What to Expect When You Visit the church of Christ
Most people are a little apprehensive about visiting a new church. We hope a few words will help set your mind at ease about visiting our congregation.
The church of Christ is a growing, friendly church. We are a diverse congregation that reflects the fact that God’s church is for all people. The crowd often ranges in age from newborn babies (a nursery is usually available) to those who have seen most of a century pass. Professionally, there are those from all walks of life-from blue collar to white collar to students to retirees. We have business owners, plant managers, educators, office workers, plumbers, retail employees, welders, and everything in between. Churches of Christ are diversified-people of all races and nationalities worship and work together as God’s children (Acts 10:34-35).
Every effort is made to allow visitors to feel comfortable. You will not be singled out during the service in any way. You will not be asked to make a ‘love offering’; in fact, no collections will be taken at all, except during the Sunday morning service when our members make their weekly contribution as an act of worship.
Visitors are not expected to participate.
Our services generally open with a brief welcome from one of the members. The song leader then leads the congregation in two or three songs. An opening prayer is offered, followed by another song, and then the preacher delivers a sermon from the Bible. All are encouraged to bring their Bibles and follow along as he leads the study (2 Timothy 2:15).
At the sermon’s end, the Lord’s invitation is offered (Matthew 11:28-30) for any who want to become Christians or rededicate their lives to God. There is no coercion. During the Sunday morning service, the communion is observed by partaking of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). Members make a financial offering for the poor and the spread of the gospel (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Guests are not expected to give. The service lasts about an hour and concludes with a song and prayer. Guests may sit silently in the service, or they may participate.
The church of Christ strives to be a ‘visitor friendly’ church. Since many of our members were at one time visitors themselves, we know how it feels on a first visit. We make it our goal to be the friendliest church you have ever visited. We aim to treat others the way we want to be treated, like Jesus said (Matthew 7:12). You’ll receive a warm greeting and find assistance to locate your class (or your children’s) and/or a comfortable seat in the worship service. You will not be singled out, made to stand, encouraged to give any ‘testimony,’ or in any other way made to feel embarrassed. The services are simple, reverent, practical, and meaningful.
Bible-based, Christ-centered, Heaven-bound
When you visit, you will meet people who, just like you, sincerely want to follow the teachings of the Bible and please God with their lives. You’ll find that every sermon and class is based on the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In fact, members and visitors are urged to bring their own Bibles and follow along. We still strive to do Bible things in Bible ways, and to call Bible things by Bible names-nothing more or nothing less. We seek to exalt Christ in our songs, prayers, sermons, and lives (Colossians 1:18). An air of hope fills the church as we think of the beautiful promise of heaven for God’s faithful children (Revelation 21:1).
Lord’s Supper observed each Sunday
The church of Christ has communion every week, just as they did in New Testament times (cf. Acts 20:7). It is a highlight of the week to commemorate Christ’s death and celebrate His promised return.
The whole congregation sings a capella (without mechanical instruments), just as they did in New Testament times (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Visitors may sing along or simply listen. Many first-time visitors comment on how beautiful the singing is. Some say they find it easier to focus on the song’s meaning since the words are more easily understood than with musical accompaniment.
You will find free booklets, pamphlets, tracts, and back issues of publications displayed in the entrance areas. These are free to any member or guest. Often there will be study materials distributed during Bible classes and worship services. A personal home Bible study (open Bible or video) is available for those who want to know more.
A place for everyone
Christ’s church is made up of all kinds of people (1 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 3:27-28). You will find members of all races, educational backgrounds, and economic levels feel comfortable in our services. We mean it when we say, ‘Everybody is welcome.’
Emphasis on family and Bible school
The church of Christ places a great emphasis on Bible school. We feel that children are important, and that our God-given responsibility is to assist parents in teaching them about their origin, purpose, and destiny. They should come to know their Creator, Redeemer, Lord, and Savior early in life (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Matthew 19:14). They have been born into a mixed-up world, so we try to ground them in the simple truth so they will know right from wrong.
So bring your Bible and come for that visit you’ve been thinking about. We’ll save you a seat. Allen Webster
Churches of Christ: Who Are These People?
With church buildings located every few blocks and with nearly 1,200 different religious groups recognized by the IRS as tax exempt, one can easily live in a community and not know much about a particular church. In this article we are concerned about the church of Christ. One may have wondered, what is distinct about churches of Christ? What is their historical background? How many congregations and members do they have? Are they a worldwide organization? What is their message? How are they governed? How do they worship? What do they believe about the Bible?
Membership in Churches of Christ
In a book entitled Where The Saints Meet, Mac Lynn states that the total number of churches of Christ in the United States and her territories is about 13,410 with a total membership of 1,277,004. In a more recent work entitled Churches of Christ Around The World, Dr. Lynn states there are 13,908 congregations with 747,568 members outside of the United States and her territories. This would make a total of 27,318 congregations with a total membership of 2,124,572. At the present time, according to Dr. Lynn, there are 660 American missionaries in 121 nations.
The Spirit of the Movement
As is often the case, men have a tendency to alter the message of God. It started in the Garden of Eden when God said not to eat of the forbidden fruit and man violated this divine injunction. During the Israelites’ history, they often changed the worship and mission that God had assigned. Evidence of departure in the New Testament can readily be seen in those who tried to bind ancient ceremonies and rituals upon the people of God. In our day, many churches have become burdened down with traditions of men, failing to fulfill Christ’s plan for them.
The solution is to return to the Bible. Amos’ question of long ago, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) points to the necessity of having a standard to resolve differences. The spirit of churches of Christ is to return to the Bible. It is our desire to go back beyond denominationalism to the simplicity and purity of the first century. We believe that the Bible and the Bible only will make Christians as God intended. Unity can be achieved by following the Bible. It is the safe and reasonable approach to take (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19).
Churches of Christ do not have the trappings of many modern-day organizational bureaucracies. There are no official boards—neither district, regional, nor international. Each congregation is self-ruled and is independent of all other congregations. There are no conventions, annual meetings, official publications, or policy-setting groups. Each congregation is overseen by a group of elders who are selected from among the members and meet the qualifications outlined by Paul (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). These elders are assisted by deacons, evangelists, teachers, and other Christian servants.
Worship in churches of Christ is very simple. It tends toward participation as opposed to one being a spectator. Christians meet to sing a cappella, as is authorized by the nine verses in the New Testament that discuss the music the early Christians practiced. The Lord’s supper is observed upon the first day of every week, just as was done in the first century (Acts 2:47). Christians further worship by giving as they have been prospered, studying the Bible, and praying.
Terms of Membership
The terms of membership are also outlined in the New Testament. They include faith in God (Hebrews 11:6) and in His Son (John 8:24); repentance of one’s sins, as commanded of all men everywhere (Acts 17:30); confession of belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32); finally one must be baptized to enter into God’s family. Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
We encourage you to visit the church of Christ in your community and again experience the joy and simplicity as we attempt to go back to the Bible. —Jerry Jenkins, Birmingham, Alabama