There is nothing in the Bible that says a church must have an additional service on Sunday evening. Though the Bible does say that the early church met every Sunday (Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2), it also seems to indicate that they often met every day (Acts 2:46-47, 5:42, 6:1). I believe the Bible has purposeful ambiguity in its description of how often the church was supposed to meet for church services. The reason for this ambiguity could be that the Lord wanted each church to establish a weekly service schedule that best fit their cultural setting.
In the last century many American Evangelical churches established a four service schedule that included a Sunday School Hour, Sunday Morning Worship Service, Sunday Evening Worship Service, and a Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Preachers like Lee Robertson built large churches and powerful Christians under the motto, “Three to Thrive.” They attempted to persuade men and women that coming to church on sunday morning, sunday night and wednesday night would help their spiritual lives to thrive as never before. And though occasionally there were those who came only out of obligation and a sense of spiritual duty there were many more who blossomed in the faith as never before. This method was working!
In recent years many good churches have reformatted their weekly schedules. Though the Sunday morning time slot has remained relatively unchanged this has not been true for the sunday evening and wednesday evening services. Some have changed the midweek prayer meeting into a Bible Study. Some have transformed their midweek service into small groups that meet in various locations and at various times throughout the week just as we have done at SHBC. Further still, some have canceled the midweek service entirely. Sunday evening services are also being retooled by some and dropped by others.
Let me be clear. I don’t think there is anything wrong with not having a midweek service or not having a Sunday night service. But I do believe that it is important to know WHY we have the service schedule that we do have.
The primary purpose of our Sunday Morning Service is to Connect people to God. Though other things occur on sunday morning our main goal in to introduce unbelieving people to Jesus Christ. We call this evangelism. We not only want to connect unbelievers to God through evangelism, we also want to connect believers to God through worship. Everything we do on sunday morning at SHBC ought to uphold these two worthy goals.
The primary purpose of our Small Groups that meet at various times and at various places throughout the week is to Connect people to one another. We call this fellowship. Christians are to live in community with one another. As the church has grown to an average attendance of almost 600 people on Sunday mornings spread over three different service times that intimate, new testament church fellowship is not occurring on Sunday morning as it should. Attending a Small Group provides the Christian with the necessary fellowship that is needed to maintain the Christian life. At Southern Hills we use this in place of traditional Sunday school.
So, with a clearly defined purpose behind our Sunday morning services and our midweek small group meetings, why do we still have a Sunday night service that is completely different in content, tone and purpose? Why am I asking the members of Southern Hills to come back this Sunday night at 6:00pm? Why in the world would we do this?
On Friday Morning – July 5th – I will post the 2nd part to this Blog.
What do you think? Do you see the value in a Sunday evening service? Do you think we should just go because it’s “the right thing to do?” If a church only has one service available for a christian every week, do you believe that is enough to develop mature Christians in our culture?
I’d love your comments below:
Bob CherryJuly 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm
Tradition. That is why we have the services we have. If you want to start a fight in a church. Go after a tradition. Most will go to war over that but not over Scripture.
Joshua teisJuly 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm
Bob, great point. Amazing that we continue to do so many things out of a sense of tradition having very little biblical or rational reason behind our methods. Thank you for your comment. I hope these 2 posts will help our people to understand that we do what we do for a reason and not merely because “that’s the way we’ve always done things.”
kathy parksJuly 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm
Sunday nights study of Philemon illuminated for me a passage of scripture that I thought I already knew. It prompted me to go to the Lord in prayer and share a burden with Him. I was closer to God than before church and he answered my prayer the next day with happy results. I need to remember daily not to try to do it all on my own and that my Father loves me and wants me to have good success. I would have missed so much had I stayed home. I love you Jesus. Thank you.
Joshua teisJuly 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm
Glad to know our verse by verse study of Philemon was a blessing to you! Love that book so much. Thanks for the comment
Dawn FroehlichJuly 2, 2013 at 8:46 pm
Sunday night services have been my favorite for as long as I can remember! It’s usually a core group that attends and tends to lead to a sense of intimacy among church family. I always appreciate the deeper truths that tend to be taught as well. Sunday night Bible exposition has had some of the greatest impact in opening the “eyes” of my understanding! If we didn’t have a Sunday night service, I imagine I would be on the couch in front of the old “idiot box” and not as concerned about searching God’s Word for those deeper truths—-hopefully not! But when others ask why I attend church so often I try to convey the idea that it’s not because going to church fixes me (like penance), it’s because I like to be surrounded by the things of God—mainly the People of God! So glad for our Sunday night service—- but if it ever changes, just count me in on whenever the doors are open!
Joshua teisJuly 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm
Dawn, you could have written the part 2 of this post! Loved your answers! Thanks for commenting!
Francis KeatonJuly 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm
As our church continues to grow, Sunday night remains the one time that most of the committed Christians of Southern Hills can see each other in one place. We study God’s word in depth and we catch up with those we haven’t seen all week. Sunday mornings, so many of us are in joyful service and fellowship with new or prospective Christians. Wednesday nights we are greatly blessed to amplify Sunday’s message and fellowship with a small group. But, unless we choose to live in segregation with other committed Christians, Sunday night is the only time time we will see and communicated with many of our brethren who have been together for weeks, months or years
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm
I find your comment very interesting. You seem to see Sunday mornings as an opportunity to serve and minister to the many hundreds that come to Southern Hills. You view your wednesday night Small group as a time to dig deeper into sunday’s sermon and fellowship with the 12 or so christians who have joined your small group.
Therefore, to you, sunday nights are your opportunity to really connect with the church core. That percentage of members who keep the church functioning. In other words, without sunday night we would lose track of one another as the church continues to grow. – Very Interesting Thought.
Linda ScottJuly 2, 2013 at 11:22 pm
Yes I see value to Sunday nite and all that is offered to us throughout the week. It builds a strong foundation not only for individual growth but for our entire church family to grow together and stay focused on our purpose as Christians, to glorify God and share His promise with others. Once a week is not enough in today’s world, it would be to easy to fall back to where many of us found ourselves before , going through the motions. ~ lost and searching for answers
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm
Thank you for your comment. I noticed that you mentioned that being in church once a week might not be enough for many Christians to maintain a close walk with Christ in the current Las Vegas culture that we find ourselves in. I’m not sure that I can speak for everyone but I can certainly say that is true for me. The more I’m around other Christians in a worship and Bible study setting the more balanced and healthy my Christian life seems to flow.
John JenkinsNovember 19, 2018 at 1:54 am
The problem as I see it is the Evening Service is just another lecture. None of the congregations I have attended study the Bible, they listen to the preacher. I doubt if any preacher is smart enough to come up with a Sunday School lecture, separate from a Sunday morning lecture, separate from a Sunday evening lecture separate from a Wednesday evening lecture and not repeat himself. Paul tells us what worship is and it is not Sundays and Hebrews tells us the purpose of the assembly and it is not worship. But imagine being a preacher without all the ancillary duties assigned to them.
Grandmom LangtonJuly 3, 2013 at 7:23 am
When first saved, a former Catholic who went to church once a week, or once a month or at Christmas and Easter, I did not understand why Baptist met three to four times a week. I started attending each service and soon realized seeing the same people of the same belief brought a closeness that I had never experinced before outside of my biological family. It was a necessary part of forming a close family like relationship with fellow believers. The friendships surpass state boundaries as I soon found out after leaving one state and moving to another. The prayer warriors we encounter along the way are priceless. I now have a hugh church family incorporating my former church and my present church family.
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm
I like your focus on the building of relationships. One of the big complaints in modern evangelicalism is that local churches do not seem to be unified. In the past a church was like a family, but today, not so much. I do think one of the reasons this may be the case is because we don’t stress the importance of being around the church family. How can we be close if we never see one another? Great thought.
David HendersonJuly 3, 2013 at 8:19 am
Thank you Pastor Sunday evening church is the only time from work that I have I will try to be there and thank you for staying in contact with me
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm
I’m glad that you are able to come on sunday evenings. One of the benefits of having multiple service times is that many people are able to come to church. In a city like Las Vegas we have members that work literally around the clock. That is one of the reasons we offer an 8:00am, 9:45am, 11:30am & 6:00pm service time.
However, our 6:00pm service is completely different from our 3 morning services.
Nancy BradleyJuly 3, 2013 at 11:34 am
If there is enough attendance and interest, any day or night is fine. I only wish we could have Sunday Morning Communion about 4 times a year for those of us with limited energy.
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 7:21 pm
That is an interesting thought. If there is enough interest any time would be fine. I agree!
We do normally have our communion (Lord’s Supper) services on sunday evenings and I think it might be a good idea to branch out and hold one occasionally on sunday morning. Thanks for the idea. So glad to have you and your husband here!
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Dave YoungJuly 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm
Hey Pastor Josh: Perhaps your next post could be about Why many Sunday night services are poorly attended? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about that!
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm
HELLO DAVE YOUNG!
Welcome to the blog. You are one of our favorite preachers at Southern Hills. (For those who may not be familiar, Dave Young is the Evangelist that preached for us on June 23rd. A good personal friend and a great man of God)
You are right about the fact that sunday nights are poorly attended in many churches. However, there are some exceptional church that come to mind that seem to do very well on sunday evenings. I think of Liberty Baptist for example and I see that they will average a shocking 65-70% of their sunday morning service that will return for the sunday evening service. This is shocking because, if you have a traditional sunday night service, you are considered to be doing very well if you bring back 50% of your attendance. We see a paltry 25-40% in comparison.
I’ve thought a lot about the differences and through I won’t be addressing them in Friday’s post I will briefly give a few reasons I see for the difference.
1. Age and Maturity of the Church
Liberty Baptist Church is over 35 years old and has had the opportunity of teaching many members over many years the importance of being around church as much as possible. In addition, I believe the percentage of lifelong or longtime baptists who move to Las Vegas, who have matured in their faith, and are looking for a similar church with christian school, etc. have found a church home at Liberty is a bit higher than at a newer church like ours. There are benefits in consistently training and teaching faithfulness as my father has done. They have developed a powerhouse of spiritually mature Christians who love Christ and love to be at church.
2. Focus and Emphasis of the Church
This is a major one! If Jason Coombes was in this conversation he would remind me that we once had a much larger percentage of people on sunday night but several things occurred over the past 2 years. First, our sunday morning attendance skyrocketed as never before. Sunday nights have simply not kept up. Secondly, we purposely focused al of our attention to our midweek small groups because we saw the need for increased fellowship and friendship within our church. Therefore we focused all of our announcements, videos, promotion, preaching, personal conversations on our Small groups in order to get as many as possible to sign up and join. We have effectively averaged between 50-60% of our sunday morning attendance in these groups. Thirdly, he would remind us that if you focus on many things we often will do no one thing well. Therefore we chose to focus on midweek small groups.
3. Quality of the Sunday Night Service
The next reason I will give is simple. If it was worth coming to… people would. Sometimes I think we have to ask ourselves, “are we offering anything that people want or need?” I don’t know that it’s enough to just say, “it’s the right thing to do.” Sometimes we expect people to just come and then when they do they find a subpar knockoff that is a pale imitation of the morning service. I don’t know? Sometimes I think this.
4. The Purpose of Sunday Night
If a church is only seeing 25% of its crowd back on sunday night it might be part of the design of the leadership of that church. Sometimes a church will use sunday night as simply a leadership training time. The goal is not to get everyone back on sunday night. the stated goal is to use sunday night as a core strengthening and core training time. Steve Miller would say, “it’s all about defining the WIN.” If the “win” is to connect with your core people, deepen their understanding of Scripture, and retain a close-knit care team; then you wouldn’t really want it to grow too big.
5. Misunderstanding or Lack of Awareness
The last reason I will give, though I am sure there are many more, is simple. There are some at SHBC that are just not aware of what Sunday Nights have to offer. They simply do not know that their pastor preaches an entirely different sermon and that the music team has prepared an entirely different set. They may not know that if they are desiring to step into a leadership position or learn more about the inner workings of their church that sunday night is the place to do it. They may simply misunderstand the reason for the service. This is why on July 7th we are starting a brand new series through Hebrews and promoting it heavily on sunday morning and online so that we can reach some of these who will benefit from sunday night services but simply did not know if their importance.
I;ve given you my thoughts on the subject. what are your thoughts?
Linette WinslerJuly 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm
I Sunday evening services because it’s imformal and we get into verse by verse study of the Bible. We also get to see others that we don’t get to see and talk to on Sunday morning.. Midweek service/small groups, helps me to get through the week
Joshua TeisJuly 3, 2013 at 8:05 pm
I do too like the informal nature of our sunday evening services, Heather and I love you dearly Linette!
David PeddicordJuly 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm
A great question and great comments. While I don’t know this “for sure”, I believe that because of improvements in transportation folks decided to go home and return in the evening. Back yonder in the ‘ol days it was a chore to travel. Folks would come to church for the day and bring their lunch with them.
I’m bothered that many today feel we need less preaching of the word of God. I believe we need more.
Joshua TeisJuly 4, 2013 at 12:25 am
Interesting thought about transportation. thank you
KennethJuly 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm
We usually do food shopping etc right after morning service. We are done before midday giving us time to relax and spend some time as a family together or take a nap. I admit the devil iwas the one reason for us lacking Sunday night service (use to) sports was a big reason, being tired after dinner or just plain laziness were more reasons, more like excuses at that point. Then we realized as a family that we had such a good time on Sunday evenings, and it was less hectic than the am services. So I made a commitment to go back to the evenings after praying to the Lord. And I tell you after that the holy spirit wouldn’t eave me alone if I start getting lazy just like last Sunday, my excuse was the heat. But just like I was committed to the Lord I was committed to the holy spirit and learned not to ignore the holy spirit when it’s knocking on my heart. I was glad that I went , cause Philemon touched my heart in so many ways that it will start a whole new conversation. Besides when service is over its a good time to see Pastor Ties, and talk for a moment., just like the old days.
Joshua TeisJuly 4, 2013 at 12:22 am
I love that you decided to come because you seem to enjoy being at church so much you desire to come back in the evening. I think that’s a great reason to come. I too enjoy being around our church family in the “less hectic” sunday night service,
JameeJuly 3, 2013 at 11:09 pm
I think the reason why it is so easy for us to be faithful attenders on Sunday nights is the fact we have been able to take the verse by verse study and actually apply it to our lives. We have learned so much and grown spiritually but when we slip it seems that we learned how to grasp our faith more firmly and use God’s word to get up and move forward. Before I could read the verses in the Bible and say well that worked for them but how does it apply to me and with the deeper study I now know.
Joshua TeisJuly 4, 2013 at 12:23 am
I agree, there is nothing like a verse by verse study of the Scriptures!
Yvonne VillaJuly 3, 2013 at 11:28 pm
One of the things that I like about our church is that there are people who are close to God and yet, do not judge others who aren’t. I find the comments refreshing because they reflect real life testimonies from the heart, there is no better encouragement than a testimony of what God is doing in one’s life. I presently do not attend our evening services, God had been working on my heart about it and Sunday morning when the advertisement came on God used it in an affirming way. Sometimes attendance and percentages are great gauges, but the human condition and it’s complexities cannot be contained in a number or in appearance. The power of God is working within each individual, custom, relationship and it takes time (who can know the heart). As God directs His leaders in the church and as they obey, He powerfully orchestrates the harmonious power of conviction to grow the individual to where he/she needs to be and depending on the response, growth takes place. Yes, actions speak for the heart and my actions would speak – “struggling” – at this time however, God is with me, convicting, and I look forward to growing by attending Sunday nights. I know any time spent in God’s word is time well spent. “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
Joshua TeisJuly 4, 2013 at 12:19 am
I love your point Yvonne! Who are we to stand in judgment of another who may not attend as many services as another. Romans 14:4
One should not be considered less righteous because he happens to attend church one day a week rather than seven days a week. This is true.
having additional services and study and prayer opportunities is not about performing another spiritual duty but rather providing additional resources for those who desire and are able to take advantage. There are many in our congregation who are simply unable to be there multiple times throughout the week.
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Jim GhanayemJuly 4, 2013 at 8:07 am
Very interesting discussion. I was recently confronted with two extremes that the church should avoid. One extreme is traditionalism (doing things primarily because we have always done them that way). The other extreme is innovationalism (doing things primarily because we”ve never done them that way). We must avoid both extremes because both of them because they both essentially lack Biblical purpose. The balance is prayerfully determining God’s direction by asking the question, “What Biblical purpose does this serve?” I believe this is essentially what you are asking and that is why this is a very healthy discussion. Ultimately each local body should determine each decide this for themselves and we all should be careful to support the local body’s decision rather than passing judgement on them for it. Constantly ask why aids in keeping an living organism from becoming a stagnant institution.
Joshua TeisJuly 4, 2013 at 10:44 am
Incredibly well stated. The heart of the issue