In a recent Facebook post Aubrey Johnson wrote, “On Mondays, I do a lot of preparation for Sunday. Sunday night’s sermon comes first. Then the morning message. No half measure for Sunday night. People who devote their evening to a second assembly deserve nothing less than my best. I love Sunday nights, and I admire Sunday night saints. You inspire me!”
Aubrey Johnson inspires me! I admire his positive thinking and devotion to better us all in the kingdom. I must admit he provoked me to think a little bit about “Sunday night saints.” Like him, I love those very special people who assemble with the saints on Lord’s Day evenings. They have a special bond of fellowship that Sunday morning only saints cannot share.
When, or if, to have second worship service on the Lord’s Day is a matter of judgment as decided by the elders of a congregation. In the “old days” families would take lunch to worship services for a “dinner on the grounds” after the “preachin’ service.” This was followed by an afternoon worship service. Some congregations still meet a second time in the afternoon rather than at evening. At times, we at Mabelvale have had “Church-Eat-Church,” where, after the morning worship period we have a potluck lunch and reconvene for an afternoon service. In 1991 I preached a gospel meeting in Limon, Colorado. That church had afternoon services because some members had to drive 50 miles or so to the church building. They had a potluck and afternoon service every Sunday.
The New Testament shows that the 1st century saints met each Lord’s Day. For how long they met at a time we don’t know. Nor do we know if they met more than once each Lord’s Day. We do know that they met daily in the temple for worship (Acts 2:46). If daily meetings were not overdoing it, we fail to see how twice on the Lord’s Day is too much.
History reveals Sunday evening worship services came about in rural America when farmers worked the fields seven days a week. Church leaders saw the need for farmers to have the opportunity for worship and Bible study, so Sunday and Wednesday evening gatherings began. These services were usually at either 6:00 or 7:00 PM, and were well attended. These days Sunday night attendance is typically about half of the Sunday morning attendance. Back in the 1970’s Sunday night attendance was usually just a little less than that of Sunday morning. One can only wonder why the difference. Some churches still have only one service on Sunday. Some congregations these days have eliminated Sunday evening services in favor of small groups meeting in homes. There are some reasonable and scriptural objections to that arrangement. Even so, it has grown in popularity over the last two decades or so.
Every concerned evangelist and group of congregational overseers wants to increase attendance on Sunday nights. We have prayed over and preached at the problem of small Sunday night attendance for years. How successful have we been? We have approached this matter from the Word of God and from the heart of man. As a gospel preacher I have employed every conceivable argument of Scripture and logic to bring Sunday morning only saints out on Sunday nights as well. If I have succeeded to any degree I am not aware of it. Sunday morning only saints have a special measure of resistance to appeals from God’s word that makes them untouchable. I have preached everything from what missing Thomas missed (John 20) to forsaking “the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), and everything in between.
We have called it everything from a problem to a sin. We have noted all the reasons why people do not attend worship services on Sunday night. We have pointed out the inconsistencies of those who can go to weddings, funerals, to the golf course and to work on Monday, but can’t make it to Sunday evening worship services. Charles Hodge wrote, “Daily living involves subjective decisions…Brethren must learn this! They will be baptized because this is objectively taught. But they refuse to attend Bible classes, evening services…because the Bible specifically has not commanded such. Without subjective authority Christianity would be intrinsically legalism!” (Firm Foundation, May 9, 1967, pg. 297).
We have appealed to the heart. In the absence of an imperative in black & white for Sunday night attendance we have urged people to get their heart right with God. Those who are Sunday night saints are such because they want to be. Why do others not have the same “want to”? I don’t know how to help them get their “want to” fixed. The “want to” approach carried no weight with those who simply do not want to. Of course, we know of those whose “want to” is good, but because of age and health related issues cannot always get out again on a Sunday evening after being there in the morning. Some have issues related to medicines they are taking and some are unable to see after dark in the winter and spring months of the year.
So, what should we do? Should we cease trying to change the hearts of Sunday morning only saints? Or, should we change ourselves and focus more on loving those wonderful Sunday night saints? They are the ones who give the full measure of devotion for as long as the kingdom of God reigns on earth! On a practical level elders can, and should, explore ways to make Sunday evening worship perhaps more appealing by trying something fresh, focusing on praise and worship to God, devoting more time to prayer (and prayer requests), and developing scriptural themes with meaty studies from God’s Word.