It is unthinkable that a church should exist without a Sunday morning worship service where there is good preaching from the Word of God. However, there has been a growing tendency in recent years throughout our country to suspend Sunday evening services because of poor attendances. Is this right? Is it sufficient for God’s people to spend a little more than an hour on a Sunday in worship listening to the Word of God?
There was a time when it was inconceivable to think of a Sunday well-spent without a Sunday evening service. Nowadays, it would seem as if many who have adopted the good custom of attending a Sunday morning service, are more than happy not to be in fellowship with God’s people for worship and teaching on a Sunday evening. This is a cause for alarm for the following reasons:
Two gatherings for public worship on the Christian Sabbath date right back into the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 23:30. Clearly this was an expression of the will of God. One service on the Lord’s Day is not enough. Eutychus fell to his death during a Sunday night time of ministry when the apostle Paul was bringing the Word of God to the people.
No pastor and preacher can do adequate justice to the Word of God in the course of a single lifetime, and needs every bit of time to expound the Scriptures to his congregation. The Apostle Paul felt the urgency of this so much that in his limited time in Ephesus he used both morning and evening to teach the Word of God. Acts 20:20,31: “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,” “Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.” One of the reasons for an increasingly illiterate Christian people in the 21st Century is the minimal exposure they have to teaching and preaching, one of the reasons of which is the single Sunday service which is not supplemented by an additional time for worship and exposition.
The excuse that too few people congregate for a Sunday evening service does not justify all the hard work put into preparation and preaching by the preacher. I dare say that if this excuse is offered, it amounts to nothing less than pride. Years ago when I spent a number of years doing church planting, I once faced a congregation of no more than three, one of them being my wife! I nearly dismissed the meeting for such poor support of the service, but am to this day so thankful that I carried on and preached to those three people! The fact that I was given a powerful anointing of the Spirit to do so seemed to confirm the rightness of the decision and when afterwards I cried to the Lord as to the reason why He had given such an endowment of power for such a tiny congregation, the reason became very clear: those three people were members of the Bride of Christ, and it was as if I was being told by the Lord that if it was my life-long duty to minister to only three members, members of the Bride of Christ being prepared for the great Wedding Feast with the Bridegroom, it would for that very reason be more than worth it. In any case, those who honour God by continuing faithfully to declare the Word of God on both Sunday mornings and Sunday evening are given the Biblical assurance that the Word of the Lord will not return to him empty. Isaiah 55:11.
The one day in seven God has allocated for public worship and the public ministry of the Word is surely not adequately sanctified if on that 24-hour day a bare one to one-and-half hours of time is set apart for glorifying God in worship and preaching and teaching. On their part, preachers who spend all week preparing for only one exposition are guilty of the sin of laziness.
In the history of people, literally thousands of people have been converted at Sunday evening services, and many more have been built up in their faith under the preaching of the Word of God. To dispense with the wonderful tradition is foolish and wrong.
To limit a congregation’s exposure to the ministry of the Word to one Sunday service is not only to deprive them of an adequate diet, but is by virtue of that fact to limit their potential for spiritual growth. Surely this is wrong.
Thankfully, there are many congregations which have thriving Sunday evening services where the Word of God is faithfully preached, the people of God are diligently taught and lost and erring sinners are wonderfully saved.
Rev. Martin Holdt