What You Can Expect When You Visit the Church or Christ
We want you to visit us at the church of Christ. And we want you to feel comfortable. But we know an unfamiliar place can be intimidating. So, let us tell you what you can expect when you honor us with a visit.
A brief description of our background may help you understand us. We are a part of what some call "The Restoration Movement." Our goal is to "restore" the New Testament church in our time - to determine from the Bible what the church was like in the beginning, and to be like that. We believe this is a worthy and reverent goal.
We want to be a Bible-centered church. And we try to be. Yet we know that our conclusions aren't flawless, and that our practices are sometimes colored by habit, preference, tradition, or convenience. We understand that culture from different areas will make differences in different congregations, but we believe that our doctrine is not to be changed. Our doctrine (what we teach) is solely what the Bible says. Our faith in Christ serves to unite us together as one body.
Now, let us walk you through a worship service. There may be some variations from this description, because every church of Christ is autonomous. Self-ruled. Independent.
Some churches of Christ meet in homes or rented facilities. However, most, for the sake of convenience, have erected a church building. You will enter what we refer to as the "auditorium." There will be rows of chairs or pews for the worshipers. There are no reserved seats, so feel free to sit anywhere you choose.
In a bookrack near you, there will be a hymnbook for your use, however, after the song leader announces a number, the words and music will also be projected on a screen in the front of the auditorium. One of the unique things about churches of Christ - and something you may find strange - is that the music is "a cappella." That is, we sing without the accompaniment of musical instruments. This is a conviction with us, not just a preference. It has its roots in our restoration heritage. We are seeking to worship according to the New Testament pattern. Since the New Testament leaves instrumental music out, we believe it's best to exclude it, too. You may consider us narrow on this point. But we believe you will respect our reason for it, and our conviction. And we think you'll find the singing meaningful, with everyone being invited to participate.
There will be several prayers during the service. And there may be prayers for specific needs and requests.
You will notice that the preacher doesn't have a title. He won't be referred to as Pastor or Reverend. He may be addressed as Doctor, but only if he has earned that academic credential. He will probably be referred to as brother, or Mister, or, possibly, just called by his first name. He won't be wearing any ecclesiastical vestments which set him apart. The reason for this is our belief in the priesthood of all believers - that all are equal.
The sermon will likely be from 20 to 30 minutes. We think you will find it refreshingly Bible-centered.
At the close of the sermon, the preacher will "extend an invitation." This is simply an expedient time to invite those who are moved to do so to make a commitment or request prayer support. He will encourage those who wish to "respond" to come to the front of the auditorium while the congregation sings a hymn. Don't feel ill-at-ease during this invitation. You will not be singled out in any way. There may be several who respond. Or none.
Some may respond for baptism, some to confess sins, some to ask for prayer for a specific need, some to "identify" or "place membership" with this church. If anyone responds for baptism, you will witness the baptism during this service. The baptism will be by immersion. And it will be for the remission of sins.
If you visit on a Sunday morning, the Lord's Supper will be included in the worship proceedings - because churches of Christ observe this memorial every Sunday.
Again, the reason for this is our desire to follow New Testament teaching. The first century church celebrated this observance on the first day of the week.
We assume from this that they did it the first day of every week. And we know from respected historians that in early centuries the Lord's Supper was an every-Sunday commemoration.
During this memorial, plates containing pieces of unleavened bread will be passed throughout the congregation. The bread symbolizes the body of Jesus. Each participating person will break off a piece of the bread and eat it.
Next, trays filled with small cups will be distributed. The cups will contain "fruit of the vine," usually grape juice, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. Each participant will drink the contents of one of the cups.
If you choose not to participate, don't be embarrassed. Feel free to just pass the plate or tray to the person next to you.
Also, if you visit on a Sunday morning containers will be passed to collect the weekly financial offering.
As our guest, you are not expected to make a donation. Feel perfectly comfortable in just passing the collection plate on down the row.
What Will Be Expected of You
Nothing at all! You are welcome to participate. But don't feel obligated to. Just observe, if that is your choice.
You may be asked to fill out a Visitor's Card. This simply provides information so the church can write or call to thank you for your visit. Supply the information if you are comfortable doing so. But feel free to decline this request if you prefer.
What kind of people can you expect to find at Southgate? Pretty much the entire spectrum as in any group. You will find imperfect people, Christians who are at different levels spiritually, but who are striving to grow and become more like our Saviour. Our focus each day is to imitate Jesus in thought and word and deed. And our quest daily is to enlist others in this noble endeavor so that we all may live in heaven together someday.
Although we at Southgate are a diverse group by reason of age and experience, ethnicity and ambition, history and hope, we are a spiritual family, bound together by faith in a common Saviour, commitment to a heavenly cause, and a brotherly love that unites us together in the eternal Body of Christ.
We rejoice each day in the grace God has poured out on us abundantly through His Son and the promises that are proclaimed in His Word:
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in
Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."
- Rom. 8:1-2
"God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which
He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made
us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved."
- Eph. 2:4-5
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