Lately I have noticed people posting articles suggesting Sunday night worship services be scuttled. The most common reason cited is that the attendances are generally lower than Sunday morning worship.
I understand that Sunday night worship is not the only way to strengthen a congregation. Please let’s be clear. The early church observed the Lord’s Supper and gave their offering on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2). So should we.
The Bible does not suggest exactly when on Sunday these things should take place. It is likely the early church had to meet either early Sunday morning, or in the evening, prior to or following a long workday. It appears the church at Troas did so in the evening when Paul came to visit (Acts 20:7). Pliny the Younger suggested congregations met early Sunday morning. “On an appointed day … [Christians] meet before daybreak and recite a hymn antiphonally to Jesus as to a god” (Pliny the Younger, AD 112)
I accept that there are other ways to do what we need to do.
* A congregation I served flipped the order of Bible class and worship. Bible class attendance rose by about one third. There were, of course, those who vehemently opposed this action, though they had an extremely difficult time finding a book, chapter and verse for their objections.
* Some congregations have moved to a worship/fellowship/early afternoon worship format. Biblically I can see nothing amiss with this format.
* Others have suggested Sunday afternoon and evening could be utilized for fellowship, outreach or visitation. Fair enough.
* Still others have suggested small groups meeting in member’s homes. Again, fair enough.
* Another suggestion is moving Bible class to the evening.
Just make sure of two things: First, let’s make sure that an opportunity to grow closer to God is not sacrificed. When speaking of low attendance on Sunday nights as the reason for abandoning it, I fret that it is the least spiritual in our congregations who are driving this decision.
Second, make sure that the alternative we choose is treated with the same vigor and dedication that the Sunday evening format deserved. Mumbling platitudes about replacing worship with fellowship or family time without following through does not pay the reverence for our Lord he deserves. Do not make this the excuse for serving the Lord less. Do not use “family time” as the excuse for severing Sunday night. If something must be excised in your family’s week, may I suggest television time, internet time and recreation activity.
Brothers and sisters, worship is family time. Your church family and your genetic family should be there!
Beloved it might be that poor attendance on Sunday nights says more about us than the format itself. Sunday night is not sacred (in the sense that we must worship at that particular time). But thoughtful and spiritual leaders in the church need to pray about and think about alternatives with great care before abandoning something that has served the church well.
In the meantime, this Sunday night, I’ll be there. Will you?