One of the main purposes of these information sessions is to help you gain an understanding of the theological principles that underpin the way we make decisions at CSAC. This was again evident in our last session on how we structure our services as well as the way we plan our preaching program.
We began the session with a Bible Study on 2 Timothy 3:10-4:5 in small groups. In the passage, we noticed how Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in what he had learned and have become convinced of through Holy Scripture which will not only make him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, but is also useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:14-16). God’s word is therefore to be for Timothy what he keeps going back to. Indeed, it is also what he’s to preach – to correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 4:2).
Just as God’s word must be central to Timothy’s life, it must also be central in the church in which Timothy oversees. It is therefore no surprise that God’s word is central in our church, for by it we too can be made wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Accordingly, God’s word is central to the principles we apply in the way we structure our services and plan our preaching program.
The Structure of our Services
Our services are primarily structured with biblical principles drawn from 1 Corinthians 13-14. There are four worth noting.
First, everything must be done in love. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Our motivation really matters, whether that’s the attitude we have when we welcome a stranger, to the way we lead the service. We must do all things out of love for God first loved us.
Second,the word of God must be central and intelligible in our gatherings. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue
We apply this principle in various ways. For example, we encourage our service leaders to begin and end the service with Scripture (and prayer). Furthermore, we ensure the heart of the service is the Bible reading and the sermon. This means we not only pray for the preacher, but also the Bible reader. We also place the Bible reading and sermon in the middle of the service. That way, we can prepare ourselves to hear God’s word, and have an opportunity to respond to God’s word.
Third, the service is structured and orderly. 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
And so, our service leader makes clear how everyone can participate throughout the service. Likewise, we also have a monthly structure for our services, including the kinds of prayers we pray, the kinds of announcements we make, and even the liturgy we use. That is, we seek to not only be orderly in how we run each service, but how we run every service every month. So, you may have noticed the following
- Week 1 – we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together
- Week 2 – we express our communion with saints of the past as we recite the Apostles’ Creed
- Week 3 – we are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness in a Psalm
- Week 4 – we pray the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught his disciples to pray
Fourth, everything is done so the church may be built up. This is exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26b,
Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
When the church gathers, it is the people of God gathering around the word of God. Church is therefore primarily for believers so that they might be built up. However, unbelievers should feel welcomed, just as we have been welcomed into the family of God. Furthermore, unbelievers should not only understand what is being taught and done, but that they might even fall down and worship God with us (1 Cor 14:25).
I trust you see these principles at play in our services every week, but I’m sure there are ways we can keep improving. If you have thoughts and ideas, I’d love to hear from you.
Planning our Preaching Program
In addition to thinking through the structure of our services, we also considered the principles we adopt when planning our preaching program.
When the Apostle Paul was heading for Jerusalem, he stopped in Miletus and sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:22). He knew he won’t see them again (Acts 20:25), but he could leave with a clear conscience knowing that he had not hesitated to proclaim to them the whole will of God (Acts 20:27). Accordingly, it’s reasonable for Paul to be confident in their ongoing ministry in Ephesus since they now know the whole will of God.
Similarly, that is our desire at CSAC. We want to teach you the whole will of God. To do this, we are committed to preach expository sermons. That is, sermons preached verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, as the staple diet for our spiritual nourishment since that is how we have received God’s word. This not only means that as ministers, we continue to be challenged and encouraged by God’s word in fresh ways as we prepare our sermons, but that God chooses the topics and themes we must preach week after week.
Given the Bible is a large collection of 66 books, with various genres and lengths, we seek to cover a spectrum of them every year. So, in any given year we will have a sermon series on the following:
- Old Testament Narrative
- Old Testament Prophet
- Old Testament Wisdom
- New Testament Gospel
- New Testament Epistle
Since we plan our sermons well in advance, I can share with you that next year we will cover the following books of the Bible
- Old Testament Narrative – Genesis
- Old Testament Prophet – Isaiah
- Old Testament Wisdom – Psalms & Proverbs
- New Testament Gospel – Matthew
- New Testament Epistle – 2 Peter
However, this doesn’t mean we don’t do topical or thematic sermons. We certainly do. There are various topical sermons we cover, which include at least the following:
- Cultural Engagement
- Commitment Month
Next year, we have based our topical sermons on your feedback. And so, we will be covering the following topics next year:
- REAL Training – Has science killed God?
- Weekend Away – Gospel generosity
- Post-Easter Outreach Series – Is Jesus still relevant?
- Commitment Month – God’s mission, our mission
As you will notice, 2 of these series will be on Sundays, while the other 2 will be outside of our Sunday Services so that our main diet remains expository sermons.
As a church, our mission is to make, mature and mobilise disciples of Jesus Christ from every nation for God’s glory. This means we are a training church, a church that makes disciples who in turn make disciples. Accordingly, we seek to train up preachers and give them opportunities to preach as much as possible. However, preaching opportunities are very limited if there’s only one congregation.
As the senior minister, I’ve been encouraged by a minister I highly respect to preach 70% of sermons in a year, which is approximately 40 sermons a year. The reason is that as a growing church, the senior minister needs to continue to shape the theology and direction of the church. This may therefore change if we become a larger church, but for now, it means that I will preach at both English Services if the 5pm Service is launched next year.
The diocese also sets expectations that Assistant Curates (like David Shannon) preach 12 sermons a year and Student Ministers (like Luke Pedersen) preach 4 times a year as part of their training. We would also like our lay ministers (like Jonathan Chaintrier and Greg Wong) preach regularly, and be able to provide opportunities for lay leaders (such as Jason Ling, Bryn and Kate Weightman, Em Shannon) to preach as well. Since there aren’t enough preaching spots at our 10am English Service, we’ve been thankful that they’ve been opportunities to preach at our men’s breakfast and women’s events, as well as at other churches which we’ve been able to arrange from time to time. If we continued to see growth and therefore a need to launch a new English Service, it would certainly increase the opportunities we have to raise up faithful preachers of God’s word.
We then ended the night with a thorough look at the role of men and women in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. We reaffirmed the biblical truths that men and women are created equal (Gen 1:27), justified in the same way (Gal 3:28), but with different roles and responsibilities in marriage (Eph 5:22-33; 1 Pet 3:1-7) and the church (1 Tim 2-3). Accordingly, the general practice at CSAC is that men will preach in mixed congregations and women are encouraged and trained to preach to women. However, when requested by the diocese that a female bishop is to preach in our gathering, we will continue to express our unity in the gospel as it is a secondary issue.
As you can see, a lot was covered very quickly in this session. So, if you would like to discuss any of this further, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I would love to clarify any questions you may have.
Information Session 4: Making disciples and Discipleship Teams
In our next session on Sunday 21 October, we will explore the ways in which we seek to make disciples in our church, and the importance of our Discipleship Teams in the life of our church.