We want you to feel comfortable. But we know an unfamiliar place can seem intimidating. So, let us tell you what you can expect when you honor the Lord with a visit with us.

We want to be a Christ-centered church with a great respect for His word, the Bible. We try to be. Yet, we know our practices are colored by habit, preference, tradition or convenience. So we continue to study the Bible and make our practices as much like the early church as possible.

There may be some variations between the Southwestern church and other churches of Christ because every church of Christ is independent and self-governed. We have selected elders, men with a strong scriptural knowledge and good reputation, who oversee the spiritual needs of the church. We believe that these men are answerable to Jesus, the head of the church.1

Now, let us walk through what you can expect at a typical worship service.

As you enter our auditorium you will see rows of “pews” or benches for seating. There are no reserved seats, so feel free to sit anywhere you choose.

At some time during the Sunday morning service a collection will usually be taken up.2 As our guest you are not expected to donate. Feel perfectly comfortable to just pass the collection plate on down the row.

During the worship service songs are projected on a screen at the front of the auditorium, for your convenience.  If we do use songbooks or if you prefer to use one, they are located in a bookrack on the back of the pew in front of you. When a song leader announces a song number, you can turn to that number in the song book to find the words and music.

One of the unique things about our worship–is that we sing “a cappella.” That is, we sing without the accompaniment of musical instruments. Christians originally did not use instruments in their worship even though they were readily available in the 1st century. Based on their example we worship without instruments.3  We want our worship to be pleasing to God not only in our attitudes but also in our actions. We hope you will find our singing meaningful, with everyone invited to participate.

There will be prayers led during the service by our members. There may be prayers for specific needs and requests. We use prayer as a means of talking humbly to our Father in Heaven, who is the one true and living God.

Our preacher has made his life commitment to study the Bible and serve the Lord’s Church. He won’t be wearing any clothing that sets him apart. The reason for this is our belief in the priesthood of all believers–that all are equal before the Lord.4

His sermon will likely last from 20 to 30 minutes. We think you will find it both interesting and refreshingly Bible centered.

At the end of the sermon, the preacher will offer an invitation. This is simply a time to invite those who are moved to do so to make a commitment, or to request others of the Southwestern church family to pray in support of them. The preacher will ask those who wish to “respond” to come to the front of the auditorium while a song is sung. Don’t feel uneasy during this invitation. You will not be singled out or made to feel embarrassed in any way.

There may be several who respond or none. Some may respond asking to be baptized. Some may confess sins or weaknesses in their lives. Some may come to ask for prayers for specific needs or problems in their lives. Some may ask to be “identified with” the Southwestern congregation. Some may come forward just to show caring support for fellow members of their church family.

If anyone responds for baptism, you will witness their confession of faith in Jesus Christ followed by their immersion in water for the forgiveness of their sins.5 This essential component of salvation may be administered by the preacher, an elder, or even a friend.6

If you visit on a Sunday, the Lord’s Supper will be included in the worship service. The reason for this is again our desire to follow the New Testament pattern. The first century church is noted to have celebrated this observance on the first day of every week.7

During the Lord’s Supper, plates containing pieces of unleavened (no yeast) bread will be passed through the congregation. This bread symbolizes the body of Jesus offered on our behalf on the cross.8 Each participating person will break off a piece of the bread and eat it.

Next, trays of small cups will be passed. The cups contain “fruit of the vine,” that is, grape juice. It symbolizes the blood of Jesus, also as offered on the cross.9 Each participant will drink the contents of one of the cups and then put the empty cup back in the tray.

Don’t be embarrassed if you choose not to participate. Feel free to just pass the plate or tray to the person next to you.

You are welcome to sing with us and to fully participate in our worship of our Father, but don’t feel that you have to participate. Just watch and listen, if that is your choice. As our honored guest, we want you to feel welcome.

We would appreciate it if you would fill out a “visitor’s card” so we can have a record of your visit.

We are a diverse group, coming from various backgrounds and are at different stages of spiritual growth. But we have one thing in common, we are trying to grow closer to God and help each other in that journey. That’s the reason we can worship together, stick together, help each other and with God’s help accomplish some things that make a difference in our lives and in our community.

We hope you will find that we love Jesus and love the Bible–God’s word to guide us.

Scripture References
1. 1 Peter 5:1-4, Titus 1:6-9
2. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
3. 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:8,19 Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12
4. Matthew 23:8-12; Galatians 3:26-28; 1 Peter 2:5-9
5. Acts 2:38
6. Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12
7. Acts 20:7
8. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
9. Mark 2:17; Romans 5:6-9; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7[/tab]

Adapted from What You Can Expect When You Visit the Church of Christ by Joe Barnett.