In today's earlier post I introduced the concepts of closed, close, and open communion and fencing the table. I realized that I never explicitly explained how we fence the table at Redeemer and thought it would be a good idea to explain that in a follow-up post.
To fence the table is to protect people from partaking of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner. To do so would be to receive it as an unbeliever, an unrepentant believer, and a member of the church currently under the final stage of church discipline. We see in 1 Corinthians that this can result in severe discipline and judgment from the Lord. How does a church like Redeemer properly fence the table? Through a public exhortation and warning.
Below is an excerpt from one of our worship gatherings as we celebrated the Lord's Supper. We often say more than this, but you get the idea.
Brothers and sisters, this table is for you who have been forgiven of your sins through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus gave this sacred tradition to us, his church. Do not think that you can only come forward if you are perfect. You cannot come perfect. Jesus alone is your perfection. So you are invited to come broken, but hopeful, believing and repenting.
If you are not a Christian, the bread and the cup is not something you should receive. Only those who have received Jesus should receive communion. We encourage you to use this as a time to consider the offer of forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus holds out to all who are willing to receive him. Place your hope in him. You might not come forward for communion today, but you can come to Jesus today and find eternal life, which is what all of this is about.
We don't have The Lord's Bouncers near the table ready to block those who shouldn't partake. If we were under the impression that someone was taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner we would follow up with them afterward to gain better insight to what was happening so we could better shepherd them. If someone who was currently under the final stage of church discipline came forward one of the elders would walk up beside him or her and ask them to step aside to talk through things.
However the church fences the table, and every church should, it should be done clearly, graciously, and always with the offer for people to believe on Jesus Christ.
Relevant Read: Fencing the Table by C.H. Spurgeon