Between our two services on Sunday mornings, we have a half-hour break for food and fellowship. We hope that the refreshments we serve won’t merely be seen as a reward for making it through a long sermon. We want them to encourage you to stay around and talk, to speak to visitors and to people you may not know, and to deepen existing friendships.
The New Testament envisions no other model of the Christian life than Christians sharing life together. We’re convinced that if the mark of Christ’s disciples is that we love one another (John 13:35), then it makes sense that we would love spending time together!
There isn’t anything wrong with it, but we don’t want to have to rely on an awkward, 1-minute stand-and-greet time during the service to manufacture a feeling of having greeted and had fellowship with each other at church. We want to build into our gatherings ample time to encourage and edify one another. So, we encourage people to come for the whole morning, enjoy the break between services, and even stick around afterward for more conversation and fellowship. It's part of how we're trying to build a church that really feels and functions like the family of God.
The method of teaching we employ is often called expository, or expositional, teaching. Expositional teaching serves both the teacher and the congregation by assuring that the whole counsel of God is taught, rather than simply a favorite soap box or hobby horse. The essence of expositional teaching is that the author’s main point in the text ought to be the teacher’s main point in his message. We have nothing better to offer than the simple communication of the Word of God, and our goal is to accurately convey what the original author intended to convey. Why should a pastor teach expositionally? Because God works through God’s word. God speaking is God acting.
- God created by His word (Gen. 1:3; Ps. 33:6), and He recreates us by His word (2 Cor. 4:5-6).
- God called Abraham to Himself by His word, and He calls believers to Himself by His word (Gen. 12:3; Rom. 8:30).
- God’s word causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:23).
- God’s word sanctifies us (Jn. 17:17).
- God’s word is at work in believers to bring us to glorify God in our lives more and more (1 Thess. 2:13).
God uses His Word to accomplish His purposes in the world (Isa. 55:10-11). What this means is that the only power our ministry will ever have comes from God’s Spirit working through God’s Word. The Spirit converts sinners through God’s Word. The Spirit builds up the saints through His church and His Word.
That is why we seek to teach expositionally—that is, to preach sermons that take the main point of a passage of Scripture, make it the main point of the sermon, and apply it to life today. Week by week the teacher seeks to start not from what he thinks the congregation needs to hear, but from what God has said to them in his Word.
Many churches today pass a collection plate during the service to collect money from the congregation. It may come as a surprise, but this is a relatively new custom, not being widely practiced until the late 19th century. Each church is free to decide how best to collect offerings from the congregation, and passing a plate during the service is certainly not a wrong way to accomplish that task. However, for a number of reasons, we have chosen to follow an old tradition of maintaining an offering box at the back of the sanctuary where congregants can deposit their gifts and offerings.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1–2, Paul urges the church, “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper…” Here we have a clear instruction from Paul to regularly put aside money at the church each week. Several principles stand out from this passage.
First, giving is an act of worship—a part of our regular Lord’s Day activities. In Philippians 4:18, Paul thanks the church in Philippi for their financial contributions and refers to their gifts as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Second, every believer is called to put something aside, to give to the church, regularly. Third, the believer’s giving should be in keeping with one’s income—in other words, although giving is sacrificial and ought to be generous, the goal is not to drive someone into poverty (see also Deut. 16:17; 2 Cor. 8:12–15).
A more general instruction is articulated later regarding giving regularly to the church. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul emphasizes that “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (see also Ex. 25:2; 2 Cor. 8:7–12). Here is our primary motivation for maintaining an offering box rather than passing a plate. While Scripture makes clear that believers are to regularly and generously give to the church for the church, it is equally clear both that believers must not be coerced into giving, and that the act of giving is an act of worship in humble obedience to God’s Word. Thus, our giving ought to be something that is done wholeheartedly, cheerfully, and with gratitude for the privilege of taking part in providing for the needs of the saints (1 Cor. 8:3–4).
Another reason we prefer not to pass a plate is to avoid the temptation to arrogant pomp or shame on the part of the giver, and to jealousy or pride on the part of any observers. In Matthew 6:1–4, Christ warns of the danger of wanting others to see you practicing righteousness when He says, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret. And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” When we give, we must examine our motives. We ought to give for the glory of God and the good of His people. We must desire His approval of our giving, rather than the praise and admiration of people (see also Gal. 1:10).
Again, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with passing a plate but, as a general practice, we have chosen to maintain an offering box at the back of the sanctuary so that congregants may deposit their offering more privately and with a cheerful heart.
In the early church, the pastor would teach from a seated position at a table. The table, or “sacred desk” was later raised to be a platform behind which to stand, closer to our modern pulpits. Around the 9th century, however, the pulpits began to be moved from the center off to the side of the chancel (stage), giving room for the communion table (called the “altar”) to take the place of prominence at the center of the chancel. This was an intentional, meaningful adjustment, as the liturgy came to be centered and focused on the Mass—the re-sacrifice of Christ which was believed to take place on the altar every week.
During the Protestant Reformation, Protestant churches began to move the pulpit back to the center of the chancel, in order to intentionally emphasize the centrality and primacy of the Word of God in the life of the church. The pulpits were built large and heavy, not to draw attention to the teacher, but to represent the weight and gravity of the preaching of the Word of God. Even the ornate carvings that were so often included on the front of the pulpit were deliberately intended to draw attention away from the one teaching, and rather to solely exalt the authority and sufficiency of the Holy Scripture. Our attention is to be not on the man, but on the message.
There is no intrinsic connection between a pulpit, or its placement, and the weight a congregation gives to the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. However, the fact has been, historically (including more recently), that when churches move or do away with the pulpit, the focus seems to inevitably shift away from the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. For example, when we trade out the pulpit for a music stand or stool off to the side, both pastor and congregation tend to instinctively rely more on the charisma, the rhetoric, and the “stage presence” of the speaker in order to capture and maintain the attention of an audience that is learning to expect an impressive and gratifying experience, rather than a message from the Word of God that is sufficient to equip the saints to better know, love, and follow God. A pulpit, on the other hand, can serve to signal to both the teacher and the congregation that we have come not to see an orator perform, but to hear from the Word of God. The teacher exposits the Word of God in order to instruct and shepherd the people of God in a way that can only be done through the ministering of the authoritative and sufficient Word of God. Therefore, we believe the use of a pulpit is a valuable tradition, and one worth conserving.
Although we have two Sunday morning services, our head pastor often only teaches in the second hour. We believe this is a valuable practice for several reasons. First, and perhaps foremost: while we would like to think that people are searching out good resources and sound teaching outside the Sunday morning time of worship (two hours a week is not enough time spent in God’s Word), the reality is that most people are only being fed, or at least only being fed depth and truth, for two hours a week—on Sunday morning. For that reason, we think there is immense value in having the other elders (and other capable men) teach the church regularly as well. We do not want the congregation to only ever be taught from one perspective, by one person. Only being taught by one person ever so easily and often leads to a congregation 1) missing out on other helpful perspectives, 2) relying on the charisma and likability of that one person, 3) slipping into a rut of never being challenged, and 4) running the risk of creating a “cult of personality”—only ever wanting to learn from one person. We feel that one effective way to guard against those propensities is to have other men teach regularly during the first service.
Of course, what really has to be understood by all is that no matter what the subject, there will never be a church that doesn’t make some of its members frustrated. There will never be music that appeals to every member; there will never be a service format that every member likes; and there will never be a teacher or pastor that is every member’s favorite. Some people find the variety of teachers refreshing and beneficial, while others would prefer the routine of hearing only one teacher.
The congregation, including the leadership, has to be flexible, patient, humble, and seeking to outdo one another in showing deference to each other’s needs and preferences (Rom. 12:10). Otherwise, the church will turn into (and stay) a small clique of people who are each just like everyone else. While that would be most comfortable perhaps, it doesn’t make for a healthy church that’s becoming more like Christ.
Another reason for this format is that we truly believe it is beneficial to the church as a whole for the head pastor to continue being taught by other men in the church. It ultimately, we believe, will be healthy for the church as a whole for the head pastor to sit under the teaching of his fellow elders, and that this will result in sustainability and longevity in ministry both for the head pastor and for Fairview Bible Church as a whole.
One more important reason we think it is valuable to have the other elders, specifically, continue teaching is that it seems to better fit a biblical model of church leadership. The Bible describes a plurality of elders who are “apt to teach,” who are to share in the shepherding of the congregation. While it’s beneficial to have at least one elder being supported so that he can devote his time to the ministry without having his attention divided by seeking to provide for his family elsewhere, the authority and responsibility given to the office of elder to lead, teach, and shepherd the congregation is given to the council of elders corporately. Thus, it is important to recalibrate our perspective to understand that when any one of the elders teaches, we are being taught by one of our shepherds just as much as when the paid elder, or head pastor, teaches.
In reality, the head pastor is not being paid solely to teach as much as humanly possible. While that is the primary, most public, and perhaps the most time consuming, of his responsibilities, there is much more to leading and shepherding a congregation than simply teaching across the pulpit, and so we believe it is healthy both for the church as a whole to be taught by the others, as well as for the head pastor to be able to devote some of his time to other aspects of ministry as well. This is one way the elders are truly seeking to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11–12).