As I travel and talk to other preachers, it seems that many churches are doing away with their Sunday night services. I would like to make an impassioned plea to any pastors reading this: please don’t discontinue your Sunday evening services! Could I kindly give you some reasons?
1. Consider why churches originally started having two services on Sunday. The original inspiration for having a morning and evening service stemmed from the morning and evening sacrifice in the Old Testament. Although we know that the church has not replaced the nation of Israel in Bible prophecy, it is still beneficial to the people of God to gather in the morning and evening on the Lord’s Day.
Dr. Lee Roberson, who influenced a generation of preachers, never changed his evening services from 7:30 on Sunday evenings because he said worship should be the last thing Christians do on Sunday. It was often near 10:00 when we got out of church on Sunday nights. Hundreds of us had young families, but we adjusted. That might be a little extreme for today; but it illustrates the old thinking that the whole day on Sunday should be given primarily to worship, and worship (which included a focus on preaching) should be the main thing we do, not just a stop on our way to the ballfield or lake!
2. The Sunday evening service provides another opportunity for declarative preaching. The Sunday evening service is another time for a preacher to study a passage of Scripture to teach his people the thoughts of God by standing up and saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” In other words, it is a time for declarative preaching!
The pastor with the Scriptures should be the primary influencer of the church. He is the overseer and should desire to preach as much as possible. He has the Word of God in his hand and has been entrusted with its guardianship by his call.
3. Growing Christians are hungry for God’s Word. Though crowds may be smaller on Sunday nights, hungry people still come back for more on Sunday night and are usually your more dedicated people. Why deprive them? Most of us older Christians enjoy the Sunday night service and have built the habit of adjusting our Sunday to get back to evening services.
4. There still are visitors who look and long for Sunday night services. As a retired pastor I can attest to finding fewer and fewer churches open on Sunday nights.
5. The Sunday evening service helps unite all generations present in the church. Many people are serving in various church ministries on Sunday morning, and the evening service provides an opportunity for everyone to gather at one time and hear from the undershepherd that God has given them.
I am not against meeting in homes, and when I was a pastor we had cottage prayer meetings and other special meetings in homes. But to do away with a time tested practice that has kept churches and Christians “built up on their most holy faith” seems to be shortsighted, and in some cases is simply laziness in pastors who do not enjoy study and preparation to feed their people. When a preaching service is replaced by group discussion it can result in the truths of God’s Word being looked at less authoritatively than they should be.
While we should not be afraid to innovate and incorporate new ideas in our churches, over four hundred years now of Sunday evening services has helped to produce spiritual growth in many generations. Let’s make sure that we innovate wisely and not replace time tested practices with ones that have not been proven.
Let’s make sure we welcome the hungry sheep who come to be fed a second time on Sundays even if it’s just a few. Jesus often taught a few!