Why do we have the service structure we do?

Each of our services is carefully chosen to reflect a particular need in the life of the church. The Sunday meeting at 9am is the discipleship hour. Here we get to teach and learn various core issues and teachings that relate to the Christian life, such as spiritual growth, parenting, biblical counselling, systematic theology, biblical Manhood and womanhood, personal evangelism and other topics. It is educational and practical, allowing for a more thorough study of topics which the regular preaching does not allow for. This is also the time when our children are discipled in the core doctrines of the Word using the Kids4Truth program.

The 10 a.m. meeting is our primary time of corporate worship. The time is made up of calls to worship, the singing of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs, prayers of praise and confession, and consecration, the giving of offerings, and an exposition of Scripture in a sermon. A time of silent meditation follows.

The Wednesday meeting is our time to connect as a local body. More hymns are sung. We hear from one another in terms of salvation testimonies, testimonies of the Word’s effect in our lives, or even testimonies in song. We learn of events in each other’s lives, hear of answers to prayer and God’s work in and through us in the past week. We come to God to thank Him and pray prayers of intercession and supplication. We close with a benediction.

We also hold separate prayer meetings at other times.

Why is the preaching done the way it is?

We believe the most important thing in life is worship. To worship God is to respond appropriately to truth about Him. Therefore, the ‘fuel’ of our worship is truth about God. We want to spend as much time as possible to studying the truth about God found in His Word. For that reason, we believe in something called expository preaching. Expository preaching is where we seek to expose or expound what is in the Word of God. We do not want to impose our thoughts, ideas or opinions on the Word, but rather we want to have our thoughts, ideas and opinions shaped by the Word of God. Therefore, our preaching consists of understanding the texts of Scripture as they were originally written, taken in context, with applications made to modern life. Understanding the texts of Scripture is not meant to be entertaining, though it is interesting. Preacher and listener must work hard together to understand the meaning of Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to apply it to life.

Why don’t we do altar calls?

We do give invitations to respond to the Word of God. These invitations are mostly given during the sermon. Christians must respond to the truth, and are invited to so do. We will sometimes give people the opportunity to meet or pray with one of the pastors after a message. On certain occasions, we might invite people to come forward and respond to a message. We do not do this frequently, because we believe that Christian discipleship does not require a weekly ‘crisis decision’, but a continual process of putting off the old and putting on the new. We do not want people to think that if they came forward or prayed after a service that they have fulfilled their responsibility, when in fact, their responsibilities are just beginning when that sermon is over. The concept of ‘coming forward’ (the altar call) after a sermon is a fairly modern innovation, and while we think there can be a place for it, we do not use it frequently.

Why do we have prayer meetings?

We hold prayer meetings because apart from prayer our church will be powerless and end up working in the flesh. Prayer meetings are part of our privileges as believers: to gather together and corporately call on the Lord.

Why do we treat the Lord’s Supper so seriously?

We treat the Lord’s Supper seriously because that’s what it deserves. The Lord’s Supper is the most important time of fellowship, consecration, memorial and worship that we can experience together as a church. To reflect on the Lord’s sacrifice and our participation in its benefits is perhaps the highpoint of corporate worship. The Bible warns against a flippant use of the ceremony (I Cor 11:27-30).

Who can partake of the Lord’s Supper?

We call on only baptised believers to partake. We prefer to guard the Table (and the partakers) from an unlawful partaking – that is, people who are not believers. For that reason, we prefer that parents do not give the elements to their children until those children have been baptised upon a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

Why do we play music before the service and during the offering?

We play music before and after the service and during collections to enable worshippers to focus on the truth about to be considered, or truth that has already been considered. It is not supposed to be ‘background’ music, but rather music which directs our thoughts and affections towards God.

Why do we sing hymns?

We sing hymns for several reasons:

First, we are commanded to do so in the Bible (Col 3:16, Eph 5:19).

Second, hymns are one of the best ways to worship God in a fitting way. This is because hymns are not art music: they are simple, straightforward tunes and fairly easy to learn. Nevertheless, the music of good hymns matches the content of the lyrics, whether it be sentiments of majesty, reverence, expectancy, reflection, expectation, jubilation and so on.

Third, hymns teach us an enormous amount of truth about God, often packing a lot of doctrinal meat into one hymn. However, hymns are not merely doctrinal statements put to music. They are truth set out imaginatively. The truth is written with metaphors and imagery, so that it grips us in our affections and moves us to respond in a particular way. When the music matches the images of the hymn, it is one of the most powerful ways of responding to God.

Fourth, hymns represent the shared beliefs and affections of the church for two thousand years. When we sing hymns, we include ourselves in that heritage, and learn what it is to worship by example and exposure. It would be quite arrogant to sing only hymns or songs from our modern era, because we are a very small blip on the radar screen of two thousand years of church history. Having said that, we do not object to well-written modern hymns or hymn tunes, and we sing certain modern hymns and songs as well.

Why do we sing the hymns we do?

We try to choose hymns which have several characteristics: First, their content must be true. What they say about God or Christian experience must be Scriptural. Second, they must use images and poetry which will help us to understand God better. A hymn is not a doctrinal statement, it is a lyrical poem, which ought to fire the imagination. We avoid hymns (some of which are in our hymnal) that use wording that is childish, clichéd or juvenile. We also avoid hymns which treat the things of God ‘too sweetly’. In other words we avoid hymns that are sentimental. We want hymns to produce emotions, but we want the right emotions stirred. To that end, we seek hymns which have tunes (or can be sung to tunes) that match the content of the lyrics. Hymn tunes that sound like nursery rhymes, fun-fair tunes, bar-tunes, children’s story-book music, waltzes or honky-tonk music fail to carry the gravity and majesty of our God.

 Why don’t we sing more choruses?

That depends on what you mean by ‘choruses’. A chorus is actually a refrain of a song, that is sung at the end of each stanza. Usually, when people say ‘choruses’ they mean something like ‘simple, shorter songs’. We have no objection to simple songs, because the truth of the Bible is not too complex to grasp. Nor do we have any objection to short songs. We sing some of them. However, there are many choruses which are not merely simple, they are unhelpful for Christian worship, for at least three reasons:

First, they tend to simply repeat a phrase or thought over and over, creating a mantra-like attitude to worship: that if we keep chanting the same thing, somehow we will feel it more.

Second, very often the sentiments contained in those songs represent a kind of response to God which is not appropriate: Jesus as boyfriend, God as daddy. We want to love God and feel love towards Him, but it must be the right kind of love. If love is too harsh, it is brutal. If love is too sweet, it is sentimental. Neither brutality or sentimentality should be in our songs.

Third, too many of these songs tend to shift the focus back to ourselves: “I am worshipping” “I am bowing down” “We’re here to do such-and-such”. Unwittingly, the song becomes about us and our emotions. Emotion is absolutely crucial in worship. However, worship is not about our emotions; it is about God.

 Why do we use the music we do?

We believe music communicates emotion. Music symbolically represents human feelings such as excitement, sadness, gladness, zeal, triumph and so on. It does not do so in an exact fashion, like a mathematical formula. But everyone admits that music carries emotional power (movie-makers make sure they provide background music to tell you what kind of emotion is associated with the scene). When we worship God, we must always ask what kind of love, or joy, or sorrow, or expectancy is the kind which is fitting in response to Him. For example, not all joy is the same – we can be chipper, glib, cheery, optimistic, giggly, satisfied, bitter-sweet, content, etc. We do not have the same kind of joy for our spouses that we do for our pets, nor do we have the same kind of joy for food that we do for sunsets. The affection depends on the object to which it is directed. Our goal is to pick music which we think represents the kind of love or joy or sorrow or hope ( or whatever other kind of affection is in view) that accords with the God revealed in the Bible. While our music might not always be an exact fit, we as a church strive to approve what is excellent and grow in discernment (Phil 1:9-10, Heb 5:14) so we can sense when a musical form seems to cross the line into inordinate affection. We might not get it right all the time, but that does not mean we can become musical relativists – where truth becomes impossible.

Why do we use the New King James Version of the Bible?

We use the New King James Version (NKJV), because it is a literal, accurate and faithful translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts. Many of our members are used to the old King James Version, while many of our members are second-language English speakers. The NKJV retains something of the dignity and beauty of the KJV, but uses language which is more accessible to a modern audience.

Why don’t we include skits, drama or plays in our services?

We do not use skits or drama simply because God did not command us to do anything of the sort in His Word. Since God prescribes how we are to worship Him, we must not innovate and come up with our own additions into corporate worship. In the Bible God always frowned upon worship innovations. Also, skits and dramas are of course, people acting. Since worship is all about utter truth and sincerity, the presence of drama or skits can lend a ‘pretend’ feel to worship which is not helpful for corporate worship.

Why do we take collections?

We take collections because this has been the practice of the church since the time of the apostles (I Corinthians 16:1-2). The Bible does not tell us how we should take the collection, it simply tells us to make giving part of our Christian lives (2 Cor 8-9). The collection is an opportunity to worship God corporately in the act of sacrificial giving, without it being ostentatious or showy.

 What if people want to give through other means?

There is no problem in principle with giving to the Lord through other means, e.g. electronically. However, make sure that even when you give electronically, you are doing so as to the Lord, with a heart of gratitude, love and worship. Don’t let it become a mechanical act, like merely paying a bill.

Why don’t we speak in tongues?

We don’t speak in tongues because we believe the biblical gift of tongues no longer operates like it did in Acts 2, or as described by Paul in I Corinthians 14. That is: a gift of a known human language given to a non-native speaker, whereby he gives some form of revelation from God, in the presence of another believer who has the gift of interpretation, who interprets it back into the native language of the listeners. Since this gift was a sign primarily to unbelievers, we believe the time for this gift was in the transitional time of the church recorded in the book of Acts. We believe the Bible predicted the cessation of the gift of tongues once the apostolic and prophetic foundation of the church had been laid (I Eph 2:20, Cor 13:8-12).

Why don’t the women preach?

The women do not preach because the public preaching of the Word to a mixed audience of women and men by a female is expressly forbidden by I Timothy 2:11-15. Since we believe that the Bible is God’s Word, we believe God was able to write a book which would not go out of date or be irrelevant. The words written then were not conditioned by a particular cultural situation, nor was Paul a chauvinist or a bigot. Paul grounds these commands in the pre-cultural created order, and in the fall of mankind into sin. We believe that the public preaching of the Word is the declaration of authority, and the one who does so carries derived authority. Since God calls for male headship in the home and in the family, a woman preaching to a mixed audience would violate this principle. Headship does not mean superiority. God regards males and females as spiritual equals, while assigning them different roles in the home and in the church.

Why don’t we run children’s church during the service?

We actually do provide a place for mothers with infants. We do not object to a crèche to help parents whose children are not used to sitting in church, though we are currently limited by our facilities. We want to help people as much as possible focus on worship, and we understand that little children can be distracting. At the same time, we love the children! We want them to be exposed to worship as early as possible, and to begin to experience what it is to respond to truth about God. The earlier children experience this, the better. We do not want to simply whisk children off to a separate room to entertain them. We do have special ministries to children, aimed at their level of understanding. However, a child does not have to understand everything to benefit from corporate worship. In fact, it is the very fact that corporate worship is slightly out of reach for them that can give the motivation to grow in understanding and spiritual maturity. Therefore, we encourage families worshipping together as early as possible.

Why don’t we make our services more ‘seeker-friendly’?

By seeker-friendly, many people mean ‘accommodating a church’s atmosphere to the comfort of the unchurched visitor’. We are certainly desirous to welcome first-time visitors. There is always awkwardness when visiting a church, and we do not want to add to that at all. We try not to draw attention to people publicly, and set up opportunities for guests to be welcomed afterwards. Having said that, our focus in corporate worship is not evangelism, but worship. Evangelism may sometimes enter in, and a salvation message will often be preached. However, the purpose of church is not to attract the unbeliever, but to edify the saint as he or she exalts Christ in worship. Therefore, we do things which believers growing in grace will appreciate and participate in. It is not wrong for an unbeliever to be a curious witness or ‘eavesdropper’ on our services, even though they do not appreciate or understand it all. It may be one of the things the Lord uses to draw such a person to Himself (I Cor 14:24-25).

How should people dress to church?

We do not make any demands of people on their dress to corporate worship, except the commands for modesty given in I Tim 2:9 and I Pet 3:3-4. Certainly, we are happy to have unbelievers come in almost any form of dress! However, our dress communicates meaning. We all know this. We dress differently at a picnic from a job interview. We dress differently to a court than we do to a family braai. Our dress at a funeral differs from our dress at the mall. The occasion has a particular meaning, so we typically dress to reflect our understanding of that occasion. All we ask of believers is to consider the occasion of corporate worship. Is it serious? Is it reverent? Is it important? If so, then in some form, our dress should reflect that. Certainly, the external clothing is not enough to make up for an internal attitude that is irreverent or flippant. However, when the heart is right, such externals like dress certainly help us (and those who see us) make the most of corporate worship.

Why don’t we make church more fun for the children?

There is a difference between satisfaction and ‘fun’. We want our children to find deep satisfaction in God. We do not think they need to find church ‘fun’ in order to do so. Indeed, if we try to make church ‘fun’, we may find that our children associate God with amusement and entertainment, and become more and more self-centred in their approach to church. We should not be surprised if we eventually lose them to some other form of entertainment, if we have been feeding that appetite in the name of religion. God is a deep fountain of joy, and we do not want to rob our children of that by giving them cheap, trivialised substitutes in the name of ‘fun’. We do not have to be impatient to keep the children endlessly entertained. We can trust in the sovereignty of God to shape their hearts to love what is true, good and beautiful, if we love it ourselves by example.