We are a church that subscribes – to a lesser or greater degree – to a form of the regulative principle. We believe that the Lord determines how he is to be worshipped. We believe there are certain things he demands, certain things he does not permit and a bunch of other things he is fine with us doing or not. But ultimately, what governs those things is his Word.
Some people assume that churches holding to the regulative principle will inevitably all look the same. Certainly, there will be elements that are always present; things like preaching, praying and singing. But then there are various ways we might be different. Depending on the form of the regulative principle you subscribe to the category of things the Lord is fine with might be quite large and the forms the various parts of the service take may vary significantly from place to place.
Having been around churches my entire life, there are a few things we do in our church that are not (typically) what I have seen done. They are things I have come to really love. None of them are especially outlandish or odd, but they are slightly different. So, in no particular order, here are some things that our church does that I love but don’t see often elsewhere.
Refreshments at the front end
It’s not a big thing, but we tend to have our refreshments at the front end of our service. We feel it is a more natural welcome for people to come in, have a cup of tea or coffee and chat with people before the meeting. It also makes it easier to have a meaningful conversation about the service afterwards if you have already met and had chatted before the service. We are also going to be starting a Theology Breakfast from September, which makes our welcoming refreshments an even more important break for us between that and the formal service.
Sermon at the front end
In most reformed churches, the sermon tend to come at the end of the service. So, you will have the standard hymn-prayer sandwich, with your sermon at the end. in our church, we now have a short welcome, perhaps a song to help us think about what we are about to hear and then the reading and sermon at the front end of the service. We want to convey that the Lord speaks to us first, before we do anything else, and all that happens in the service is then a response to his Word. It is a small tweak but I really appreciate how the service flows from the Word and each element is a response to the Word.
Time of testimony
One element that probably owes more to the Pentecostal history of the church – and was an element of the service that I inherited, have never seen before and have come to appreciate – is the time of testimony. We provide a space in the service for the congregation to share how the Word has affected them. It is a time to encourage other believers with how the Lord has dealt with you this week through his Word or a time to share how the Word has spoken into your life in specific ways. This emphasis on how the Lord has dealt with us through his Word makes clear that we expect the Lord to be specifically dealing with us through the preaching of his Word.
As part of our service, we give away free books. I really like the fact that members are keen to receive them, read them and willing to pass them on and discuss them with other members. It is a small thing that we have only recently started doing, but I am already encouraged by how the Lord is using something so simple.