For most people it can be intimidating to step into a new setting of people for the first time. It is common for first time guests to be nervous about how it will go. Harvest strives to be a welcoming community for all people, while at the same time not apologizing for seeking to do what God has commanded us to do.
Below are some quick answers to common questions, followed by a brief description of what to expect in our various gatherings...
What will people think of me? If you are thinking that, just know that we are probably wondering the same thing... what do you, our guest, think about us? So we are in the same boat. We want you to like us just as much as you want us to like you. Truth be told, our goal is to view everyone as a special creation of God, made in His image, and therefore worthy of our love and respect and kindness.
Will they pressure me to give money? Absolutely not. Our members and regular attenders support this church in gratitude for what God has done in their lives and because they believe in the mission and ministry of Harvest. We do not expect our guests to give.
Am I going to be asked to talk in front of everyone? No. You are welcome to just be a guest and observer in our weekly Congregational Gathering (we call it MACRO CHURCH) or in one of our LIFE Groups.
Are they going to do strange or weird things? That completely depends on what you consider strange or weird. Do you find it weird that people clap and shout at sporting events when they get excited? Well, some people find it strange that in our weekly Congregational Gathering (MACRO CHURCH) some people will clap or shout, but we think it's normal to express our excitement for our wonderful Savior and what He has done for us. Some might also find Baptism and the Lord's Supper to be strange, but each of those practices have deep significance to us who love Jesus.
What about my kids? Where do they go? See below for more information about how children participate at Harvest.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN OUR VARIOUS GATHERINGS
At Harvest we emphasize three types of gatherings...
(a) MACRO CHURCH - On Sunday mornings at 9:15 at The Hub (11570 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville), this gathering will consist of anywhere between 50 and 80 people. For most people this is the first environment they experience at Harvest.
Here's what to expect in our MACRO CHURCH Gatherings...
A typical MACRO CHURCH gathering includes...
- singing songs about God and to God; these songs are usually in a contemporary music style; some people will clap, some people will verbally express thanks to God, and some will lift hands to God. Some songs are upbeat and elebrative in tone while others are more slow and reflective.
- a couple of talks (aka messages or sermons) straight from the Bible about God and Christian living. These generally last anywhere from 15-25 minutes each. Most Sundays our pastor delivers both of these talks, one called the "Bible Teaching" (which is usually an expositional message from a specific passage of the Bible) and another message called "The Equipping Lesson" (which is a practical message designed to our church members to apply a specific Christian teaching or advance a specific church initiative). Our pastor strives to bring interactive messages, sometimes asking the listeners for feedback during the message, sometimes even taking the microphone out to the listeners for them to comment or ask questions (although he won't put guests or new people on the spot!).
- prayers throughout the gathering, including a weekly prayer for God to raise up laborers for the Harvest (see Luke 10.2 in the Bible).
- announcements and instructions.
Some MACRO CHURCH gatherings...
- short videos showing the ways God is working in the world or highlighting mission opportunities
- personal testimonies from people about how God has answered prayer or is working in their lives
- on a monthly basis we briefly celebrate birthdays and anniversaries
- special presentations (by the children of our church or by others)
- Lord's Supper - remembering Christ's death by eating a small wafer of bread and drinking a small cup of grape juice, which symbolize the body (bread) and blood (juice) of Jesus Christ and how His sacrificial, atoning death on the cross provided for us the forgiveness of our sins. We celebrate the Lord's Supper monthly.
- Baptism - celebrating when a person enters into the Christian life as a new believer, immersing them in water as a symbol of how they are buried with Christ and then raised to new life (see Romans 6.4 in the Bible).
In these MACRO CHURCH gatherings, anyone and everyone is welcome to join us, especially those who are investigating the Christian faith for themselves.
(b) Our LIFE Groups - While most people are introduced to Harvest via the Congregational Gathering, sometimes a person's first experience at Harvest is a LIFE Group. Consisting of usually 5 to 12 people, these gatherings meet on Sunday mornings at The Hub and throughout the week in homes.
Here's what to expect in our LIFE Group gatherings...
- a discussion about the Bible and the Christian life
- reading Bible verses and passages
- testimonies of God's goodness
- encouragement of one another
- requests for prayer about spiritual and relational issues; prayer for one another about these issues
- requests for prayer about physical and emotional issues; prayer for healing for one another
- talk about how to spread the Good News of Jesus with others; prayer for people who don't know Jesus
You are welcome to attend and observe our LIFE Group gatherings without any pressure to participate. You may be asked if you have anything to share with the group, but there is no pressure.
(c) Our Accountability Groups (ATOMIC Church) - We call them Atomic Churches because they are so small but also so powerful! These groups consist of 2-4 people of the same gender, and meet for accountability in three areas of life: personal spiritual disciplines, personal mission, and personal holiness. It is in this setting that we confess our sins to each other and pray for each other's most personal and private needs. As one would expect, because of the intensely personal and private level of conversations, this particular gathering is not an environment for guests.
WHAT ABOUT MY KIDS?
Our MACRO CHURCH Gatherings are for ALL ages. It has only been in the past one hundred years or so of Christian history (out of almost 2,000 years) that churches have begun the practice of segregating children and teenagers from the adults in congregational gatherings. We do not find this recent "innovation" taught by command, or by example, in the Bible. Rather, we have noticed that, generally speaking, churches who do not segregate children from the adults in church gatherings are more likely to produce mature young adult believers. Therefore, we encourage you to bring your children to our gatherings. Furthermore, recent research has revealed that the more churches segregate children from adults in church settings, the more likely those children will not continue practicing their faith in their adult years.
We do have LIFE Groups for all ages of children that meet for about an hour on Sunday mornings shortly after the conclusion of the Congregational Gathering, including a nursery for the babies and toddlers. In these LIFE Groups, we seek to accomplish the same objectives as the adult LIFE Groups, seeking to develop healthy disciples of Jesus who love love & obey the Lord Jesus (WORSHIP), show & share Jesus (MISSION), and love & edify one another (COMMUNITY).
When you join us at Harvest, please don't hesitate to approach someone if you have any questions or need anything.