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Our family made plans to visit a friend out of town and in the planning process we told them we had church on Sunday night. They were not expecting that Christians went to church twice in a day. That turned into a conversation about the Lord’s Day and the Christian’s duty on that day. This conversation made me ask the question “What happened to the second service?” in churches? It’s no surprise that many Reformed congregations stopped having a second service long ago. It’s no wonder that many churches that do have a second service see it poorly attended compared to the morning service. I asked a pastor of a large Reformed congregation what his evening service attendance was in comparison to the morning, and he said it was an abysmal 10%. When attendance has been down that low, it is understandable why some churches would cease holding an evening service. Reformed pastors have been working on this problem of low attendance in the second service for a long time.
When the early Reformers established their liturgies and church orders, they prescribed a morning and afternoon/evening service. In the morning there was an exposition of Scripture and the second service was there was catechetical preaching. Preaching that would be aimed and centered on teaching the basics of the faith and by understanding doctrine, they would grow in an understanding of the Word. The intention was that the Christian would then receive a balanced spiritual diet. So they would be exposed to more of the Word and the day would be “book ended” by worshipping with God’s people. However, this was not popular with the members of the church. People didn’t quite know how to receive catechetical preaching and teaching first of all, but mainly they preferred to play on Sunday and didn’t care to go to church twice in a day. Eventually, some ministers decided to cease holding an evening service due to low attendance.
At the Synod of Dort (1618-19), it was decided to censure ministers who stopped holding a second public worship service. Ministers were exhorted to preach brief and understandable sermons and not to cancel the second service due to poor attendance. Even if only the minister’s family attended the service, the expectation was to have a second worship service. The second service would be the uniform practice of Reformed churches in the 1600s. The answer to what happened to the second service seems obvious; low attendance resulted in cancellation. But the next question arises and remains to be answered and explored, “Why the low attendance?” R. Scott Clark’s in, “Recovering the Reformed Confession” rightly states low attendance reflects two things. First, little appreciation of the means of grace in the life of the church and Christian and secondly, the doctrine of the Sabbath.
There is a strong consensus in Reformed churches that God works through means, and that the Sabbath looks forward to the consummation, is a day to rest from work, and for public worship. The difficulty seems to be more practical from this point of agreement. Instead of honoring God with our bodies, (1 Cor. 6:20) we pause for worship and then are consumed by the demands of culture and the secular. I hope to explore this and connected issues in coming articles. This series will be an opportunity to consider and remember why we believe what we believe and then we will know why we do what we do. Perhaps, when you have a friend surprised to hear you attend two services, you’ll be equipped to have a fruitful and challenging dialog.
Rev. Brian Tallman wrote an essay on the question, “Who May Read Scripture in Worship?” that I found very helpful. He considered what the PCAs Book of Church Order statement in 50.2
The reading of the Holy Scripture in the congregation is a part of the public worship of God and should be done by the minister or some other person.
and contrasted this statement with the Westminster Standards (WLC 156):
“Q. Is the Word of God to be read by all? A. Although all are not to be permitted to read publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the Holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.”
The article is found here
A vital part of our life is our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is not fed with physical food. The eternal soul is not fed with corruptible food but eternal food. Our souls, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, are awakened, maintained, and encouraged by a heavenly meal, that is Scripture. This is what Scripture tells us, that the spiritual food which our souls are maintained by, is the Word through which God regenerates us.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17 ESV)
We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17). So it is important that our diet consists of a healthy dose of Christ, so that our souls would be well fed by him. Christ, we maintain, is our only life. He is the one we come to hear when we worship. Christ is whom we feed upon in the Lord’s Supper. So we must make diligent use of the means of grace that God has given us and not be lazy in our approach to them. We cannot take them for granted because they are not offered anywhere else but in the house of God. (more…)
So what does the term “Diving Service” mean anyway? Literally it is a “Service of God”, a service where God is the actor and we are the recipients. He calls, he cleanses, he feeds, etc. He calls the church to come to him and be reminded of his goodness. It is a time of the week that is set apart by the command of God wherein the body of Christ is worshipping and being ministered to in the kingdom of God. Reformed worship is different from the contemporary evangelical scene of worship that exists in many (though not all) churches today.
In many contemporary evangelical churches, worship has taken a unique definition. It is the private expression of a person to God. The individual shows their love, respect and honor for God in their singing and their expressions. The personal has taken primacy over the corporate. In fact, it is hard to argue there is much of a corporate aspect in the evangelical scene at all. The result is that many evangelicals are convinced that instead of going to church, they can worship God from their house alone, watching/listening to a sermon on line, or even out in nature spending time alone reflecting on God. In effect they have no need for the church or her ministers. The experience of listening to Christian music in the car can be far more important and appealing than sitting under the preaching of the Word. Worship in the evangelical setting is not so much about what God is doing, it is about what we are doing. It is our work and therefore rightly labelled “man-centered”. (more…)
I have received a few emails asking what a Reformed liturgy would look like. This is a sample of the liturgy we use for our Sunday morning worship. The selection of songs change as do the texts used in the Greeting, Call, Reading of the Law, Sermon and Words of Institution. The music is there as a sample of the genre of music that is sung.
Welcome and Announcements
Prelude – “All Creatures of Our God and King”
God Calls Us to Worship
Minister: Gal 1:3-5 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Minister: The Lord be with you! (Ruth 2.4)
All: And also with you! (more…)
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. (more…)
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!