Today, my family worshiped at "The Gathering," a new church in Monett, MO co-pastored by my good friend, Justin Guffey. The church meets in the Monett Senior Center. The center has a large room ideal for worship. Tables are pushed to the side, and rows of chairs are set-up, along with sound system, mics, and video projector. There is also an adjacent kitchen, which the church uses for fellowship before the worship service, and a potluck luncheon after the worship service, each and every week.
A few minutes before the service started, all the men were invited to a back room for prayer. The men laid hands on Justin and several voiced prayers for him, the sermon, and the service. After prayer, the men came out and the service began. There were about 40-50 people present. Many of the attendees were young couples with children, although there were also some middle aged couples and two to three older ladies as well. There was no children's church. The little ones stayed in the service with their parents. Some quietly played. Some snacked. Some even walked around a little. But this was expected, and no one seemed to mind.
After the singing portion of the service, Justin came to the front and preached an expository sermon from Psalm 40. Justin preached for 45-50 minutes, occasionally soliciting feedback from the congregation. It was obvious that the congregation took the preaching time seriously, as many were taking notes. At one point Justin asked them to repeat the main points of the sermon, which many of them could do. Justin and Brandon alternate preaching every other week.
Two elements of a "traditional" Baptist worship service were notably missing - namely the offering and the invitation. As for the offering, I assume the church knows to give their offerings to a designated person. This wasn't verbalized, (and I assume this is intentional). In lieu of an invitation at the end of the sermon, Brandon transitioned the church into preparing for the Lord's Supper which they take every week. After Brandon read a passage of Scripture, Justin passed around a tray of sandwich bread broken into little pieces, and plastic cups with grape juice. It was emphasized several times during the sermon that people have a responsibility to respond to the Gospel, and both Justin and Brandon hung around a long time after the service, and were readily available to anyone who wanted to talk.
Finally, after the Lord's Supper, two announcements were made to close the service. The first announcement was that there would be a churchwide fellowship at Justin's house for the purpose of discussing how the church could begin reaching out to its community. The other announcement was the beginning of the church's first small group, which would meet on a Wednesday night and begin a study of how to be an effective listener when the Word of God is taught/preached.
If you have never visited a brand new church, I would highly recommend it. There is often a strong spirit of liberty (no bondage to traditions), love, and excitement to see what God has in store. The Gathering certainly demonstrates these qualities. Say a prayer that God would bless and use this group of believers.