A phrase I have heard from my youth related to the Lord’s Supper is, “the leading of the Spirit”. The Bible speaks of being “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18), but this is in connection with the believer’s walk. The Spirit’s leading gives freedom from the external force of the law.
This passage also has these phrases, “walk in the Spirit” and “live in the Spirit.” The implication is that the Holy Spirit in a believer is the source of daily victory over the dominion of the law and of sin.
The leading of the Spirit is obvious in the book of Acts especially in Paul’s life and experience. I hope that all of us have experienced the Spirit’s leading in our lives at particular times.
Does the Spirit lead in worship?
The problem I have with the use of the phrase “the Spirit’s leading in worship” is this – how is that displayed? Nowhere in the New Testament is that phrase found or that connection presented.
Usually when I hear it used, it relates to a particular flow of thought and hymns at the Lord’s Supper. Many think that if a meeting follows a theme then the Holy Spirit was at work. If there are eclectic (random) thoughts, the implication may be that the flesh is controlling the flow and not the Spirit. But is that the case?
Is a Spirit led theme necessary?
Personally, I like when there is continuity of thought and a theme develops throughout the meeting. It could be that the focus is on “the Lamb of God”, the “sufferings of Christ” or on the “Cross”. For me it is easier to follow, to concentrate, to think ahead and to be worshipfully involved.
However, I have come to realize that there is no scriptural warrant to determine that a theme equates to the Spirit’s leading in worship.
Does the Spirit only lead the older men?
I have also come to the realization that older brethren, who are familiar with the hymnbook and the Scriptures, can give out hymns tied to a theme. Some are also able to share from Scripture thoughts that advance a theme or relate to it. This can be the Holy Spirit leading but it may also be the result of familiarity with hymns and the Word.
Sharing from notes prepared ahead of time
In some places or some circles, the fact that a brother shares without notes is an indication of dependence on the Holy Spirit. This view is sometimes held with regard to platform ministry or sharing at the Lord’s Supper. However, the Holy Spirit can just as easily lead on a weekday in opening up Scripture as on a Sunday during the Lord’s Supper.
We may call this the “feeding of the Spirit” for worship.
What a brother enjoys during the week can be put on paper as notes. He may also organize it for progression of thought and as an aid to memory. One of the challenges many assemblies face is the lack of participation in worship by men under 35 years of age. For younger brethren freedom to follow an outline or notes may be an encouragement for them to share in worship.
What individuals must be mindful of is that these prepared notes may not always be suitable on any particular Sunday. There may not be a gap in the participation of others or there is no opportunity within time constraints to share.
Random thoughts can be full of worship
There has been for me a greater appreciation and acceptance of expressions given by other brethren at the Lord’s Supper. I am less critical of eclectic thoughts or hymns not usually considered appropriate at the Lord’s Supper.
I am realizing that the brother sharing may have enjoyed the thoughts or has seen something in the hymn that lifted his spirit in worship to the Lord. It may be the brother is sharing at the level of his spiritual maturity or knowledge.
Should a brother “open” the Lord’s Supper?
There are Assemblies that have a brother “open the Lord’s Supper” and in doing so seek to give direction or a theme for the meeting. Many brethren would look at this practice as being a sign of a lack of spirituality. Some would see it a direct denial of the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead in worship.
Scripture gives no indication if such a practice is good or bad, right or wrong. Again, the Spirit could “lead” or “feed” during the week and in that way superintend the direction of the meeting.
Tradition not Scripture
Much of what traditionally happens at the Lord’s Supper is merely that – tradition with no direct scriptural instruction. I personally like the structure and flow of the meeting I am familiar with from my upbringing. I like it when the meeting follows a theme but has suitable pauses for reflection. I do not like hymns or readings between the passing of the bread and giving thanks for the cup. I also like when the meeting ends at the appointed time.
Having said that, it is easy to equate what are simply my “preferences” with the “leading of the Holy Spirit” even in areas where Scripture is silent. I have “broken bread” in over ten different countries and experience has taught me that the “leading of the Spirit” is not uniform. Culture and circumstances often influence some distinctions not addressed in the New Testament.
The Lord’s Supper Series by Gary McBride
Check out all the posts in this series The Lord’s Supper.