Why You Should Commit to Evening Worship“to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” - Psalm 92:2
June 4, 2020 | Joshua Hinson
“Do you have to go back to back?” my friend was asked when his colleague heard that the local Presbyterian Church, of which my friend was a ruling elder, held two services on Sundays.
Until recently, going “back to back” was the norm. Morning and evening worship was a staple in the piety of many Protestant Christians. However, offering two services these days has a little different meaning. It’s usually due to constraints on space or even a preference for traditional or contemporary worship. It’s increasingly rare to find a church that regathers to close the Lord’s Day together in the presence of God.
Reestablishing an evening service is something Ortega’s session has considered, approved, and then postponed; but having established a viable prayer meeting on Sunday evenings, we think that now is an appropriate time to move forward. Some of you will remember when Ortega held an evening service. Some of you have been a part of churches where Sunday evening worship was held. Others may never have experienced or even considered a second service on the Lord’s Day.
With the full realization that returning to church in the evening would be extremely difficult for some in our congregation (we want this service to be a blessing and not a burden), I want to give you some biblical and practical reasons why you should (if you’re able) commit to this second worship service beginning June 7th. Let’s start with the biblical basis.
TWO BIBLICAL REASONS
- The Biblical Pattern
You may remember from our series of sermons in the book of Exodus that when the levitical priesthood was instituted a lamb was to be offered every day at morning and at twilight. Granted, this was the pattern of tabernacle worship and not necessarily a precept for Christians in the New Covenant, but the idea of worshiping God in these two parts of the day is a pattern we find in Scripture. Psalm 92 for instance, which is a Song for the Sabbath Day, says,
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
This was the pattern our spiritual forefathers saw in Scripture that informed their practice of beginning and ending the day of worship gathered in God’s presence, with his people, and around his Word.
- The Biblical Precept
I can’t say dogmatically from the aforementioned pattern that an evening service is Scripturally mandated. It is a pattern (and a good one), but what is certainly mandated is that we keep holy the Lord’s Day and that we “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). In fact, with regard to the latter exhortation, not only are we not to neglect meeting together, we are to do so and encourage one another “all the more” as the day of Christ’s return draws near. Not less, but more; and after having our worship services suspended recently, should we not long for these opportunities all the more?
Of course, the foundation for all of this is rooted in the fourth commandment, that we “Remember the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8). In a recent film about the attempt to bring to light a neurodegenerative disease found in professional football players due to repeated head trauma, one of the characters spoke to the futility of challenging the National Football League in this matter. “The NFL owns a day of the week. The same day the church used to own. Now it’s theirs.”
As God’s people, we know the first day of the week remains the Lord’s Day. It is the day the new creation dawned; the day of resurrection and the day we celebrate all that God has done for us and anticipate the fullness of all he will do for those united to his Son.
When we know we will regather for worship before the day ends it helps us to keep the day set apart for worship and rest. We are less likely to “go our own way and do our own thing” (Is. 58:13), but to call the Lord’s Day a “delight” and keep our thoughts and affections fixed on him.
But there are some practical reasons I’d like to add as well.
TWO PRACTICAL REASONS
Some of you have expressed the desire for a greater sense of community among the members of our church. This is understandable. We’re spread out all over the city and the greater Jacksonville area. Community groups or midweek meetings would alleviate (and have in the past) some of what is lacking in that sense of fellowship and community. But before we add another activity during the week – where many of us are already slammed with work, family, children’s activities, hobbies, and other commitments on top of the current studies available to the men and women of our church – let’s consider how to make the most of the day already set aside for rest, worship, and time with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Some of the greatest memories my family carries in their file followed worship on Sunday evenings. There is a different atmosphere on Sunday night when the church regathers. We’ve already seen one another. We’ve been washed with the water of the Word and we’ve gathered at the Lord’s table. Some of us have since gathered at one another’s tables. Some have taken a nap and are refreshed. We come back eagerly expecting the Lord to speak once again, and we eagerly anticipate that time together with our brethren. I’d be hard pressed to find a better way of enjoying fellowship on the Lord’s Day than bookending it with worship together.
- Fostering Growth
I have two things in mind here. One is obvious. If we are to “receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save our souls,” an evening service gives us twice the opportunity to put ourselves in the pathway of God’s means of grace. We have twice the opportunity to praise the Lord with our uplifted voices, to call upon his name, to slow down and sit down at our Lord’s feet, and to be instructed and comforted from the reading and preaching of holy Scripture.
One pastor noted in an encouragement for his parishioners to commit to evening worship, “What is most meaningful in a Christian’s growth is not the impact of one outstanding sermon but rather the cumulative impact of the preached Word week after week after week.” While the Lord has given us many means for our growth in grace, the preaching of the Word is the primary means the Spirit of God uses. Corporate worship is, as the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs said, “the place where God is pleased to dispense his choicest mercies to his children.”
There is another way in which an evening worship service can foster growth in our congregation, and that is by providing opportunities for those who have a sense of call to ordained ministry in the PCA. The Lord has blessed our congregation with two such men. However, their sense of call is not enough. They need you as well. I want to encourage you to take your responsibility seriously to evaluate and affirm their gifts and graces so that they prove to be men qualified for office in Christ’s church. Give them your feedback, encouragement, and support.
This time can also serve as a training ground for future officers and leaders in the church. We’re able to see something of someone’s hunger for God’s Word, love for the brethren, and how this plays out in their commitment to the stated meetings of the church. Another service gives us more opportunities to interact with one another and to notice how our members step up to serve in needed areas or provide encouragement and instruction to those they engage with in conversation.
There is no question that adding an evening service will be a challenge. It is difficult to get up and out the door once again – especially for a household with young children. It requires more work for the pastor to prepare a second sermon. It requires more volunteer service, more accompaniment and leadership musically, and more commitment from our members. But it’s a challenge worth taking up, and I’m convinced one we will not regret. So I would urge you to commit for a season, not merely ease in and out. Rather, think of it like a cold but refreshing swimming pool. Instead of dipping your toes, you’ll find the best way to get accustomed to the water is simply to jump in.
So, do you have to go “back to back?” Why wouldn’t you, if you’re able?
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