I’m in Addiction Recovery!

          No, not me. Really! This past Sunday night a man approached me after the service and wanted to ask a question. Andrew is a Vietnam veteran and lives in a "comfort house" near where we meet. A comfort house is a place for veterans in need of temporary housing. His question: "Do you use wine in communion?" When I told him no he was relieved since he is in recovery from alcohol abuse. We observe the Lord's Supper weekly and have those participating leave their seats and come forward for the bread and cup. Since he hadn't been sure if we used wine he had not participated.  He told me that now he would observe communion with us. It was interesting because what to use in the Lord's Supper had been a subject of pre-launch discussion among the leadership team. Frankly, we leaned toward using wine as did the church for almost 1900 years until "physician and dentist Thomas Bramwell Welch and his son Charles processed the first bottles of 'unfermented wine' to use during their church's communion service."

          This is not the place to argue for or against a wine position. Others have done so and rarely is anyone convinced by others' arguments for or against. In planting a new church you will have to decide, wine or grape juice. There may be good biblical arguments for using fermented wine (in spite of the two-wine theorists). There are also good, mostly cultural, reasons for using grape juice. In our case we opted for grape juice.  We have a number of under-age college students attending services as well as people who have battled addictions. As for other options, I know of churches who in observing the Lord's Table offer both wine and grape juice and others who have the bread dipped into a common cup so the amount of wine is negligible.

          Fermented wine is still widely used in many European churches and has not provoked the angst seen in North American churches. When we lived in Romania in the 90s grape juice was not yet widely available or if available very expensive. Churches commonly used homemade wine but from what I recall children did not observe the Lord's Table (baptism for young children was relatively rare). Americans would often ask me how I handled that. I simply responded “quite well” since when I was preaching in village churches I usually was asked to lead in the Lord’s Supper observance. What did they expect me to do, throw it over my shoulder? I must confess at being slightly amused by visiting pastors who wrestled with whether to take a thimble full of wine or not. I promised them that what happens in Romania stays in Romania.

          When my wife and I helped facilitate a new church plant in the Paris suburbs from 2006-2008 the subject was not raised. There was never any suggestion of using grape juice. At fellowship meals it was not uncommon to have wine bottles on the table. But that’s France! Whatever your choice on wine or grape juice, be ready to explain your position. There is no one position on which all will agree and that’s okay but some prayer and thought are needed as you prepare to plant a new church. For some the question may be decided by a denomination or association of churches planting the new church. Then it's easy!


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