Long before I was born, there was a time when eating a meal involved shared space between people. Even if a grocery store was a short drive away, cooking and other meal preparation activities were involved in putting together something for a group of people to eat. This all changed in the 1960s with the beginning of McDonalds, shortly followed by many other competitors. In our world today it is difficult to remember what life was like before drive-through food.
Today we eat meals to get fed and to be full, when in the past eating was first about relational connection, more than food consumption.
Cultural realities often manage to make subtle changes within the church. We can’t pinpoint these large shifts in the week by week of going to church, but if we take a look at the big picture changes in our cultural, we can often see changes within the church as well.
No question, fast food has changed the church. Each week, most churches celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through the taking of Communion. The first celebration of Communion was done with a group of men centered around the eating of a meal together. Even in the midst of this focus on Christ, we see the importance of shared space and community in the taking of Communion.
Today in most churches, Communion is a somber celebration of remembrance done individually over the course of 5 to 10 minutes. Certainly there is still shared space involved because we’re in the same room together, but very little relational connection is involved.
In the past 5 years the most meaningful time of Communion I’ve had has been at a Lutheran church where I was able to take Communion with my family. Every evangelical church I’ve been in during my marriage has always turned Communion into something I do as an individual isolated from the others around me.
We only learned to eat in isolation from one another through fast food. We only learned to eat in order to fill our hunger needs before our relational needs from fast food.
How we take Communion can easily become how we relate to church. When Communion is about individual consumption, church becomes similar, a place we need to cater to our tastes. When Communion is truly about common unity through Jesus, church becomes a place of truer community than we’ve ever known.
Some cultural shifts are helpful for the church to take part in, others are not. No question, this shift toward food consumption in isolation from community is not how God desired for the church to exist.
Communion isn’t about consumption.