Ray Van Neste on Deacon Service at The Table of the Lord

In his essay, “The Lord’s Supper in the Context of the Local Church,” in the 2010 Broadman & Holman publication, The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, Ray Van Neste writes:

In many Baptist churches the deacons serve the elements. This is often connected to the service of the deacons in distributing food in Acts 6. This is certainly [a] fine practice, though we ought to be clear that the service in Acts 6 (keeping widows from starving) is significantly different from serving Communion. If the practice of deacons serving in this way helps to illustrate their role as servants, then this can be very fitting. However, we ought to be clear that others could also serve Communion. In my church, various men serve Communion. (p.37)

I am in agreement with Dr. Van Neste on this point. It seems reasonable and right to conclude:

  • that deacons serving The Table of the Lord highlights their role as servants;
  • that Acts 6 cannot be used to buttressed the idea that only deacons can distribute the elements of the supper;
  • that one cannot make a biblical case that only deacons can serve the Lord’s Supper.

The position of the The Three Tables, as fleshed out more fully in the study available here, is that there are good reasons to have the deacons serve The Table of the Lord that have to do with their overall role as servants and as an extension of their presence in the life of the congregation in other ways (i.e., serving families as part of The Table of the Pastor), but we go too far to argue that only deacons can serve in this capacity. There is nothing wrong with making an argument from tradition and from the way that individual congregations are strategically ordered, so long as those arguments do not press beyond what is biblically permissible.

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