While Visiting the
Church of Christ:
What can you expect?

Prepared by David Churchill*

You Can Expect ...

Worship That Is Simple And Devout
     Expect to find a group of Christians assembled as a family (Ephesians 3:14-19) to worship God “
in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  This worship consists of studying the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17), praying (1 Timothy 2:8), singing from the heart (Ephesians 5:19), serving the Lord's Supper each Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), and giving “as prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  It is our desire to worship God as He instructs in the New Testament... as did the first Christians.  We practice only within the guidelines prescribed in the Bible.

A Plea For Unity
     Expect to hear a gospel preacher pleading for all who would follow Christ to obey the original pattern of Christianity as revealed in the Bible.  Since the Word of God is the seed of the Kingdom (Luke 8:11), when it is planted in the hearts of men it will produce the same fruit today as it did in the first century.
     We earnestly plead for the unity of all believers on the scriptural platform of no creed but the Bible, no name but Christ's, no organization but the church, and no worship but that authorized by God's Word.  This is the only real answer to Christian unity and fellowship in Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Corinthians 1:10).

Respect For The Bible As God's Word
     Expect this church to respect the Bible as the fully inspired Word of God (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).  The Bible is the complete and only authority in true religion (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 4:11).  Since the Word of God is the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, expect this church to reject all human creeds and man-made bindings (Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19).  We believe that to follow and bind traditions of men is to worship God in vain (Matthew 15:8-9).
     Because of our respect and confidence in the Bible as God's Word, we study the Bible regularly as a congregation and as individuals.  We welcome you to join us for Bible classes¹ on Sunday and Wednesday.  We are also glad to examine the Scriptures with you in your home or by correspondence, if you desire to do so.

Ordinary People
     We are ordinary people with an united faith in God's Word.  We have varying backgrounds, experiences, and stages of knowledge and spiritual growth.  We seek to please God and submit to His will.  We are not perfect and do fall short at times. (2 Timothy 1:8-9; Titus 2:11-14)
     We come together understanding that as repentant sinners we need the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:5-10).


What will happen during Sunday worship?

     Welcome!  As a visitor, you probably have questions about the order of the worship service and about what is expected of you.  The following information should answer some of those questions and help you to feel more at home during our worship.  We welcome you to participate — or just observe, if you prefer.
     Please keep in mind: we believe in a Bible-based, Christ-centered worship.  Where the Bible provides specific guidelines, we believe there is no room for alterations.  Where the Bible provides more general guidelines, then within those guidelines we have made choices that reflect our preferences and customs. (Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 5:17)

     At the beginning of the service, the songleader or another member will announce information items that are of general interest to the congregation.  These items usually concern upcoming events, prayer requests, ill members, traveling members, public thank-you's, and/or mention of special visitors. (Eph.4:15-16)

Public prayers
     Prayer is very important to our worship as we speak with God in praise and request for specific needs.  These prayers will be led by the male members of the church. (1 Timothy 2:1-12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35)  Typically there will be at least five public prayers during the service.  An opening prayer will follow the announcements or the first song(s).  Two prayers will be led at the Lord's Supper and one led at the collection.  A closing or dismissal prayer will conclude the service.  Occasionally, the songleader or the preacher may lead or request other prayers.

Congregational singing
     Songs are selected by the songleader from the hymnal provided at each seat.  One of the unique things about the churches of Christ is the “a cappella” singing (we sing without the accompaniment of musical instruments).  This is a conviction with us, not just a preference, and reflects our desire to worship according to the New Testament pattern. (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:17-19; Hebrews 2:11-13)

     In congregations that have chosen to hire a preacher, you will notice that the preacher does not have a title; he will not be referred to as “Pastor” or “Reverend.”  You may hear him referred to as “brother”, “minister”, “preacher”, or simply by his first name.  He will not be wearing any ecclesiastical clothing that set him apart from all other believers.  We believe in the scripturally defined priesthood of all believers and their equality on this basis. (1 Peter 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6)
     The sermon will be a Bible-based lesson lasting approximately 15 - 35 minutes.  For those Sundays when the preacher is out of town (or in congregations lacking a hired preacher), one of the leading men of the church will prepare and preach the sermon. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4:1-5; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

     At the close of the sermon an invitation may be extended to all in attendance.  This invitation provides an opportunity for anyone desiring to request prayer support or to make a public commitment such as requesting baptism; confession of sin; or identifying as new members.  (Of course, we also welcome people to present these needs to us less publicly or outside of the assemblies.)  The preacher will encourage those who wish to “respond” to come to the front of the auditorium while the congregation sings a hymn.  Although the response may involve several people to none, you will not be singled out in any way.  Please do not feel ill-at-ease during the invitation.
     If the response is to request baptism, we invite you to witness this event and to rejoice with us — we practice a scriptural baptism of full submersion for the remission of sins. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16; Romans 6:1-8; Galatians 3:27)
     (Please note: The personal information presented in these reponses is intended for the other members of our congregation family and not neccessarily for our visitors.  We expect you as our guest to politely respect the sometimes private nature of this information and to practice appropriate confidentiality.)

Lord's Supper
     Churches of Christ observe the Lord's Supper every Sunday.  We believe this is the New Testament teaching practiced by the first century church. (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Matt. 26:26-29; Luke 22:19-20)
     During this memorial of Jesus Christ, trays containing unleavened bread will be passed throughout the congregation.  The bread symbolizes the body of Jesus.  Each person participating will break off a piece of the bread and eat it.
     Next, trays filled with small cups will be distributed.  The cups contain “fruit of the vine,” grape juice
², symbolizing the blood of Jesus.  Each participant will drink one cup.
     If you choose not to participate, do not feel embarrassed; just pass the tray to the person next to you.

Collection of the offering
     During the collection, plates
³ are passed to collect offerings for the financial needs of the church. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-10)  The collection will usually be gathered just before or after the Lord's Supper -- not because one is part of the other, but simply out of convenience for those assisting with both tasks.
     As our guest, you are not expected to contribute a donation.  Feel perfectly comfortable in passing the collection plate to the next person.

     If you have any questions about the service or about anything said during the service, please feel free to ask any of the members before we begin worship or after we have completed.  We'll be happy to answer them as best we can. (1 Peter 3:15)

     Supplemental note:  Expecting to need to use a nursery & cry room?  Most congregations have one… just ask any member where to find it.  Typically it will be located near or just outside the main entrance to the auditorium and will be equipped with a changing table or crib, a rocking chair or recliner, restroom access or a sink, and a loudspeaker connected to the auditorium’s speaker system so you may still listen to the bible class or worship service.

* This article was prepared by summarizing a number of vistor's-brochures collected from several churches of Christ in the United States.
    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the “HOLY BIBLE, NEW KING JAMES VERSION, Copyright (C) by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982, 1992.”  (Go back to place in article.)
¹ Almost all local churches of Christ provide Bible classes on Sunday mornings for their members and any visitors.  Most congregations customarily provide Bible classes on Wednesday evenings and on Sunday afternoons/evenings.  However, since providing and scheduling of Bible classes is at the discretion of each individual congregation, some congregations may choose to provide fewer Bible classes or on a different day of the week. (Go back to place in article.)
² In English, we tend to distinguish “grape juice” as unfermented and “wine” as fermented, but this is different from the Greek language of the New Testament.  The Greek word translated into English as “wine” literally means “fruit of the vine,” i.e. the juice of the grape, and can refer to either fermented or unfermented grape juice. When it was important to make a clear distinction, the speaker would refer to “old wine” for fermented and “new wine” for fresh like Jesus did in a parable in Luke 5:36-39.  When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26), He made no such distinction. Therefore, each local church of Christ may choose either unfermented or fermented grape juice to satisfy Jesus' instructions for the Lord's supper, but most congregations find it more expedient to use unfermented. (Go back to place in article.)
³ While the collection is specifically commanded in the New Testament, the necessary collection utensils are not so specifically described.  The local church of Christ you visit might use metal or wooden plates, baskets, or even cloth bags for gathering up the collection. (Go back to place in article.)

      This article's presentation in Exploring God's Word ©2002-16 David G. Churchill. (rev.020000-150504)
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