Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Sunday evening service and why you should attend it

In most churches today it is the case that the Sunday evening service is more sparsely attended than the morning service. In some congregations the difference is minimal, yet in others it is significant; a church which is more than three quarters full in the morning may be less than half full in the evening. Although there can be prevailing circumstances in the lives of some church members which genuinely prohibit them from attending the evening service, with others their absence is harder to explain. There are those who have been associated with the church for decades, have professed the name of Christ, yet have rarely if ever been seen at their local church in the evening. In dealing with this matter we are not taking issue with those who have genuine reasons why they cannot frequently attend the house of God twice on a Sunday. For parents with young children it is understandable that there are occasions where both parents cannot be out twice on a Sunday. Amongst the elderly of the congregation there will be those who through age and infirmity are simply unable to attend two services in the one day. Where church members are employed in the emergency services it is accepted that as a result of their shift patterns, there will be occasions where they cannot attend as many services as they would desire. These are justifiable reasons for why some people may miss church services and we would not seek to condemn them. Our concern is with those who are regularly, and sometimes always, absent from their local church on a Sunday evening.

Absenteeism discourages the pastor
There are few things more discouraging for someone who is heavily involved in the Lord's work than the attitude of those who do not seem to have any commitment to it. To faithfully labour in God's vineyard is a difficult task in itself, one made no easier by the number of believers who sit by the wayside, seemingly unconcerned or unaffected by the spiritual needs of the day. So too is it with a pastor who has faithfully laboured in the Word of God during the week when he is faced with a congregation that may or may not return in the evening. The sight of a full church in the morning will encourage him, yet to know that half of them are unlikely to be there again when the evening service comes round will always lessen that encouragement. He will very easily be filled with doubt over how his preaching is viewed by the people, and how the people themselves are growing in the truth of God's Word if they are only seen once on a Sunday, or once a week. The absenteeism of so many Christians on Sunday evenings may be nothing to do with the preaching that they hear from their pastor, yet that doubt will always linger in his mind. It is the duty of every Christian to be an encouragement to their pastor, and one of the simplest ways in which we can do this is by regularly attending both Sunday services in our local church.

The gospel meeting is beneficial to both saved and unsaved
The general pattern in most churches today is that the morning service will be chatacterised by a message that is directed towards believers, with the message in the evening being more gospel orientated. Although this is somewhat of a generalisation it is broadly indicative of what takes place in most churches in our land. Knowing this to be the case there is a then danger among some Christians that they will disregard the evening service since the gospel message 'is for the sinners'. They are already saved and they believe that the message is no longer applicable to them. Such an attitude of indifference to the gospel betrays a heart that is cold to the glorious truths of the God's plan of salvation, and an understanding which is bereft of a knowledge of the extent and nature of the gospel message. Although our hearts may already have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the message of the gospel faithfully preached is not an empty plea for sinners to come to repentance, but a continual setting forth of the wonderful plan of redemption. It ought to be an encouragement to the believer to hear those truths again and again as he is reminded of what God has done for him. The gospel is preached for the conversion of the sinner, but also the encouragement and edification of the saints, as they are put in remembrance of what they once were, and of what they have received in Christ.

Sunday is not a family day
There is a common notion today, even amongst believers, that Sunday is a primarily a time when we can gather together with our families, and visit or be visited by our friends and relatives. We may therefore find ourselves unable to attend the evening service since it would inconvenience those who have come to visit us on that day, or spoil the plans that we had to visit others. Contrary to the prevailing notion, the Lord's Day is not primarily for spending time with our families, but rather our primary purpose is to worship the Lord. The Shorter Catechism tells us that we are to spend 'the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship'. We are not instructed to set aside the morning of the Lord's Day for his worship that we might spend the rest of the day with our family. Rather it is incumbent on the head of every family to ensure that those for whom he has authority are found in the practice of worshipping God, both publicly and privately, as oft as is possble in their local church. The family most certainly should be gathered together on this day, but in the act of worship, not for social purposes, and the potential visit of friends and relatives on a Sunday should never be considered an acceptable reason for missing the evening service.

The Internet is not a replacement for real fellowship
The development of the Internet in recent years has given the church many opportunities to spread the message of the gospel, one of the most significant means being the online streaming of church services. Those who do not attend the church, or who through illness or circumstance are unable to be at a service, can enjoy the preaching of the word from the comfort of their own home. The one disadvantage that it has brought is that it can also provide an excuse for not going to the services, particularly in the evening. To tune in to your (or another church's) online broadcast does give you access to the preaching of the Word of God, yet it does not adequately replace the experience of worshipping together with God's people. Although we may still be benefited by the word, we cannot enjoy the fellowship offered by God to those who gather together in his name through looking at a computer screen. The online streaming of sermons should be used by those who are unable to attend the house of God, not by those who are looking for an excuse to stay in on a Sunday night.

Sunday evenings are not an occasion for church hopping
While we have considered those who do not attend any place of worship on a Sunday evening there are also a number of people who attend a different place of worship in the morning than they do in the evening. They attend 'their' church in the morning, yet in the evening attend another church, sometimes the choice of church varying week by week. So long as they have been to their own service in the morning they feel that it is acceptable to go somewhere else in the evening - after all they are still worshipping God. This habit is one which is often prevalent amongst young people, but not exclusively so, for older believers are also guilty of it. It is true that there may be occasionaly be special meetings that we wish to attend, but this should be a rare exception. To go to one church in the morning and another in the evening (sometimes of a vastly different denomination) is to show a lack of faithfulness to your own church and, where the service attended is vastly different, a lack of definition in what you believe. Such a habit is rarely practicsed by those who are involved in their local church, for it implies that the church is there only to provide for them, and that they have no resposibility to it. The church service is not a means of social engagement and to go to the popular meetings in the evening implies a motive other than a desire for the Word of God. It can also given the implication that you do not really desire to attend your local church in the morning either, and indeed this practice is very often the precursor to someone leaving their congregation and going elsewhere.

'Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching'. (Hebrews 10:25)

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