Sunday Night Church: Blessing or Burden?

VIII. The Lord’s Day

The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

FBC Farmersville meets for worship on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings. Not nearly as many people come, and of the people who do attend, not nearly all of them would complain if Sunday evening worship were simply to disappear.

And I confess for myself, there have been times that the Sunday evening service has felt burdensome to me. Evening worship means delivering another sermon after I’ve already preached twice and (for now) taught a Sunday School lesson. For a portion of the year, it comes after I have taught a discipleship class on Sunday evening. At least once each month it comes just before a meeting with our deacons. Frequently it comes after other administrative meetings have taken place on Sunday afternoon. There have been Sundays on which the evening worship service felt burdensome.

And I can tell that some of our people sometimes feel the same way. They have to get the kids ready again to come up to our campus. They have to drive here. They have to stay up later. They have to pay attention and stay alert after having done so Sunday morning. Sometimes evening worship feels burdensome to them.

It’s easy enough to set aside an evening worship time once you realize that 11:00 am worship and 6:00 pm worship is not a schedule arising out of any scriptural edict. There is no “thou shalt come back to the meeting house after thine afternoon nap” verse buried in Hebrews anywhere. If we’re going to have a Sunday evening worship service, it should be because evening worship services bless us. If they are unnecessarily burdensome to us, then they should cease to exist.

But we still have Sunday evening worship, and we do so because I have come to believe that Sunday evening worship services actually are a blessing to us if we look at them the right way.

The New Testament does not establish a set schedule for worship. The text of the New Testament explicitly precludes us from making one day particularly holy above the others, but it also highlights the first day of the week (i.e., the Lord’s Day…the day on which the Resurrection was discovered) as the day upon which you could expect to find a Christian church gathered for worship. The list of Bible references at the end of the BF&M article that I quoted above gives a decent overview of biblical teaching in this regard. I would only add to the committee’s list this additional passage from Acts:

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:41-47, NASB, emphasis mine.

If the New Testament does not specify a pattern of two worship services held weekly on Sunday, it was because they were actually meeting for worship a good deal more than that. If twenty-first-century American Christians are moving away from a pattern of two worship services held weekly on Sunday, it is because we’re trying to meet for worship a good deal less than that. That’s an enormous difference.

The pattern indicated in Acts two is one of daily teaching, daily corporate study, daily corporate prayer, daily corporate fellowship, and daily evangelism. Sunday corporate worship sometimes lingered into the wee hours of the night (see Acts 20:7). The early church worshipped a lot, and although worship was the occupation of the church on every day, the first day of the week clearly had special significance for Christians from the very beginnings of the church.

So, now we come back to the blessing or burden question.

Give over at least one entire day of the week to worshipping God. This quota lies far below the common practice of the New Testament church, and presuming a twelve-hour day, amounts to only about 7% of your time—far less than a tithe. Set aside the Lord’s Day for worship. Sure, go ahead and eat. Take care of personal necessities like getting a shower in the morning and the like. But otherwise, set apart the day for worshipping God, corporately in your morning worship service and then in private devotion for whatever portion of the day is not occupied by corporate worship.

Here’s what I think you’ll discover: When you try to occupy eight hours or so of your time in private worship, you’ll appreciate the helpful blessing that corporate worship truly is: Somebody else to pick songs for you to sing and to sing them with you, somebody else to interact with the teachings of God’s word and to engage you in dialogue over them, somebody else to join you in prayer, etc. When you’re trying to give the Lord an entire day of worship, worshipping privately whenever you are not worshipping corporately, I think you’ll find that you look forward to the change of pace and the companionship that corporate worship provides to the worshipper. The day will pass more quickly and more blessedly if you can gather with believers once again on Sunday evening to worship the Lord together.

Unfortunately, I observe that Christians rarely, if ever, replace abandoned corporate worship hours with private devotion. The time goes to television, to the pagan idols that we’ve made of our sports leagues, to shopping, to household chores, and to sleep. We demonstrate that it isn’t CORPORATE worship that is burdensome to us; rather, it is corporate WORSHIP that is burdensome to us.

Could it be that this tells us something about our spiritual condition? I think so. Malachi condemned the priests of his day who sniffed at their service of the Lord and complained about how tiresome they found it to be. In their judgments about corporate worship God saw judgments about the state of their own hearts. Perhaps the same is true of us.

Revival, when it comes among us, will be accompanied by a greater appetite for Christian worship, as always it has been. Perhaps that will involve the demise of Sunday evening worship times in favor of something larger and more robust. If so, I’m completely comfortable with that. For now, however, I think there is a need to stand up in opposition to the gradual erosion of time with God and His people that would leave him with a solitary hour out of the week, and an impatient hour at that.

Comments

  1. Allen Calkins says

    The history of the Sunday night service is an interesting one that is also very instructive about the future of Sunday night church. Evening service is a very BAPTIST invention. And it has not always been. Evening worship became popular when carbine lights were invented. Rural Baptist church found it evangelistically helpful to acquire carbine lights for their church so they could host Sunday night ‘Evangelistic Services’….and that is what they were! With the carbine lights (which virtually nobody had in their homes) the Baptist church could give the community something to do….and the community came because they were bored sitting at home in the dark! Baptist church hosted informal services evening with food, pickin and grinning gospel music and hell fire and brimstone preaching! AND IT WORKED! Many were saved by the INNOVATIVE method employed by the BAPTIST church using NEW TECHNOLOGY!
    The evening worship service became more ‘sanctified’ when BYPU (Baptist Young People’s Union) was begun with youth meetings on Sunday afternoons meeting BEFORE the evening evangelistic service. BYPU eventually became ‘Baptist Training Union’ and with that shift evening services were now geared towards church members…..BUT over the years both have diminished and almost disappeared because they no longer meet needs effectively. What church leaders need to do is not guilt people into supporting these defunct methodologies but to creatively come up with new ones that will work NOW…and it will probably take advantage of NEW TECHNOLOGY! The LAST thing the church needs to do TODAY is to TRY HARDER to do what it has historically DONE! New wine needs new wineskins….at one time that WAS Sunday night church and BYPU!

    • cb scott says

      Allen Calkins,

      I think you have confused the word “carbine” with “carbide” in your comment.

      Baptist folks used “carbide” lamps to light up the church house on Sunday night. They used “carbines” to shoot game for the pot-luck dinners after the Sunday morning service and pot-luck suppers after the Sunday night service.

      Of course, some of the fellows would backslide from time-to-time and take their “carbide” lamps and their “carbines,” load up their ‘coon-dogs, and sneak off on Sunday night and go a ‘coon-huntin’ and the preacher would catch up with them after the Sunday night service down at the “Little Branch waterfall” and finish up the night’s huntin’ with them.

      Of course, the preacher would chide the fellows a little for missin’ Sunday night services to square his conscience for huntin’ on Sunday night and give the fellows some spiritual instruction at the same time.

      “Carbide” and “Carbine” — the best of both worlds.

        • cb scott says

          Allen Calkins,

          No I didn’t miss the point. I knew that part of our history back in history when it was the present.

          Sorry if you are offended. I had no intent to do so. I was on a lark. However, if a lark offends you, then maybe you need to loosen up just a little, even on a cool, full mooned Sunday night when all your deacons are skippin’ church to go ‘coon huntin.’

          • Allen Calkins says

            No offense taken…just did not want my point missed. Things in church need to change as things change…you are probably also aware that the Sunday church schedule comes out of our rural roots, giving farmers time for chores before coming to church. BUT that does not stop some people form criticizing churches for meeting at different times than the traditional ones. Everything churches do is not sacred. Change is more than OK…it is VITAL!

          • cb scott says

            Allen Calkins,

            You are right. “Everything churches do is not sacred.”

            However, I am convinced that everything churches do “should be sacred.”

            I think that is the greater point of Bart Barber’s post.

            BTW, I am glad you are not offended. As I stated earlier, I was just larkin.’

      • Max says

        CB – your carbide-carbine-coon cryptic reminded me of Jerry Clower’s “Knock Him Out John” coon hunting story … which has application to certain blogosphere exchanges, if you know that story and follow my reasoning.

        • cb scott says

          Max,

          Yes, I know that story. Years ago, just before his death, Jerry Clower spoke at our Christian school. He drew several thousand folks. The guy was funny. He was also a Southern Baptist. He once spoke at the BGAV annual meeting. He may be the only guy who spoke who actually propagated the biblical gospel. Back in that day, the BGAV was the most liberal body affiliated with the SBC. Thank the Lord for the birth of the SBCV. Amen and Amen!

    • Bart Barber says

      “The order and worship and government of our church is: We begin with a prayer. After, we read some one or two chapters of the Bible, giving the sense thereof, and confer upon the same. That done, we lay aside our books, and after a solemn prayer made by the first speaker, he propounds some text out of the Scripture, and prophesies out of the same for forty-five minutes to an hour. After him stands up a second speaker who prophesies out of the same text for a similar amount of time, sometimes more, sometimes less. After him the third, the fourth, the fifth, etc., as time gives leave. Then the first speaker concludes with a prayer as he began with a prayer, with an exhortation to give to the poor, with a collection being made, and also concluded with prayer. This morning exercise begins at 8:00 and continues until 12:00. A similar course of exercise is observed from 2:00 to 5:00 or 6:00. Last of all, the church conducts its business.”

      This is a quote from a letter that Anne Bromhead wrote to her cousin Sir William Hammerton in 1609. This passage describes the worship practices of the John Smythe church from its earliest days in the Netherlands. They didn’t have carbide lamps in 1609.

      Indeed, here is the timeline:

      1609 – Baptists meeting basically all day for worship, including both a morning service and a service that went through 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.

      1891 – The Baptist Young People’s Union was already so established and popular that a national organization of the work (The Baptist Young People’s Union of America) was formed.

      1892 – Thomas Wilson invented the carbide lamp.

      1900 – Carbide lighting first began to receive widespread use to light buildings that did not have electricity.

      It seems that the historical timeline does not provide adequate support for the narrative proposed in the preceding comment.

      But my primary desire for posting the Bromhead letter is to undergird the true spirit of my original post: What would happen if we all were to propose THIS schedule to our churches? “Folks, we’re doing away with Sunday night worship. In its place, we’re going to have eight hours of preaching broken into two segments by a one-hour lunch break, followed by business meeting.” Hugh and Anne Bromhead had an appetite for that schedule. Of course, they were also willing to risk torture and their lives for their faith. Perhaps there’s a correspondence?

      • cb scott says

        “They didn’t have carbide lamps in 1609.”

        Bart Barber,

        You are right. They had to do their ‘coon huntin’ by torch light or when there was a full moon. ‘Course the deacons were much more skinny and in better shape back then so they didn’t need the carbine either. They would just climb up in the tree and knock the ‘coon out of the tree with a stick. Then the preacher and the dogs could have a fair chance at killin’ the ‘coon hand-to-hand, tooth-to-tooth, and claw-to-claw while the deacons sat up in the tree and watched.

        From this practice is where Baptist deacons learned to sit in the pews and watch while the preacher does all the church work.

        Church History is an amazing study, is it not, Dr. Barber?

      • Dwight McKissic says

        Bart,

        Thanks for that eye-opening documented historical perspective of worship practices & schedules in a different epoch in history. Great insight. Thanks.

        I’ve found readings & insights on slaves worship practices equally as interesting. They often operated underground to have church. Scheduling was quite interesting. The “house slave” is often vilified in redactivist history. However, the “house Negro” knew “Massa’s” schedule. And where slave worship was not approved of, the house slave would signify the field slaves that it was now “ok”(a term imported from Africa by the slaves) to gather & worship, because the master is otherwise occupied or absent. Famous Negro spirituals such as “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray,” or “Steal Away, to Jesus” were songs regarding scheduling. When the house slave sang “Couldn’t hear nobody pray” he was notifying the field slave that you are out of the hearing reach of the slave master, therefore it’s alright to pray now. “Steal Away” was a call to worship, although it had to be done in a clandestine manner where not permitted. Thus, “steal away.”

    • Chris Roberts says

      I’ve heard that story many times, but I’ve never seen a source for the claim. Indeed, John Calvin himself preached morning and afternoon on Sundays and I’m pretty sure he didn’t adopt the practice from the Baptists. Two services on Sunday has been around for a while and it didn’t start with Baptists nor did it begin as an evangelistic time nor did its origins have anything to do with electric lighting. One day I’d love to find out where this story originated.

  2. Todd Benkert says

    Bart, it’s one thing to say that you should continue to have evening worship. Would you suggest Sunday night services for a new church plant?

  3. says

    The purpose of the church, every church everywhere, is to MAKE DISCIPLES. Every ministry venue (AM, PM, Mid-Week, etc.) should be measured by an objective metric that tells us — ‘Did what we just engaged help us MAKE DISCIPLES,?’

    Meeting for meeting sake whether for tradition, personal preference, denominational routine etc. is counter-productive. The SBC continues to apply a horribly distorted and harmful metric (16.3 Million Members ??).

    I would graciously appeal for an honest and objective application of a metric that measures Disciple Making and abandons the flawed and myopic illusion that we have 16.3 million members. It matters not how many times we gather. It matters greatly when at the end of the day our gathering and ministry has seen people transformed into the fullness of the image of Christ.

    In Grace,
    Tom Fillinger
    803 413 3509

    • Dale Pugh says

      Sorry, but I fail to see how Bart’s post has anything to do with our “horribly distorted and harmful metric.”

    • says

      Our church does the same thing. We have periods of small groups and our church mixes it up. Some people volunteer to host and/or lead a small group. People are then assigned to a small group (immediate families are always together) and the assignments change every period. In some ways I miss gathering all together at the church. In other ways I think we all get far more out of it given that our church is large.

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  5. William Thornton says

    I appreciate the honest look at this and would describe my feelings as you did (at times “burdensome”). Before I semi-retired, my church had moved to about 35 Sundays where we had a second worship service. Since then, only one of the churches where I have supplied have PM worship and the church were I am a member (a large, leading area church) has no PM services.

    My wife and I both admit, without embarrassment, that we enjoy the schedule of not having a formal evening service as a part of the Lord’s Day, though we join in sometimes for special events and occasions.

    I see no difference in spirituality between churches and individuals who have or attend two services on Sunday and those who do just one, nor do I see any Scriptural mandate that calls for a second Sunday service.

    I cannot count how many people have told me they were relieved when their church dropped the evening service and made their Lord’s Day more family and rest oriented. I suppose this is why when I see an evening service I generally see lots of gray hair and presume empty nests, or I find that Sunday pm is the night the church has their children’s programs.

    My experience and knowledge is limited and strictly anecdotal but the general approach of pastors to Sunday pm services seems to me to be to heap a load of guilt on folks for not coming. One has to conclude that approach is less than helpful and is certainly not effective. Do we think that the churches of the latter half of the 20th century with typical evening services were superior to those of previous centuries? The previous comment on electrical lighting was illuminating.

    If I am called to another pastorate, I would consider the practice and tradition of the church along with the purpose and effectiveness of the PM service. It may be a wonderful and natural thing for the church or it may be completely inappropriate and burdensome. But I think I will not be persuaded that a church with a pm service is inherently superior to those that have just one, though I do not presume that you were maintaining that they were.

    Good post.

  6. volfan007 says

    The Church I pastor has always had a strong, Sunday night attendance. We will have 80% of the Sunday morning crowd back. We still have DT, as well. Then, we started Awana a couple of years ago, and it meets on Sunday nights. Our attendance increased with Awana. And, our Awana meets during DT and our Evening Worship Service. So, Sunday night is well attended at my Church.

    We also still meet for Wed. night, prayer meeting; and we have mission classes for the children. We have about 40% of the Sunday am crowd back on Wed. night. So, it’s a pretty good, Wed. night crowd, as well.

    Bart, I have felt like some about Sunday night. I don’t think I’d have Sunday night services, if I had my way…..except, we have such great crowds back on Sunday nights. I’ve always thought it’d be good to just hang out with family after a full morning of teaching and worship, and eating Sunday lunch. And then, maybe just have special things on Sunday nights from time to time. But, as long as the crowds are this good, why not have it? The same for Wed. nights…..I mean, I really like having Wed. nights, and as long as the people are coming….why stop it? Now, if the attendance was terrible on Sunday nights, or Wed. nights, then it might make me think hard about not having these services….but….if the people are coming, then amen! Let’s meet, and worship!!!

    David

    • Robin Shifflettfamily says

      It is obvious that the Holy Spirit is speaking through your ministries on Sunday nights as well as on Sunday mornings. I agree that you should keep it up.
      But in churches where the Spirit is not speaking through the evening activities, they should consider something else.

  7. Lynn Gray says

    I have found the Sunday PM service to be essential for building relationships with my fellow church members. The core of our church (mostly families with kids still at home) attend faithfully – we spend hours together on Sunday evenings. A typical Sunday evening looks like this:

    4pm: A once per month deacon meeting and a twice per month WMU meeting.
    5pm: About 2/3 of the year we have an adult and youth book club time where we discuss a Christian book. The little kids also have classes (RAs and GA’s, mission friends).
    6pm: Worshop Service
    7pm – 9:30 or so many of us hang out together at the church or at someone’s home or at a local pizza restaurant. We talk for hours and have the sweetest fellowship.

    We live life together on Sundays (ESP Sunday nights). I really know the folks who attend Sunday and Wednesdsy night services but sadly have a very hard time knowing well those who only show up for Sunday morning – many of them leave so fast afterwards there is no opportunity to even talk to them at all.

    In addition (and not as an afterthought) I need to hear the Bible preached and taught OFTEN! It is essential for my ongoing sanctification and that of my wife and teens. I need to know more about Jesus and eliminating Sunday PM preaching and teaching would hamper that.

    One more schedule note: everytime there is a 5th Sunday or a holiday Sunday (Mothers Day for example) we cancel the pm service but do hold a church wide lunch and an after lunch song service (we are done with it all by 2:30 those days). I enjoy the change of pace on these days but would hate to ever loose the regular long Sunday schedule we typically have.

    Lynn Gray, deacon
    Morning Star Baptist of Meeker, Ok

  8. Dave Miller says

    In Sioux City, we are only church I know of, other than the Indy Fundy Baptist churches, still having church on Sunday night. For the first few years of my service here, the PM service was strong. I enjoyed it more than the AM service, and many others said the same.

    But somehow, a few years ago, it started losing momentum. Now, it is not well attended.

    I’ve been trying to decide whether to forge ahead with the service or whether to give in to reality and cancel it. I’ve been in ministry for 32 years and my churches have always had Sunday PM. But that may be going the way of the rotary dial phone.

    It has been a real quandary.

    But I think Bart gets at the heart of things here. The problem is, at the root, a matter of worship and priority.

  9. says

    Not On Sunday Night

    I love the church that Jesus built,
    And I know that it is right;
    I go every Sunday morn,
    But not on Sunday night.

    I love to sing the songs of God,
    Such worship must be right;
    This I do on Sunday morn,
    But not on Sunday night.

    And may God bless our preacher, too;
    And give him power and might;
    But put a sinner in my place,
    I won’t be there Sunday night.

    I love the hear the Gospel too,
    It gives me pure delight.
    I hear it every Sunday morn,
    But not on Sunday night.

    I’d go thru rain and sleet and snow,
    Do anything that’s right
    To be in church on Sunday morn,
    But not on Sunday night.

    I know I need more hope and strength
    To keep me in the fight;
    For help I come on Sunday morn,
    But not on Sunday night.

    Yes, we all must someday die;
    I hope I’ll be doing right;
    So I might die on Sunday morn,
    And not on Sunday night.

    -Written by Gus Nichols, preacher from Alabama-

    For your reading enjoyment!
    David R. Brumbelow

  10. Scott says

    I pastor a small church here in Mississippi and the Sunday evening service is almost as well attended as the morning service. However, to me this isn’t the reason we should continue it. During the 2 years I’ve been at this church we have had several people saved, join the church, or visit on Sunday evening. I always ask myself, what would have happened if they had come to the church and the doors had been locked?

    Just my .02 cents.

    Scott

  11. Dwight McKissic says

    Bart,

    Your post reminds me of a 2 yr conversation that I had with myself & some if my staff just before we cancelled Sunday Evening Services ’bout 2-3 yrs ago. Honestly, though, I sometime regret that I threw in the towel. If nothing else it afforded others an opportunity to preach who seldom have an opportunity. We would also basically average $100,000 annually, or $2000 on Sunday evenings. Those offerings did not transfer to Sunday mornings. But I must admit, enjoying family, rest, football, and friends is a welcome alternative, after having pastored 36 years, and held evening service for 33-34 of those.

  12. says

    You may have heard the story of a pastor telling another pastor that six months ago they stopped having a Sunday night Worship Service.
    “What do your deacons think about it?,” the second pastor asked.
    “They haven’t found out about it yet.”

    By the way, Bart, good article.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • says

      This. In a prior ministry situation, I was trying to have a serious discussion about shifting what/how we did Sunday nights. Three deacons out of 5 were adamant that it could not be changed.

      Those three never showed up, and hadn’t for years. But the PM schedule was precious to them.

      • tom Bryant says

        Doug, that was how it was ay my previous church. I suggested on Super Bowl Sunday that we don’t have services but invite people from the church to bring guests to watch the game. The deacons – most of whom usually did come – said that it would send the wrong message. They weren’t exactly clear what that was, but rather than fighting, I agreed. You can guess what happened. On SB Sunday, not a single one of those deacons were at church.

        Now at my present church, we do a very informal Bible study around tables. I’ll teach a passage, then the tables will discuss it with some study questions i provide. The we get back together for a wrap up.

        I like it, but I also enjoy the Sundays we don’t have anything.

        • says

          Tom,

          Ask Bart Barber about the only time he ever cancelled Sunday night services to watch the Super Bowl as a church outreach. Do not have anything in your mouth when you read his response or you will spit it on your data device.

          • Bart Barber says

            Can anyone say “wardrobe malfunction”? I let my staff talk me into this. I was the only opposition. And now, when they try to talk me into things, sometimes this subject comes up. :-)

          • Bart Barber says

            Tom, it’s just that I agree to have a “Super Bowl Service” that included a viewing of the game, and it happened to be the year with the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction.” How wonderful to have that videocast at the church!

      • Dale Pugh says

        I had the same thing happen. I called them on it. Publicly. We then voted and the change in schedule was passed unanimously. We never again had Sunday evening services and went to a much more effective use of our time on Wednesday nights and weekday Bible studies.

          • tom bryant says

            Now that one I understand, the teens were watching it in the dining room. They had the TV on when it happened but no one was really watching. My youth pastor didn’t know anything about it until the next morning.

  13. Max says

    I have fond memories of Sunday Night “training union” sessions at the church I was raised in. Those meetings provided the structured discipline I needed at the time for Bible study. But I really lament the departure of Wednesday Night prayer meetings from SBC life. I have vivid memories of the saints praying at a tear-stained altar interceding for lost souls and sick folks, rejoicing and praising the Lord … with no time limit, they came and went as the Lord led. Some may call it simply the nostalgia of an old man, but I call it CHURCH. Do it again Lord!

  14. says

    I’m torn on this one.

    On the one hand, I’d like to see the Body of Christ dig in against the hyper-busy system and make time for family and rest throughout 7 days, so that we can gather more fully on Sunday, both AM and PM.

    On the other hand, can I serve people better, can the church serve better, with both services?

    I also know this: back in the 63 BFM, we proclaimed that “Acts of necessity and mercy” were reasons to work on the Lord’s Day (I know we changed that), but having worked in a “necessity” field as a funeral director, I know it was nice to still have a designated time on Sunday I could meet with my church family if worked called in the morning.

  15. Kevin says

    Hey Bart—- Arguments for Sunday evening worship/corporate gatherings

    From an financial perspective– Why not use the building for one more time during the week? Can’t cost that much more to heat or cool from noon to 7 or 8 pm——
    From a pragmatic perspective– Why not allow one more corporate time of gathering to accomodate the schedules of some who may have to work in the Sunday morning hours of worship?
    FRom a spiritual perspective— Does the average Christian benefit from one more night at home in front of the tv? Strictly anecdotal evidence, but I would speculate that most Christians spend a good portion of their Sunday evenings on some type of secular entertainment– shopping, tv, movie, sports,social media, etc Would exposure to corporate singing, prayer, Bible exposition etc help people to grow more spiritually? I think yes.
    From a serving perspective– Serving is rarely convenient. I have been in the pastorate a modest 11 years, but Monday mornings are consistently my hardest days physically. For the first few years my body ached for the majority of Monday. Now I would describe it as fatigue. Serving others through teaching, loving, singing, giving of one’s time, praying, etc requires effort. Why not have that additional time on Sunday evening to serve corporately? I know that it is possible to do these things apart from the corporate setting, but having that time set aside every Sunday evening mkaes the actual doing of it more likely.
    We started a church in the Las vegas area some 11 years ago. As long as God gives me the strength and resources to do so, we will continue to have our Sunday night “church”.

  16. allen calkins says

    If Sunday night works and blesses then have Sunday night church. Same wirh Discipleship Training. Just be careful not judge as lax or less committed those churches that choose not to have one. We need to be more committed to reaching people NOT maintaining comfortable tradition.

  17. Joel says

    Our church meets on Sunday morning, beginning with Sunday School at 0945 (we have two classes, a children’s class for those who can read, and an adult/family class [which our daughters, ages 2 and 7 attend]), which is well attended. We have our regular service at 1100, which usually concludes about 1230. After that we adjurn to the fellowship hall for a potluck meal, then begin our afternoon bible study around 1330. Some folks leave after the service, and only about 1/3 remain for the Bible study. Attendance varies (as it always does) due to sickness, family obligations, etc. Counting cleanup from the meal, and the Bible study portion, we usually leave the build around 1430-1530. After that, the day is ours (as far as church is concerned), and it’s truly been a blessing, as we get to spend the remainder of the day in restful worship as a family unit in our home. I love the weekly meal, although it has had the effect of us not being able to host a family in our home for dinner as often, which we used to tru to do at least once or twice a month on Sundays.

    This is the first church where we have not had some form of Sunday evening services, and I am truly greatful, as it makes me appreciate the time we spend earlier in the day at church so much more.

    We also have Bible study on Wednesday night, and the men meet together on Thursdays or Fridays (they graciously flip back and forth to accomadate my rotating firefighting schedule) as well.

    As our children get older, I look forward to using our Sunday afternoons/evenings in some sort of family ministry in our immediate neighborhood. My wife and I also are hoping to start a small group soon made up of members of various churches in our town – more of community small group than a denominational one.

  18. Allen Calkins says

    Good discussion! The church I am presently serving (just since June) quit Sunday nights a couple of years back due to the poor health of the prior pastor who retired from here. They asked when I came if we should start it back up. Some really wanted to. But I told them it would be unwise. We do have something special on Sunday nights appx once a month. Sometimes it is an evangelistic event (Christian movie night, revival service, gospel concert) and sometimes it is just a dinner and fellowship time. People seem to enjoy this and we have attendance at the events nearly as good as Sunday AM….But that would not translate to a traditional Sunday Night service.
    This is the first church I have served in 22 years of pastoring without a Sunday night service. I also enjoy having the extra time on Sundays AND being able to focus more on the Sunday AM message and worship prep. As a single staff pastor a Sunday night service always stretched me badly which also became a source of guilt for not being better prepared…

  19. says

    Lee Roberson, founder of Tennessee Temple University and pastor of a large church, I’m told would give the following advice. In counseling, whether about marriage, substance abuse, immorality, you name it, part of his advice was always the same.

    You need to be in our church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. Period. No exceptions. You need to be in our Worship Services three times a week, every week.

    That makes for some pretty good ongoing therapy. I know its worked for me and my family through the years.

    On a side note (above comment), while I enjoy jokes about them, I have great respect for good deacons. Just like pastors.

    http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2010/05/ordination-of-deacons-introduction.html

    David R. Brumbelow

  20. says

    The SBC church I belong to hasn’t had Sunday evening services for a l-o-n-g time (since before I joined). Then again, we’ve got 6 services (not counting things like children’s church in the chapel) Sunday morning. My understanding is that the staff felt rather relieved when Sunday evening services were dropped way back when.

    OTOH, it’s not like there’s *nothing* going on Sunday evenings. Actually, Sunday through Saturday, days and evenings, it would be hard to find a time where there wasn’t *something* going on in the church buildings. They are smaller group things, not whole-church things, but the church building is far from empty outside of whole-church worship times.

    There are occasional special events on Sunday evenings. There is a regular Wednesday evening dinner, fellowship and teaching (classes, not whole-church worship) time. But I can’t say I’ve missed having Sunday evening services.

    For another perspective, the independent church I belonged to back in West Virginia had its main service Sunday evening. Sunday morning was Sunday school classes. The church originated from a home fellowship, and there were people who belonged to other churches who wanted to participate. Having the main service Sunday evening allowed those people to attend without neglecting services at their home churches.

  21. Bart Barber says

    Thanks to all for the comments. This post wound up going live just as we were opening shelter and starting chainsaw work for our community after an ice storm hit us. That’s why you haven’t heard a peep from us. Ironically:

    1. We didn’t have a worship service last night.
    2. But I’ve been sleeping here in our gymnasium for three nights now.

    And I want to draw everyone back to the main point that I attempted to make in the post: My target is not the elimination of Sunday night worship, but the reduction of time set aside for God. Find a pattern by which the average member of your church does not gather with the church on Sunday night but actually does spend more time worshipping the Lord, and I’m happy with it.

    I just don’t think any of us in the thread really believes that represents the broader trend unfolding around us.

  22. says

    I too have wrestled with the “value” of Sunday nights. Being bivocational, it is a real challenge sometimes for me to prepare / be fresh when I spend most of the time I have on Sunday AM. Side note: I really want to know you guys’ thoughts on when you would EVER cancel a church service?? like the ice storm Bart mentioned, snow, Super Bowl, etc…. some churches seem to never ever ever cancel, some seem to cancel for any reason at all…

    • Robin Shifflett says

      Clay,
      We cancel when the roads are bad from snow or ice (or will be, like when they are predicting a blizzard). Our snow policies are published every December to remind our members. This cuts down on individual phone calls to the pastor on snowy Sunday mornings. Our policies:
      The pastor and chairperson of Deacons are responsible for making the decision to cancel services.
       
      If snow starts before sundown Saturday, a decision to cancel Sunday School will be made by 8:00 p.m.  If snow starts after sundown, the decision will be made by 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning.
       
      A decision to cancel the 11:00 a.m. Worship Service will be made by 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
       
      A decision to cancel Sunday evening activities will be made by noon, Sunday.
       
      Calls will be made to the Music Director, Sunday School teachers, the KidZone (children’s worship) and nursery workers scheduled for that Sunday.  All others can check the website/email or church answering machine after the stated times above.
       
      If we hold services and you feel it is unwise or unsafe to venture out, please do not feel obligated to leave your home and attend, even if you have ministry responsibilities for that day.  Just let us know you aren’t coming.
       
      Those who choose to attend must understand that we may not have KidZone or nursery that morning.

      • John Wylie says

        We cancel Sunday PM services for a variety of reasons (weather, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, yes even the Super Bowl etc….)

        I have never cancelled Sunday AM services except for the case of extreme weather. Even when Christmas has landed on Sunday we still had Sunday AM church. I just can’t see a whole lot of justification for cancelling morning services.

  23. Joseph says

    From my “not-a-pastor” perspective:

    I grew up in a small, rural Baptist church setting, and that entailed attending Sunday morning, Sunday night (including both Sunday School and Discipleship Training, still referred to by many as Training Union), and Wednesday night prayer meeting (mostly focused on youth activities while the adults were in prayer meeting). During college and the start of my professional career, I’ve been attending slightly more “contemporary” churches, neither of which had a specific corporate worship service during the Sunday evening hours. Actually, the church I attend now *had* Sunday evening worship, but shifted to small groups on Sunday nights and now does what one would normally associate with Sunday evenings on Wednesday nights. As someone who travels a lot on the weekends (whether to see family or my then-girlfriend-now-wife, who lives about 90 miles away), I found the mid-week services wonderful, because oftentimes I’d miss whatever was happening on Sunday. Soon I’ll be moving to join my wife in another city, and our church there doesn’t do Sunday evening services for everybody (they do have some things for children during that time, but not adults). They also don’t do regular mid-week services.

    I write all that to say, as a parishioner, I appreciate and enjoy times of corporate worship. I can see both the positives and negatives of Sunday evening services, and I do sorta wish the church I’ll soon be joining would have an additional corporate service along with their strong small group program. However, I also realize the strain, both physically and logistically, that this can place on church staff, and see the attractiveness of a decentralized small-group approach to learning and worship.

  24. Irwin Fletcher says

    I suggest for the title you replace “or” with “and” since Sunday night service is (in my experience) both a blessing and a burden. Assuming that blessings are not also burdens may be what keeps many churches from such services. In fact, I cannot think of a blessing that is not also a burden. I’m not suggesting every church should have a Sunday night service; or even most. But dropping a Sunday night service simply because it is a burden would be wrongheaded.

  25. Robin Shifflett says

    Bart,

    Your advice is good for your church, but maybe not for all churches. Your argument sounds like man was made for Sunday evening corporate worship, not Sunday evening corporate worship was made for man.
    Considering how little families do any kind of real family worship we could work on materials for parents to use for a Sunday evening family worship experience, using what they did in Sunday School that morning. This will help teach our children that Christianity is not just what we do at the church building.

    • Bart Barber says

      Robin,

      Could you provide a quote for me from the original post that spells out the “advice” that you are refuting?

      • Robin Shifflett says

        “Give over at least one entire day of the week to worshipping God.”

        I assumed (sorry if I am mistaken) that you meant a singing and teaching and praying kind of worship. I would add that worship can be everything we do every day, if we do it in the presence of the Lord and for His glory. And there is also the need for rest. Our people need to learn to rest.

        • Bart Barber says

          Robin,

          Thanks for giving the quote. I wanted to interact with your comment, but wasn’t sure how to do so, because I wasn’t sure which particular part had caught your eye.

          I would clarify:

          1. By “entire day” I meant (and I could have been clearer here) any accumulation of 12 hours over the course of a week, not necessarily on a single calendar day or in a single bloc of time. I was indeed advising that Christians find 12 hours in each week to spend in worship toward God. I cannot imagine a church for which that would not be good advice.

          2. By “worshipping God” I did not mean to indicate corporate worship. My point (and I’m sure I could have been clearer here, too) was that the preponderance of people who were serious about spending 12 hours per week in the worship of God would be delighted to be able to accomplish at least 2 of those hours in corporate worship.

          3. I do not concur that “worship can be everything we do every day, if we do it in the presence of the Lord and for His glory.” I do agree that everything we do every day can be good, can be done in the presence of the Lord, can be done unto the Lord, and can be done for His glory. I do not agree that it all constitutes worship. I would be happy for you to show me where scripture defines worship this way, for it is always a blessing for me to learn something about God’s word that I have not learned before.

          4. I do agree with you about the need for rest. We do not differ there. I do believe that, with 12 hours dedicated to worshipping God in each week, time for rest can be located somewhere within the remaining 156 hours.

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