Visiting a new church for the first can be intimidating, so we’d like to give you an idea of what to expect if you visit us on Sunday morning.
WE MEET IN A HOTEL
We meet in the conference room of the Holiday Inn and Suites. The conference room is next to the gym, near the front lobby. If you get lost, you can always ask the person at the front desk to point you in the right direction. Being a small, relatively new church plant, this was the perfect meeting place for us. Its important to remember that “the church” describes the people of God (1 Tim. 3:15), not a building made with human hands (Acts 17:24). There are clean restrooms nearby, a drinking fountain, and an empty dining area in case you need to step out and tend to a child.
We’re a family-integrated church, which means that the whole family meets together for singing and hearing the Word of God on Sunday mornings. This is partially because our current meeting location requires this, and partially because we desire for families to worship together. We’re not opposed to having children’s Sunday school classes or youth Bible studies in the future, but these will not take place during the main gathering of the church when families are encouraged to worship and listen to God’s Word together.
While we’re not not affiliated with any of the family-integrated church organizations, we do agree with them in principle that Christian families should be together for the reading, singing, and preaching of God’s Word. We believe that Biblically, and historically, the normal practice of the church has been to include children in the weekly meetings of the church, while parents train their children throughout the week to participate in and benefit from the weekly gatherings of the church.
We’d love to be able to accommodate and provide nursing mothers and parents with crying children with a cry room that has speakers where the sermon can still be heard, but because of our meeting situation we don’t have that option right now.
So if you’re visiting for the first time, you can expect to hear children coloring pictures, drawing, or an occassional cry or whimper here and there, but generally speaking, parents are good about quickly removing a crying, unhappy (or unruly) child from the room so that they can care for the child and allow others to continue to hear God’s Word.
A helpful reminder to those wanting to train their children to grow up listening to the preaching of God’s Word: the training begins in the home. All children are different and require different levels of attention and training, but generally speaking, parents who don’t train their children at home only provoke their children to anger and discontentment if they’re suddenly expected to behave and sit through the Sunday morning gathering.
A MOMENT OF SILENCE
Our Sunday morning begins around 10:00AM with a moment of silence as we prepare our hearts and minds to hear the word of the Lord and to respond to Him with worship and adoration. In a world of chaos, noise, and endless movement, we believe it’s good to have a time to “be still” and “keep silence before” our God as we prepare our hearts to receive His word (Hab. 2:20; Psa. 46:10).
A BIBLICAL CALL TO WORSHIP
This silence is broken as a brother walks up to the pulpit and begins to read the word of God. This interruption of silence by the word of God is a picture of the beginning of creation. In the beginning, before there was anything, there was nothing. And into this nothingness, the eternal God spoke, saying, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
Not only is this interruption of silence by the word of God a picture of creation, it’s also a picture of re-creation, when a sinner is born again by the power of God’s Spirit. Prior to the new birth, every Christian was dead in sin and dead to God (Eph. 2:1). Yet amazingly, the God of creation spoke into our deadness and darkness, and essentially said, “Let there be light” as He opened our minds to hear and understand the gospel of His Son (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Just as the universe began by God speaking, so the Christian life begins by God speaking. We are born again “by the word of truth” (James 1:18), that is, the word of God.
On Sunday mornings, we call this interruption of silence by the in-breaking of God’s word the “call to worship” because it’s God’s call – from His word – to us, inviting us into the joy of worshipping Him. We believe that just as God initiated His work of creation, His work of re-creation (or salvation) is entirely His initiative as well. This is why our meeting essentially begins with the voice of God, in His word, calling us into the joy of worshipping Him.
PRAYER AND PRAISE
After the opening reading of God’s word, the reader will lead us in a prayer of praise, exalting God for who He is and what He’s done for us in Christ. We’ll then begin to sing a handful of songs from the Hymns of Grace hymnal, which is filled with mixture of new hymns and old classics. Typically a brother will stand off to the side, with a guitar, and will lead us in singing. We encourage congregational singing, as opposed to the congregation being entertained by a musical performance on center stage. We don’t dim the lights or draw unnecessary attention to the musician(s). With the lights on we stand and sing God’s praises together as God’s people. In between songs, more portions from God’s word are read, and more prayers are offered up.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
Each week, either between songs, or after our time of singing, someone will read a portion from a historic Christian creed or confession of faith that corresponds to the sermon. Whether its an article from our church’s confession of faith (The New Hampshire Confession), the Ligonier Statement on Christology, the Apostles‘ or Nicene Creed, the Confessional Statement of the Gospel Coalition, or something from the Heidelberg Catechism or the old London Baptist Confession, this is our way of identifying with the historic Christian faith and rejecting any notion that the truth began with our church or resides solely in our church. In no way do we believe these creeds or confessions to be equal (or even comparable) to the authority of God’s word. However, we believe they can be helpful in teaching one another and summarizing what we believe regarding “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” in the God-breathed Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
After about thirty minutes of prayer and praise, our pastor will spend about five minutes explaining a passage from God’s word about the cross-work of Jesus Christ or the blessings of the New Covenant, and will then lead us in partaking of the Lord’s supper together as a church. We come to His table every week.
After the Lord’s supper, and after a pastoral prayer focusing on the needs of our church, the Great Commission, and God’s blessing upon other churches in our city and world, the sermon will begin. The sermon typically begins between thirty to forty-five minutes into the meeting, and lasts anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.
The proclamation of God’s word is central and paramount to our gathering. While we regard singing as an aspect of worship, we believe that sitting at the feet of our God and having His word arouse holy affections in our hearts is worship as well. We believe that true worship leader, in any church, isn’t the person with the guitar, but the man who faithfully delivers the word of God to the people of God in the power of the Spirit of God.
Because we believe in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, we believe that the most faithful and God-honoring approach to preaching is expositional preaching. Expositional (or expository) preaching takes the main point of a particular passage of Scripture, makes it the main point of the sermon, and then applies it to life in today’s world. Every pastor has a responsibility to “preach the word” and not his own opinions, favorite topics, or the imaginations of his mind (2 Tim. 3:16, Jer. 23:16).
God accomplishes His sovereign purposes by speaking His word (Isa. 55:11). Whether its God’s work of creation (Gen. 1:3), re-creation (1 Pet. 1:23), or sanctification (Joh. 17:17), we believe that God works by speaking, as our pastor points out here. And we believe that what we have in the Bible is a living depository of all that God has to say to the church and the world in this age. Thus, to hear the Bible is to hear the voice of the living God.
This is why we believe that expositional preaching, through books of the Bible, is the most powerful and faithful way of getting God’s word into God’s people, and to thus see God’s purposes accomplished in the world. We’re operating under the conviction that preaching expositionally through books of the Bible allows the church to be ruled and led by God’s agenda, rather than being ruled and led by the preacher’s agenda.
This is not to say that you’ll never hear an occasional topical sermon, or that we’ll never delve into a topical series like we did here, but the normal, week-to-week diet of our church is expositional preaching through books of the Bible. At least that’s what we’re striving for.
Once we’ve heard the sermon, sang a final song, and received the closing benediction (a fancy word to describe the closing Scripture reading) such as,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
the church is “dismissed” to either leave or to stay and catch up with one another, sometimes over dessert or lunch. This is always a sweet time of encouragement and being able to deepen relationships as we continue to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2). From beginning to end, the meeting lasts anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours.
Hopefully this helps to clarify what a typical Sunday morning gathering looks like.