Where is Ascension located?
We are at 800 McIntosh Rd, Sarasota, FL 34232. This is seven blocks south of Fruitville Rd. and three blocks north of Bahia Vista, on the west side of McIntosh Rd.
When are services held?
Sunday Worship is at 9:30 a.m. and provides a joyful but reverent experience, with a traditional, liturgical and hymn-based service.
What is Ascension like?
We are a smaller church, with about 150 people worshipping each Sunday. Our visitors often comment that they like the friendliness of our church, which we have verified with first time visitor surveys. We also are proud to offer the Sarasota community excellence in education through our 4-star rated Lutheran Preschool (VPK Participant) and our award-winning K-8 Elementary/Middle School. We are a nationally accredited school (NCPSA, WELSSA) offering premium education with the highest standards. We have extremely low student/teacher ratios allowing for more direct and one on one education, as well as a family atmosphere in which children thrive. We are part of the fourth largest private school system in the U.S., and enjoy a 150 year track record of education, by God’s grace!
What’s your Sunday worship like?
Every Christian church has its own style of worshiping Jesus. We think you’ll enjoy the reverent, joyful worship at Ascension. However, as with any church you’re not familiar with, you should expect it to take at least a couple Sundays to become accustomed to our worship of Jesus. We make our worship as easy-to-follow as possible. Each week an outline of the service is printed in our service folder along with hymnal page references. The readings are also printed there for you. Of course, you’re always welcome to bring along your own Bible, which we encourage people to do.
Our worship is liturgical, which means we have a set order of worship every week. Every Sunday we focus on God’s Word and Sacrament because only through those does God freely offer us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In our worship we use traditional forms along with modern language and applications. The traditional features of our worship bring us the best from God’s Church throughout the ages, while the contemporary features remind us that God’s promises of forgiveness, guidance, and peace still apply to our daily lives. We pray that through our worship your faith will be strengthened in those promises!
Music is also an important part of our worship. Through our music and choirs we express our thanks to God for his wonderful salvation. Our powerful hymns remind us of the many wonderful things our Savior has done for us and for our salvation. They take some time to learn, but once you’ve learned them you’ll never forget them!
What is a liturgy?
The liturgy is our order of service. Our worship contains many of the same elements as that of the early Christian church. It includes the following:
- The Confession of Sins: As we approach our holy God in the dialogue of worship, we begin by confessing to God that we have failed to live up to the perfect standards in his law, and we plead for his mercy.
- The Announcement of Forgiveness: The pastor announces God's forgiveness of sins won for us by the perfect life and innocent sufferings and death of Jesus, our Savior.
- A Song of Praise: These songs of praise remind us of the wonderful things God has done for us, not the least of which is the salvation he gives through Christ.
- Prayer of the Day: The Church brings her concerns and prayers to a loving Father in heaven, who has shown great mercy and promised to hear our cries for help.
- Scripture Readings: The pastor reads (usually) three selections from the Bible. They usually include one selection from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament epistles (letters), and one from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John).
- Sermon: The pastor offers instruction and encouragement in a sermon, usually based on one of the three readings. Expect to hear God’s guidance for dealing with the problems of life, along with the promises of forgiveness and eternal life in heaven through Jesus.
- Response to the Word: We respond with offerings and prayers for the things God has promised us and for strength to do what he has asked.
- Holy Communion: Currently we celebrate Holy Communion on every first and third Sunday of the month. Before communing, however, we ask our visitors to please speak with the pastor. As a congregation we practice “Close Communion” also known as membership or fellowship communion. For a further explanation of this practice, please see below.
- Final Blessing: As we move out of the formal worship service into the week ahead, we hear one last assurance of God’s guidance and love.
What is Close or Fellowship Communion?
One of the most frequently asked questions people have about worship at Ascension is our practice of close or fellowship (membership) Communion. First of all, a disclaimer: we do not practice membership Communion to be exclusionary or judgmental. Nor is it out of a “holier than thou” attitude. We want all people to join us for this heavenly banquet. So please don’t think that we want to exclude you. Nothing could be further from the truth. That being said, the Scriptures do have some very definite things to say about who is to be invited to the Lord’s Table, and what message is sent by kneeling and receiving the Sacrament together. Just as a powerful medicine comes with a clear prescription that must be followed for one’s health safety, so the powerful medicine of Holy Communion comes with God’s own prescription for whom and how it is to be received. The Bible is actually quite clear on this, even though most churches today have abondoned this historic and biblical doctrine. That’s why we ask that you talk to our pastor so we have a chance to explain what the Bible has to say and our practice more fully.
Do you have Sunday School and Bible Class?
Yes, for all ages! PreK through grade 8, teens, and adults all have classes with age appropriate material. Sunday School classes for the kids are relaxed and informal, yet instructive in the key Bible History lessons. Teens enjoy informative classes on issues they are facing as well as deeper studies in Biblical doctrine. No Biblical knowledge is required, and you will not be forced to answer or read out loud. You may simply sit and enjoy the class or add as much input and discussion as you like. Question are always welcome and encouraged. Our Pastor has a Master's Degree in Theology with an emphasis on the Biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew. We enjoy timely, topical studies as well as studying directly from various books of the Bible.
Our Pastor also offers a free, basic Christian doctrine course entitled "The Four Key Concepts of the Bible." If you would like to join a class or arrange a personal class in your home or at the church, please feel free to call the office (941) 371-2978 to make arrangements.
Can I remain anonymous or will I be pointed out to everyone as a visitor?
We do not ask visitors to stand up and be introduced as some churches do. Our ushers, greeters, and some regular worshipers will probably greet you as you enter and leave church. It is up to you whether you wish to have an extended conversation with us. Many visitors attend several times before they wish to have a conversation.
Is it okay to just watch at first?
It is unpleasant to be pressured or to be part of a “membership drive” as though we were heads of cattle, isn’t it? We believe that church membership is a voluntary thing, and that the most important thing is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. People need time to evaluate and decide if they want to get further involved. We respect that need.
What should I wear?
Sometimes people wonder how they are expected to dress at a church they’ve never visited before. Since the Bible presents no dress code, aside from simple modesty, we don’t make any rules either. Like most people, our members try to make their worship time at church a special time. This is often reflected in the way they dress. However, on any given Sunday you may see running shoes and high heels, jeans and suits, open collars and ties. When a person dresses out of love for God, the choice of dress (casual or more formal) is acceptable to God . . . and us.
What if I use a wheelchair, or have special vision or hearing needs?
Large print copies of the worship folder and hymns are available from the ushers. We have a number of wheelchair accessible parking spaces, and our building is also wheelchair accessible. If you need special hearing or any other assistance while you are at Ascension, please let us know!
What about an offering?
“When will they take the offering?” “How will it be collected?” “How much am I expected to give?” “Do they want visitors to contribute too?” These are typical worries about church offerings. Members of Ascension give offerings out of love to the Lord. The gifts of God are free, and as guests, however, we want the blessings of this service to be a gift to you.
For members, Scripture teaches that our offerings to God should reflect our belief that everything we have is a gift of God. He does not compel us to give “a tithe” as he did the Old Testament believer. Instead, St. Paul tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). In other words, don’t feel compelled by guilt or embarrassment to give an offering. We want all offerings to be made freely and with joy. Like most Christians, our members bring offerings to God through their church. Because offerings are gifts of love for God, no one dictates what each person is to give. We pass an offering plate after the sermon so that our worship may include bringing gifts to God.
What about my children?
We love to have children and families worship together! The back pews are reserved for families with small children—though you’re welcome up front too. Sometimes, however, it gets a bit hard for little ones to sit through a service. To help you, we have put together a number of “quiet bags” with books and other toys to help hold your child’s attention during the service. Should you need to get up and give them some room to “go mobile”, the church entryway is a good place for children to regain their composure and then rejoin us for worship. However, we've also recently added a staffed nursery for infants. Our female members of the church (mostly moms themselves) volunteer to watch your infant in our nursery, so that you can really focus on our service and God's Word.
Are there refreshments after the service?
After the Sunday service and just prior to the Bible hour, we offer coffee and refreshments in our Christian Enrichment Center. (If you don’t know where that is, simply follow the long line of people!) This is a great time to get to know the members and for us to get to know you! Food has a way of winning hearts and we have some of the best bakers in the business, with many years of practice!
What if I don’t know much about the Bible?
First a disclaimer: there are no “super-Christians” at Ascension. None of us have our Bibles completely memorized (at least not yet!). If we did, we might feel that church was unnecessary. Worship and Bible study are opportunities to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and faith in Jesus. You won’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to answer. And remember, sometimes the wisest words we say are, “I don’t know.”
Is your church full of “perfect” people?
No! Our church is a spiritual hospital. It’s not a religious club for spiritually healthy people; it’s a walk-in clinic for hurting souls. Jesus himself said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Mt 9:12). Jesus is the Great Physician of our souls. So don’t come to Ascension expecting to find perfect people. We’re far from perfect! That’s why we’re at church—to hear that we are forgiven, and to be healed in Christ, to in turn go out and reach the world with his healing love.
How do I find out more about your teachings?
If you would like to read more about our beliefs and practices, check out the website of our church body, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).
What’s WELS or Wisconsin Synod?
Ascension Lutheran Church is a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). The word “synod” (pronounced sin’ id) is a Greek word that means, “walking together.” The name contains Wisconsin because it was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1850. WELS includes over 1,300 congregations worldwide, with a membership of about 400,000. This church body unites us with Christians across our country and around the world. It allows us to pool our resources for training church workers, doing mission work both at home and abroad, and producing published materials such as hymnals, Bible studies and other books. Our congregation and Synod stand firmly on all the teachings of Scripture. We believe that Jesus is our Savior and the only way to heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Through faith in Jesus we are united to him and each other. The name “Lutheran” comes from the great reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546). In a period in history when the Church had lost sight of its Savior and the truth of his Word, Martin Luther boldly challenged these errors and preached Jesus Christ alone as Savior. We are proud to remember his work in bringing to light the truth of God’s Word by using his name to identify ourselves.
A Final Thought
We pray that this has helped answer some of your questions and alleviate your fears. Our mission as a congregation is quite simple. We want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all people on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. Everything we do is meant to accomplish that one goal. We pray that there is nothing that stands in your way from learning more about your Savior at Ascension Lutheran Church. Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do for you.
God’s richest blessings to you. We look forward to meeting you!