Your First Visit

What to Expect

When you visit, we hope to get a Visitor’s Welcome Packet in your hands. And, if you sign our guestbook, or fill out and turn in a Visitor Card from the church benches, our pastor has made a personal commitment to contact you in order to welcome you, and answer any questions you may have. Our visitors come from all kinds of Christian and other religious backgrounds. Some people notice a difference in the preaching, or in the singing, or in the people, from what they are used to. We would love to hear your impressions and the story of how you found us.

The Worship Services

Public, corporate worship services are the central focus of our church life. Since many of our visitors wonder why our worship services seem different, we have put together this introduction to what we do, and why we do it. These three guiding principles shape our worship services:

1- Reverence. “I will be glad and rejoice in the Lord” (Psalm 9:2) is the happy attitude we should have coming to church, however the worship service is not designed for entertainment, or simply to make us feel good. The worship service is a special meeting between a holy God and His people: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Part of our reverence is obeying the apostle Paul’s instruction to thoughtfully structure public worship services: “For all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

2- Dialogue. God has established a pattern of worship in which He speaks to us, and we as a congregation respond to Him. Throughout the Scriptures, God speaks and acts on behalf of his people and then calls them to respond: “He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men” (Psalm 118:14-15). The “flow” of our service is that God speaks to us (through the words of the minister) and we respond to Him (sometimes also through the words of the minister).

3- The regulative principle. This “principle,” or rule, means that “we must worship God in no other way than He has commanded in His Word.” We are not free to be creative and choose what we like or don’t like when it comes to public worship. Acts 2:42 provides the basic four-part model for New Covenant worship: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Today, “the apostles’ teaching” is preaching by the ministers; “the fellowship” is probably best understood as our offerings; “the breaking of bread” is our celebration of the Lord’s Supper; and “the prayers” is our prayers, spoken or sung. Each of the parts of our worship service, listed below in the typical order they appear in a service, reflect one of the four parts of Acts 2:42:

The Call to Worship” marks the official beginning of the worship service. While every moment of our lives is in some sense devoted to the worship of God, the Lord has also always called His people out together for special times of sacred assembly to worship Him (Genesis 4:26; Leviticus 23; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:25).

The Votum” (from the Latin voveo, “to vow” or “to pray to God”) is our expression of dependence on God. We respond to God’s call to worship by the minister speaking Psalm 124:8 on our behalf: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

God’s Greeting,” or in older language the “Salutation,” is where our gracious God responds to our votum with a word of acceptance, spoken by the minister. Typically the minister will use some variation of an apostolic greeting from the New Testament, for example: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Including the opening Song of Praise,” all of our songs in the service are forms of prayer to the Lord, and each song has a different purpose. We sing simply to praise Him, or to confess our sins, or to thank Him for His grace, or to prepare us to hear the Word of God preached, or to dedicate ourselves to His service. The actual Psalms from the Bible have the principle place in our singing, since these are songs the Holy Spirit Himself wrote for us to sing.

The “law” of God is anything that God commands. The reading of The Holy Law,” whether from the Ten Commandments or any other part of Scripture, serves two basic purposes: (1) reflecting God’s holy character, the law always convicts us of how we have fallen short of its demands (“through the law we become conscious of sin,” Romans 3:20). This leads us to a humble Confession of Sin” through song and/or prayer; and (2) the law instructs us in how we should live, showing the Lord our thankfulness for His grace and forgiveness.

The “gospel” is every spiritual blessing God freely gives His people even though they deserve the opposite. The reading of The Holy Gospel” from any part of Scripture reminds us that Jesus did what sinners could not: He obeyed all of the law for His people, and He died on the cross to take away the eternal punishment His people deserved: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We then receive the Forgiveness of Sins”, or in older language the “absolution.” This is an announcement from the minister, Christ’s ambassador sent to comfort us, that for all who have confessed their sins and trust in Christ alone, Jesus Himself does actually forgive us the sins we have committed and confessed, reconciling us to our heavenly Father.

The Pastoral Prayer,” also called the “Congregational Prayer,” is the minister speaking to God on our behalf, making sure to pray for the needs and requests of our church and its members.

The Offerings” we give to the Lord support the various aspects of the ministry of our church, and in the morning worship service a second offering is also collected for some special cause. “Now about the collection for God’s people. . .On the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. . .” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

The Sermon” is the focal point of our worship service, including the reading of the Word, and sometimes a reading from our creeds or confessions to help us understand the Word. Preaching is not just a Bible lesson, but it is Christ speaking to His people through the words of the minister: “And how can they believe in the one Whom they have not heard? And how can they hear Him without someone preaching to them?. . .so faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:14,17).

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper” is celebrated weekly (in either the morning or evening service), while the sacrament of Baptism” is celebrated in the services less frequently. Through these symbolic ceremonies, the Holy Spirit initiates, preserves, and intensifies our mystical union with our Lord Jesus Christ: “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16); “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3). Every week, the elders of our church print in the worship bulletin their policy regarding visitors who wish to partake of the Lord’s Supper along with us. We thank you for respecting this policy; if you have questions about it (as many of our visitors do), please contact our pastor.

The Benediction” is where our gracious God gives us His parting Word of blessing, spoken by the minister. Typically the minister will use the priestly blessing: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace;” or he will use the apostolic blessing: “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The closing Doxology” (from the Greek doxa, “belief”+ logos, “word”) is our final response to the Lord in the sacred assembly. This short song of praise expresses that we love and worship Him alone, the only true God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.