I read a blog article by Jesse Johnson here on the topic of evening services for Sundays. I read the article and was glad to see someone writing about this. R. Scott Clark has written about the evening service in chapter 8 of Recovering the Reformed Confessions. Johnson’s article deals more with answering the question of why churches are abandoning the evening service. And Clark reminds the reader that the Reformers used the second service as a catechism tool and encourages us to consider taking advantage of that as well. I wanted to take a moment to chime in and add my own 15 cents with a slightly different emphasis.
I talk with members of the congregation or friends at other churches and sometimes ask about evening service attendance. Usually the reason I hear for not attending the service has to do with spending time at home, being tired, kids have a schedule for napping, it’s their free time, homework is crazy, work is crazy, that’s when they spend time with friends, extended family or even attend another church in the evening. There are as many reasons as there are people who don’t attend the evening service. I think people are missing a rather obvious reason to attend the evening service. I also think that if people gave this more thought they would find a way to be at the evening service more consistently because they would realize that evening service absences are missed opportunities.
I think it is sad to hear Christians complain or come up with reasons why they don’t want to attend church. I won’t hide my cards on this, I think there actually are rarely good reasons why someone would rather stay home than take advantage of an opportunity to spend time with other Christians, sing God’s praises, and pray with his people. I would like to think that this is perhaps more of a problem of perspective than choosing to be apart for the reasons listed above. We don’t have many opportunities during the week to see the church family. There is one day that we can be sure to see each other and work on building our relationships with each other. To miss out on that day misses out on a chance to continue building that communal aspect of church.
There are a couple of different ways to approach this. You could point out that elders have called a stated meeting and therefore they are bound to attend. You could quote the catechism and how it says that the whole day is given to the worship of God’s people. These are ways to approach the subject. But I think this is an aspect of the discussion that is rarely emphasized. And it’s an aspect that is important because the church is more than people who are there because they have to be or they will come under discipline. The church is a community of believers where we share our burdens, pray for one another, rejoice in God’s work in our lives and weep with our brother in their suffering.
When I think of Sunday evening worship, I think of a time to be with God’s people at the close of the Sabbath. I think of another opportunity to see my friends and hear from them. I rejoice that I can shake a hand and give a smile. That my boys can see their friends and run through the hallways with one another laughing. I’m comforted that my wife and her friends can stand together laughing and sharing after a week apart. And then to top it off. We all sit for 45 minutes to an hour and hear God’s word, sing praises, and pray to Him. Yes. On Sunday evening there are many things we could be doing, but maybe we need to think about Sunday as a time to do what we can’t do on every other day of the week.