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Special services present an opportunity for celebration within the body of Christ. The wise use of special services will but also provide opportunity to invite and encourage those outside of the body to attend a local church.
A number of resources are available to help a minister in planning special services. One such resource is available through the General Conference. Additional resources are available through local Christian Bookstores in the ministry resources section. A wise minister will acquire and make good use of those resources to amply plan special services. Following are some specific services the church should consider.
We in the Churches of God recognize three specific ordinances: Baptism, Communion and Feet Washing. Any one of the ordinances may be offered either as a private worship encounter or as a special corporate celebration of the Church community. The use of a special service does encourage individual believers as well as the church body as a whole.
Baptism: A celebrative service of the Church, which commemorates the baptized person’s life in and identification with the Church, or the Body of Christ. It is a ritual in which the person is immersed in water in order to signify the deeper meaning of Baptism – that is, repentance and commitment to God’s will, (“We Believe” pg 33). Although the observance of baptism is personal for the believer, it is an ideal opportunity for the entire body to rejoice together as a family.
Communion: A service that commemorates the event instituted by our Lord with His disciples during his final night with them. The two elements of communion include bread, as a symbol of the broken body of Christ, and wine, as a symbol of the blood of Christ shed for the sins of humanity. The service of communion may be both contemplative and celebrative. It’s contemplation comes first as we remember the burden of Christ and his sacrifice for us. It is also contemplative in that it is a time that demand examination of one’s self as we participate. Communion should also have a component of celebration. Because of the sacrifice of Christ we have the opportunity to experience the forgiveness of our sin and to take upon us the promise of eternal life made possible by His victory of death and the grave. There is also another celebrative factor in that when we take communion we not only recall his death, but also look to his second coming. We practice open communion, welcoming any and all born again believers to participate with us. (“We Believe” pg 38)
There is no Biblical mandate to the frequency of this service. This is at the discretion of local church traditions and practice. Communion should at least be observed during Holy Week and on worldwide communion Sunday. Some churches observe it quarterly and others even more frequently. When planned appropriately, it will be a blessed and unifying service of the church.
Feet Washing: A ceremony also instituted by our Lord during that last night he was with his disciples (John 13). This observance is more personal than either of the other two ordinances. While a public worship setting is okay, a small personal setting may augment a cherished experience for the participants. Feet washing may be done in harmony with communion or as a separate service. This fine tradition of the church should be emphasized as very special event in the individual believer as he relates to his fellow servants. (“We Believe” pg. 35)
The event of new life is cause for joy and commemoration. Parents should be instructed that while the Churches of God does not practice infant baptism, we do encourage and promote baby dedication as an accurate biblical concept (“We Believe” pg. 40). Baby dedication is a commitment of the parents to raise their child within the influence of Judeo-Christian family values and in the instruction of the New Testament church. While dedication does not provide salvation, it will hopefully be the seed planted within an intentional family commitment that will one day take root and provide an environment to encourage the child to accept Christ as they grow and mature.
The Churches of God endorses a formal membership role. One of the more endearing purposes of local church membership is the opportunity for a public statement of commitment by an individual to serve God through a local church of his/her choice. It is understood that “church membership” does not provide for, nor enable personal salvation. We join the local church not to be saved, but because we are saved. As a church member we are given opportunity to encourage other believers as well as to influence the general ministry and outreach to those not yet saved. Therefore, each perspective church member should be adequately instructed concerning the principles, doctrines and practices of the Churches of God General Conference. (Ref. “Membership” of this manual)
At certain times, members of a local church may be called to other ministries such as pastor, training, missions, etc., that will require relocation. Such events may be commemorated by a commissioning or sending service. Such services should be done as a true celebration and understanding that this is not the loss of leadership, but an opportunity to expand the influence of those disciples of the local church. A public service would be encouraged and if possible to use the resources of regional or general conference representatives when appropriate.
It is appropriate to have a groundbreaking ceremony at the onset of a building program; this is basically a formal act in which the first shovel of ground is symbolically dug or turned for expansion or new construction. An open public service and should include an appropriate message or speaker that will address the value of vision and faith taken by the local church.
To dedicate or consecrate is a formal and symbolic service of a commitment to use physical items for the ministry of Christ and his church. Such services may include portions that will be both celebrative and contemplative. This is a time of public testimony of the local church saying that all things are of and from the Lord and are to be used for His glory and service.
New Buildings: Upon completion of a new building, a public worship service should be held in which the new facility is formally dedicated to the ministry of Christ and his Church. Such services may include local community leaders, design and construction representatives, and regional and general conference leaders. The formal service need not be held as the first service in a building. It is often advantageous to make use of the building a few weeks to assure that mechanical and technical components are functioning correctly. The service should be held in the first few months of occupancy. There are a variety of formats available. The formal worship should include regular worship components and also incorporate comments by guests, an appropriate message of challenge and thankfulness of God’s blessings. There is often a formal presentation of the key from the contractor to the appropriate leader within the church. At some point a formal prayer of dedication should be offered.
Improvements: Similar to new construction, the remodeling or improvements of the physical building should be dedicated with an appropriate service to commemorate and celebrate the completion of the project. A format similar to new construction may be followed.
Equipment: The purchase of new equipment can be as exciting as new construction. Equipment items that provide opportunity for public worship event includes worship articles such as Narthex or sanctuary furniture, Communion servers, pews/chairs, musical instruments (organ, piano, etc.), sound equipment, artwork, etc. While new equipment may not seem as dynamic as a new building, it is comparatively as important to the work of the church.
Being released from the debt of a previous project is a true opportunity of celebration. Such services may include representative of mortgage holder in which a document is symbolically presented to appropriate church leaders who will in turn be led in a ceremony of burning the mortgage. Care should be used in the actual burning to avoid violating any fire laws and to prevent any damage to carpet or furniture. There are a variety of formats available. The formal worship should include regular worship components and also incorporate comments by guests, an appropriate message of challenge and thankfulness of God’s blessings. At some point a formal prayer of thanksgiving should be offered.
A special service to install new officers each year should be done either the Sunday prior, or the first Sunday of the church year. This is a very special event in which the congregation publicly entrusts their representative authority upon the elected persons. The service should include a formal introduction of each officer and a brief description as to area of service. The installation should include a charge to those elected and another charge to the congregation who has demonstrated their trust in these individuals to lead.
The installation of pastor(s) should be done in cooperation with the regional/conference leadership. A special speaker may be either a person selected by the new pastor or a representative of the appropriate region/conference. The message should address the biblical role of the pastor as well as the biblical model of church and pastor relationship. At an appropriate point of the service, a formal installation should be led by regional /conference personnel. An example of this is available in the CGGC minister’s handbook.
A should be noted that a formal installation is only a few minutes in length and should include appropriate scripture, a charge to the pastor to be a faithful servant to Christ and his church. It will also include another charge to the congregation to support the pastor as God’s servant and leader for them. It should be concluded by the laying on of hands and a prayer of service for the new pastor. It is appropriate for the newly installed pastor to give a response and bring a close to the serve.
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