. If the Lord’s Supper is observed properly, they should see a glorious picture of redemption as the redeemed eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus’ all sufficient sacrifice for hopeless sinners.
Fence the table properly, but don’t forget the children in the process. They’re watching, listening, and feeling excluded—so include them as you exclude them and help them to understand the glorious gospel.