Have Sunday morning services become a chore to "get done" at the beginning of the day, simply to be checked off a long list of many weekend to-dos?
If so, attending or resurrecting an evening service may help transform the mindset of many Christians today.
Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church, recently revealed a few reasons why congregants should consider "keeping ... going to ... or even starting" an evening service at the church on The Gospel Coalition website.
"Having an evening service keeps the Lord's day the Lord's Day," the Michigan preacher noted. "Without the evening service, I find it too easy to treat Sunday worship like an hour to get done at the beginning of the day."
"The temptation to squeeze worship into the margins of life is even more pronounced when we finish our worship 'requirement' by 8 pm on Saturday evening," he added.
At his own church, nighttime services had been resurrected starting in 2004, when DeYoung began serving.
He had a desire to continue with the "long-standing tradition of evening services" at URC, even though the tradition had all but disappeared.
Now, approximately 125 people are attending the services, about one-fourth of the church's Sunday morning attendance.
The author of Why Our Church Switched to the ESV explained that although the Bible did not require an evening service, nor was it considered being "disobedient" if members did not attend both services, it was something that was worth thinking about.
The Illinois-born theologian understands that adding another service differs on a case-by-case difference; some churches are stretched thin, while others have a lack of resources. Then there are individual members who perhaps live farther away, or have conflicting schedules due to work or other factors.
"I don't believe the evening service is mandated by Scripture," he clarified, "but I am saddened that so many churches have moved away from the evening service. There are good reasons to keep at it or consider adding it to the life of your church."
For example, starting and ending the Sabbath with corporate worship fit the pattern of morning and evening sacrifices, DeYoung described. "It corresponds to a good pattern that the day would begin and end with worship."
Additionally, holding an evening service also gives believers the opportunity to experience grace through additional sermons and sacraments.
"Martin Lloyd-Jones supported practices of evening worship because he believed there should be a hunger for the preaching of the word – a hunger that desire a second time to feast on the Bible," the pastor stated.
Though the evening service requires much more work for leaders, it allows more members of the church to take hold of opportunities to serve while also forcing pastors to spend more time in the Word.
DeYoung shared that at his own church, his evening services are a great time for extra prayer and fellowship, creating "lingering conservations" that might be harder to achieve on Sunday mornings.
"The tradition of the church should not be easily overturned, especially by those who want to lay claim to the Reformed-Puritan mantle," he concluded, reiterating, however, that evening services are not required of a Christian – just beneficial and an additional means of grace.
DeYoung's morning and evening services also differ from churches that offer a number of services throughout the day to accommodate numbers, demographics, and schedules, where sermons are usually identical at all hours of the day.
Though some readers agreed with DeYoung, others found that it was "far better" not to have an evening service on Sunday.
Robert commented, "We use the Sunday evening to be a family night. After growing up in a programmed church world, this one, free of the Sunday evening service, is joyfully liberating and more conducive for a sweeter ministry environment. Maybe we don't need to obligate our people when we can do a greater ministry by allowing them the grace of rest."
Bill Donahue, the former director of Leader Development & Group Life at Willow Creek Church & Association, believes that churches need to expand their definition of the Lord's Day and not confine services simply to morning and evening.
"I would definitely move away from increasing the number of gathering 'on campus' led by 'the pastor' – the church needs a greater experience of the communal, participatory, developmental and missional components of our work."
"We have the Temple Courts (centralized worship, teaching and sacraments Sunday morning) – we need more 'daily' in the homes/neighborhood/culture, and more gospel in action," Donahue added. "Every day is the Lord's day."
Encouraging Christians to look at their brothers and sisters worldwide, the reader said, "Remember that the church has no walls, that teaching is not limited to sermons and centralized gatherings, and that equipping and leadership development are accomplished the way Paul did it – on the road, in person, day-to-day, in ministry and not in a building. When we limit or focus our ministry to 'word and sacrament' we ignore the power of truth learned through practice, failure, prayer and communal commitment to Christ – as Jesus practiced."
Others also agreed, stating that the church practice needs to line up with Scripture and "not some Reformed tradition," though they did highlight the need to be faithful in attending church.
"I think that before we make a hard and fast decision about 'Sunday evening' worship, we should take a look at the book of Acts," Tyler said. "It seems that the first-century church met daily, from house to house and in the temple. However, it also seems that the purpose of those meetings was not to complete a traditional requirement, but to encourage one another, to be exhorted by the Word, and to pray."
Tyler found that many churches only held evening services because it was part of tradition, regardless of whether or not it was effective. On the other hand, other churches were throwing out Sunday evening services because it was an "old hat," which was not biblical as well.
"Bottom line ... is what we are doing making disciples or just satisfying the flesh of our church culture?" Tyler asked. "If it's making disciples, great – don't change a thing. If it is fulfilling obligations and is lifeless, maybe it should be reconsidered."
Dan Matthews noted, "If we paid as much attention to how we lived our lives for the other six days of the week, we'd be far less bothered about the legalities of whether we attended once or twice on a Sunday."
Regardless of the agreements or disagreements, DeYoung hopes that churches would simply consider the many benefits of adding or keeping an evening service to Sunday worship as a way to "make faithful use of the means of grace."
DeYoung has been the senior pastor at University Reformed Church since 2004, responsible for preaching, leadership, and administration. He is currently living in Lansing with his wife Trisha and their five children.