Is the Sunday evening service truly the “antiquated dinosaur” that many if not most have relegated it to? Researcher Thom Rainer stated just a few years ago that only 5 percent of churches currently have a Sunday evening service. I, for one, would have to humbly push back on that trend and the sentiment behind it. Not as a legalist like some but a principled pragmatist. Here is a summary of a recent podcast that puts it much more eloquently than me and sounds a different note than most mainstream ministry thought, “On Why We Gather Twice on Sundays” by Mark Dever. While it is not a matter of doctrinal fidelity, Dever asserts that he is convinced that Christians need to be “a bit more inconvenienced on the Lord’s Day or the market day of the soul.” He adds that he is not as concerned by “what Christians do nowadays” and more about what has historically been the precedent for God’s people until recent days. He agrees that having a second Sunday service is countercultural, but responds with, “I never begin by particularly caring about ‘these days.’ I don’t think the church is in a very healthy place these days. I choose to look to the past when Christians tended to be less prosperous financially and more prosperous spiritually.” Well said.
Here are some practical “handlebars” to reach out and grab from Pastor Dever’s seasoned perspective on the second service model:
(Some but not all of these benefits can be accomplished in the small groups setting but lack the “across the board” intimacy that is being described.)
- It helps construct and maintain the prayerful, warm culture into which the Sunday morning crowd enters.
- It keeps the regular gathering (morning service) uncluttered and efficient.
- It lets the family be the family with a more casual feel. (Questions like “What did you get out of this morning’s study” are just thrown out for the congregation’s impromptu response.)
- It give a regular, unhurried place to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. (Something impossible to thoroughly and organically do in the morning service…especially if the specifics are more personal in nature.)
- It gives more opportunity to highlight priorities by catechizing what is important to pray for, praise the Lord for, and lament over.
- It develops a “deep bench” of those willing and able to teach/preach. (It appears as if Devers himself, as the senior leader, rarely if ever preaches twice on a Sunday for those concerned with this added study load.)
(Mark’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., begins at 5:00 PM to be sensitive to the legitimate family needs of the evening that sets up the rest of the week.)
5 Songs to Begin
Announcements with Book Giveaways of Recommending Reading
15 minutes of Teaching
The Rest of Service-Prayer Interwoven Throughout for Missions, Preaching, Ministering to Senior Saints, New Initiatives, Political/Social Needs, Etc.
“Only a Prayer Meeting” by Charles Spurgeon
Even when challenged by the scenario of a church planter in a rented facility with certain limitations, Devers graciously encourages them to at least take a run at “finding another venue.” Mark closes by saying, “I would rather miss the Sunday morning service than the Sunday evening service in our church…I can watch the former online, but have to be there to get everything out of the latter.” While I don’t agree with Devers on every point of ecclesiology, my favorite service of the week at North Life is also the Sunday evening service where: the entire church family gathers without having to cover auxiliary ministries like junior church, the young worship ensemble comprised of teenagers grows into leading our corporate worship, our after-service fellowship is in no hurry to end, our morning worship team is able to rehearse for the following Sunday, extra pastoral/administrative meetings can be hosted before and afterwards, training time with lay leaders who are extremely busy during the rest of the week, and the list goes on and on. I cannot imagine doing ministry and church life without it.
I admit that this goes against most of conventional thought in our day, but we may need to rethink instead of react-especially those of us who grew up with more gatherings on Sunday than we are prone to identify with presently. Please know that I don’t think less of you and your ministry if you don’t have a Sunday evening gathering. But Devers does make a guy think doesn’t he? While I am not necessarily espousing that every true and faithful churchgoer needs “three to thrive,” may I dare you to reconsider avoiding or scrapping your Sunday evening service? Instead, would you at least take a hard look at WHY previous generations made their Lord’s day a bit more “inconvenient” and consider what’s missing in the context of your sacred rhythm that they considered a blessing and not a burden?
Here’s the link to the podcast.
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash