Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Covenant Reformed is preparing to begin holding Sunday evening worship services. While it’s not a trendy move, and many churches aren’t even holding in-person morning services, we believe the effort is worth it. We believe the addition will be an asset to our church and our people’s souls.
In the following, I do not present a long-winded argument for an evening Service. Instead, I want to highlight four basic areas to spark thoughtful and prayerful reflection.
Sunday evening Worship is Helpful, Historical, Heuristic, and provides Happiness to the soul.
Attending Sunday evening worship is helpful to the Christian life and rhythm. Primarily it provides more worship, fellowship, and prayer opportunities. These avenues and outlets for the Christian life are the primary means that the Holy Spirit nourishes our souls today. We are pruned, nourished, built up, and exercising our spiritual growth through these times together.
Beyond the simple numerical increase, an evening service helps structure a rhythm to the Christian life in the Lord’s Day, Morning and Evening.
First, the Lord’s Day will begin to be seen as a full day for your soul’s refreshment and not merely a ‘Lord’s Morning.’ The fourth commandment reminds us that God labored six days and rested a whole seventh. God did not merely take the morning off before mowing the grass. Likewise, our souls need the whole Lord’s day for rest and refreshment. Second, we and creation were crafted with a morning/evening pattern. The creation account tells us God labored Evenings and Mornings to create a flourishing world. In the two worship services, the Lord continues his labors to restore and feed towards the flourishing of his people.
Third, the Evening Service takes on the temperament and flow of the faithful walking with God. Life can often feel like a whirlwind of busyness, seemingly turning back to the chaos of Gen 1:2. Having an Evening service serves to help our minds and hearts slow the rat race and walk with God. Not a sprint or cartwheels of chaos, but a sustainable pace of a refreshing walk with our Father. God walks with the righteous (Gen 5:22; 6:9; 17:1; Deut 19:9; Micah 6:8).
Indeed, there is no single biblical mandate like, ‘Thou shall have an evening service.’ But there are plenty of things that are good for us that are not stated in the Ten Words of Deut 5 or Exo 20. However, running through the Bible is a narrative of spending time with the Father and being nourished morning and evening.
In Exodus 16:8, the Lord gave meat in the evening and bread in the morning. The feeding of God’s covenant people has a rhythm to it. The practices of God in redemptive history also tell us that the morning and evening services are different.
Psalm 92:2 tells us it is good “to declare your faithful love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.” Other references to worship and temple service in morning and evening rhythms: Num 28:1–10; Exo 28:38–39; Ezra 3:3; Psa 55:17; 65:8; 134:1; Acts 3:1 John and Peter are going to afternoon prayer service; Acts 12:12 the people are in evening prayer).
The early church did not argue for having two services; it was an assumed and universal practice. A cursory glance finds: Origen (2nd century) talked about the saints morning and evening worship (Commentary John, 6.34; cf. Eusebius Histories 2.17.9); the Constitutions of the Apostolic Church tells church leaders to “command and exhort them to come constantly to church morning and evening” (Const. Apost 2.59; cf. Sozomen, Eccles. Hist. and HE 8.7); the great preacher Chrysostom also assumes the practices in his Commentary Acts:7:54; 1 Tim 2:1-4; cf. Hillary of Poitiers, 9.xlvii).
During the Reformation of the 15-16th century, the Protestant churches adamantly renewed their commitment to holding morning and evening worship services. Even a cursory study of the early protestant churches indicates they all had multiple Sunday services, often three or more.
Having an evening service is educates the head, the heart, and the hands in unique ways. First, the increased opportunities increase familiarity in speaking with and receiving from God. If prayer is entering the throne room and talking to God, we must ask ourselves, do we frequent the house of God well enough to be familiar? Or is our Father’s chambers an unfamiliar place that makes us feel uncomfortable and unwelcome? More corporate worship familiarizes us with the halls of heaven for more unashamed, bold, and honest approaching to God (Eph 3:12; Heb 4:16).
Evening worship also helps provide a more balanced diet. As mentioned above, Exodus 16:8 tells that the Lord gave meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Humans need a balanced diet, and our souls do too. An evening service has historically served to be more oriented to learning the faith and practices of the Christian walk. These evening services equip and strengthen us for life in this pilgrim age.
A third reason I want to offer is more of a metanarrative approach. Attending two services on Sunday is an act of Christian rebellion. By devoting our time, energy, and heart to a full day of worship and rest, we are rebelling against other things. We rebel against a world that says to be productive, go consume, and focus on earthly things. By attending worship again on Sunday we are saying no to other things by saying yes to having more of God. How is this heuristic? The practice teaches your heart and your children’s too what is most important and a priority for your life and family.
Many people at some point struggle with who they are, why they are ‘here,’ and what their purpose is. I, too, have had severe existential crises. I can’t address those matters here, but Jonathan Edwards preached that “God created man for nothing else but Happiness. He created him only that he might communicate Happiness to him.” Far too many churches have lead Christians to believe this is not true. They claim the Christian life is about suffering and toiling to merit our own way to heaven. Sure, most will not state it in such terms, but their working theology indicates that God did not save you to restore you to himself if only allows you to climb tooth and nail back to him groveling.
At Covenant Reformed, we do not believe that is a biblically informed Christianity. The Son of God came to earth, conquered the cross, defeated the tomb, and ascended to heaven so you could have him and be restored to the Father. We believe there is no greater joy and Happiness than having God. Therefore, more time with God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—increases imperishable soul happiness.
Lastly, an evening service protects you from sitting at home and being attacked by the Monday Blues, which I recently learned is a real phenomenon. Many experience an increased level of anxiety Sunday night as they fret about the challenges of Monday morning. Being in God’s house with his people is a place of encouragement and strengthening for the present and tomorrow.
We hope that you will consider these theological and practical matters as they relate to Sunday evening worship. But, more importantly, we ask you prayerfully consider joining us to worship and enjoy our savior God.
Frequent Counter Responses
a) Yeah, but do we really have to have two services?
Why not three? Why not morning, noon, and evening like OT worship? I personally need to approach the throne of grace frequently because I need a lot of mercy, grace, and help (Heb 4:16). And honestly, it’s the greatest gift in life or death that God lets me come into his house.
b) I can stay home and read my Bible on my own or with my family.
True, and this is a typical counter. However, I have never met anyone who consistently does it. Furthermore, if one believed ‘home Bible reading’ was just as good, then why go to the morning service?
The benefits of in-person morning attendance apply to the evening. At home, there are distractions of chores, a comfy couch, or preparations for Monday morning that is fast approaching. Furthermore, even if done consistently, it still misses out on being together with the saints and being fed. What I mean is that it is together with the saints that we partake of the length, width, height, and depth of God’s Love (Eph 3:18). There is a benefit pragmatically and spiritually of being together with the saints. As Hebrews 10:24-25 points out, we meet together to ‘provoke love and good works’ and to ‘encourage each other,’ which you cannot do at home apart from the body of Christ.
c) The Bible doesn’t demand to ‘have two services’!
Readily acknowledged above. It also doesn’t demand churches to buy buildings or use microphones and speakers, but it’s helpful. The Bible doesn’t require us to wear shoes, but it, too, is pretty beneficial.