Contemporary life offers very little downtime. Weekdays are full, and weekends may be even more full.
According to one LinkedIn study, 80% of Americans report feeling worried and anxious on the eve of the regular workweek.
Could Sunday evening church services help the Sunday night blues?
It’s a question some pastors are asking Christians to consider: Are we truly making the Lord’s Day a Sabbath Day?
“The day belongs to the Lord,” said Robert Godfrey of the discipleship organization Ligonier Ministries during the organization’s 2017 National Conference. “We rest on that day. We worship on that day. And surely, it’s a good thing to have morning and evening worship.”
Whether the Sunday evening service has any impact on workweek anxiety is unknown, but many evangelical leaders suggest the disappearance of Sunday evening church services could negatively affect believers, especially when it comes to biblical literacy.
Christians could draw a pretty close “corollary between the decline of Sunday evening worship in Christian services in America and a decline in Bible knowledge,” Godfrey said.
Fewer services also could account for a decline in disciplined Christian living, a decline in Sabbath observance and a decline of general cultural influence, he said.
“I don’t see how any good thing has come out of abandoning Sunday evening worship,” Godfrey said. “If Sunday is the day of the Lord, what are we doing with our Sundays and how are we using them to draw closer to the Lord?”
However, modern believers have access to more Christian resources than ever before — Christian radio, video sermons, podcasts and myriad publications and websites — and can listen to messages on demand. Access to so many media options can increase biblical literacy but decrease personal relationships, which is why many churches have moved to a Sunday night model that encourages fellowship and discussion (see ‘Repurposing Sunday nights’).
Thom Rainer, former president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, said church leaders are confronting the question of what to do with Sunday evenings.
In one of his blog posts, Rainer recalled a phone call he received from a pastor who asked him, “What can I do about our Sunday evening services?”
While the church seemed healthy, Rainer noted, the church’s Sunday evening attendance was dwindling.
“This pastor is not alone,” Rainer, now founder and CEO of Church Answers, wrote. “Other church leaders are concerned as well.
“Some have given up on Sunday evening services out of frustration,” he said. “Others have discontinued the services without much lament. And a few leaders have fairly good reports about these services.”
Alistair Begg, an occasional guest speaker at Beeson Divinity School events in Birmingham and the voice behind Truth For Life radio program, noted in one of his messages that the Protestant Church of Geneva in the 16th century instructed clergy to hold Sunday sermons at the “break of day” and at 9 a.m. At midday, they were to provide catechism and a sermon at 3 p.m. And sermons were also held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he said.
If you’re counting, that’s six sermons a week.
“So you wonder about the impact of the Reformation Church. What they were doing was on the account of six sermons a week, [and] what some of us are trying to do [is] on account of one sermon a week,” said Begg, senior pastor of the non-denominational Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio. “There might just be a direct correlation between the impact, separated by 400 years.
Godfrey also pointed back to around the 16th century when Christian theologians tackled the question, “What should we do if nobody wants to attend the second service?”
“So at least we can be comforted it’s not a new problem,” Godfrey said.
Going to a Sunday evening service shouldn’t be viewed as a biblical requirement, Godfrey noted, but Christians should consider how they are using the Lord’s Day.
“What are you doing with that time?” he asked. “Use it for the Lord, with the Lord.”
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