I have been hanging around evangelical free churches since 1984 and it seems to me that there is something of a problem with the way in which Holy Communion is practiced.
Problem 1: Who-carist?
The first problem is that the Eucharist can be an infrequent visitor to free church gatherings — more who-carist? than Eucharist. The weeks and months (and sometimes the years!) roll by and not a scrap of bread or a drop of wine is seen.
Problem 2: McEucharist
The second problem is that when the Eucharist is celebrated it is often shoe-horned into the little space between the "worship" (i.e., the singing) and the sermon in the spiritual equivalent of fast food for Christians on the go.
How is it that the meal that was given by Jesus to the church and which has been at the centre of Christian worship down the centuries has been relegated to a sideshow by so many contemporary evangelical churches?
A simplistic answer with more than a grain of truth:
I blame Zwingli. The Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, in his zeal to reject anything that looked like transubstantiation and that smacked of medieval hocus pocus (from hoc est corpus, latin for "this is my body"), reduced Communion to a mere symbol. For Zwingli Holy Communion is a memorial meal to celebrate Christ's once-for-all victory at Calvary. But Christ is NOT present in the Eucharist — Christ is in heaven.
Zwingli was right about some things and wrong about others.
He was right that Christ's death was once for all and that communion celebrates it. He was right that Christ is in heaven. He was right that transubstantiation (as a metaphysical account of real presence) has its problems.
BUT he was wrong to think that transubstantiation is incompatible with the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (as were all the Reformers) and he was wrong to reject the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You can have real presence without transubstantiation (as is clear from looking at Orthodoxy, at Luther, and at Calvin).
The reason why it matters is that Zwingli's theology unintentionally undermines the significance of the Eucharist. If the physical elements do not mediate Christ's presence (by the Spirit) — and Zwingli did not think that they could — but merely help us to think about Jesus then Eucharist ceases to be essential. There are plenty of ways that we can be reminded to think about Jesus' once-for-all death. We can, for instance, sing songs about it.
For many evangelicals Bread and wine are simply a slightly odd prompt for reflection. And they break the flow of "the worship" (i.e., the flow from one song to another song, like Tarzan swinging from vine to vine). And so it is that we take communion less and less often and when we do it we do it quickly so we can move on to more important things. (Of course, we don't say that but if we really valued the Lord's Supper would we celebrate it the way that we do?)
Learning to eat well:
But Zwingli was wrong.
Holy Communion is a sacrament: it mediates grace; it mediates the presence and life of Jesus. If we are to recover the significance of communion as evangelicals we need to rethink out theology.
I recommend Calvin as a great place to start.