have emphasized the necessity of the frequent public preaching
of God's Word.
One of the small pleasures of my early childhood was playing with
other children outside the church after Sunday evening worship.
For half an hour or more, the adults seemed to forget their parental
responsibilities and we ran wild and free in the soft summer air
of a Kansas evening. While our parents pursued more mature interests,
we captured lightning bugs, played tag, or chased girls with toads
we had caught. It was one of the high points of the week. Life
without Sunday evening worship would have been a drag!
and fewer children would think so today. Sunday evening worship
is not a part of their lives because an increasing number of churches
are not including it in their schedules. Sunday evening worship
seems to be on the endangered species list and there is a lot
more at stake than a child’s game of tag. Sunday evening
worship can meet important needs in the lives of God’s people.
evening worship is nowhere specifically prescribed by scripture;
but then neither is Sunday morning worship. Both services are
established at the discretion and on the authority of the elders
of the church on the basis of such texts as Hebrews 10:25-26 and
13:17. The historic fact is that the practice of worshiping twice
on Sunday is a firmly established tradition in evangelical and
Reformed churches. What has changed that would warrant a departure
from the wisdom of our godly forefathers who established and maintained
this practice for so many centuries?
four reasons which, I hope, may persuade us to keep this tradition
alive, or revive it, as the case may require.
The Importance of Frequent Public Preaching
The need for the frequent preaching and teaching of God’s
Word is the primary reason for maintaining both morning and evening
worship services. The Apostle Paul urges Timothy to, "Preach
the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke
and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction"
(II Timothy 4:2). In this concluding and climactic challenge of
his apostolic ministry, Paul is following the example of Moses
and al the prophets of the Old Testament as well as that of our
Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. These great servants of God
were preeminently preachers and teachers of God’s Word.
Preaching was the key tool they used to advance the kingdom and
they were at it incessantly.
Reformation of the 16th century Reformed churches have led the
way in emphasizing the necessity for the frequent public preaching
of God’s Word. John Calvin exemplified this principle in
his own practice of preaching nearly every day of the week as
well as on Sunday. First in Britain and then in the American Colonies,
our Puritan forefathers followed Calvin’s example by preaching
twice nearly every Sunday and often at a weeknight service called
"the lecture." This pattern has characterized Reformed
churches (and other evangelicals as well) until very recent times.
The preaching of God’s Word, therefore, in both morning
and evening worship services on the Lord’s Day has been
regarded as an important application of this "frequent preaching"
principle, crucial to the life of the church. Granted, this principle
might be fulfilled at other times than Sunday evening, but experience
has shown this to be the time that best suits most Christians.
This practice has been regarded as axiomatic for Bible-believing
churches and went almost unchallenged for nearly four centuries.
Not so today!
"Church Growth" experts are advising us that the evening
service (and frequent preaching in general) is excess baggage,
inhibiting evangelism and getting in the way of "small group"
ministries now deemed more important than preaching. We are being
advised that "the culture has changed", that evening
worship no longer meets the "felt needs" of our contemporaries
and that we need a great variety of programs to meet the needs
of every age and interest in our world. If we do not change with
the culture, it seems, we will be consigned to the trash heap
of irrelevance, or, what may be even worse, to smallness, a fate
worse than death to the "Church Growth" mind.
be asking if this is really the time to reduce our own efforts
at preaching, the means God has ordained and blessed for communicating
His Word. Our times have been called "the information age"
because of the rapid growth of data in every field of knowledge.
The media is propagandizing us intensively with amoral as well
as immoral messages that are quite obviously impacting our church
people as well as the world. Add to this the vast bulk of distracting
trivia that the media peddle as important and we have a seriously
confused populace. To reduce our preaching either in quality or
in quantity at this point in history appears to be a concession
to the worst side of modernity. It is a dangerous experiment.
The tried and true method of frequent preaching is being cast
to one side for the sake of an unproven methodology, and right
when there is the most crying need for the preaching of God’s
1971, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones spoke clearly to this issue when
he said, "The most urgent need in the Christian church today
is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need
in the church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world
also. A bit later in the same book, he said, " What is it
that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival?
It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching
but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always
heralded these great movements in the history of the church"
(Preaching and Preachers, pp. 9, 24-25).
This is the
kind of guidance we need today.
Greater Breadth In Our Preaching/Teaching Ministry
Sunday evening worship provides an appropriate opportunity for
pastors to present a broader scope of teaching and preaching than
is possible in the Sunday morning worship service. The Sunday
morning worship service has long been regarded as the time for
a quite formal sermonic style. Given the majesty and holiness
of God, and the awesome significance of the gospel this is most
appropriate. God deserves a worship characterized by deep reverence
and high dignity, and the gospel is the most weighty issue before
mankind. Without departing from due reverence, it is also appropriate
to employ a somewhat more informal style in the preaching and
teaching of God’s Word on such occasions as the evening
service. Here the pastor may adopt a more conversational approach
such as our Savior employed on occasion in teaching His disciples.
An evening service may have somewhat the atmosphere of an adult
Sunday school class, using a variety of teaching aids such as
an overhead projector and even questions and answers from the
has roots in Puritan practice. Our colonial fathers often used
the "lecture" method as their Sunday afternoon or evening
style of preaching. This meant that they would address topics
of timely and practical interest that might not seem appropriate
to the Sunday morning worship.
not more informal or more topical style is used on Sunday evening,
the point should be obvious that we need a greater breadth of
biblical and theological instruction than can be given within
the confines of the Sunday morning sermon. Our Christian colleges
and seminaries are reporting that an increasing percentage of
young people applying for training lack the basic Bible knowledge
that used to characterize applicants. Failure to maintain Sunday
evening worship and preaching will only add to the growing ignorance
of the Bible and our confessional standards prevalent among too
many of our young people. To feed God’s flock anything like
an adequate diet of preaching and teaching, Sunday evening worship
seems to be an absolute necessity. This is one of the things it
takes to produce the kind of strong, well-rounded disciples needed
to advance the kingdom.
Keeping the Lord's Day Holy
Morning and evening worship on Sunday is a valuable means of preserving
the biblical observance of the Lord’s Day. Like the morning
and evening sacrifice which Israel offered to God, morning and
evening worship marks the whole day as holy, setting brackets
around it to remind us of its special purpose in God’s plan.
While we may differ on the details of Sabbath observance, some
being more strict, others more lenient, surely we all agree that
God requires us to keep this day holy.
This is my
briefest point, but not the least important. The fourth commandment
is of equal importance with the other nine. To treat it with contempt
or indifference is to treat the whole of God’s law and God
Himself with contempt and indifference (James 2:10). Those who
may not accept the full teaching of the Westminster Standards
at this point are, nevertheless, under compelling biblical mandate
to discover and practice what Scripture teaches on the keeping
of the Lord’s Day. To decry every other kind of moral decay
without recognizing Sabbath desecration as a great evil is to
betray our whole cause.
We must keep
the Lord’s Day holy. God requires it and we need it. We
were created with a need for the Sabbath, and Jesus reminds us
of this need in Mark 2:27. Against a culture that seems bent on
despising the Lord’s Day and all else that is holy, we need
all the help we can get to hold our ground. The history of both
ancient Israel (Ezekiel 20) and the modern church provides sufficient
evidence to convince us that to lose the Sabbath will eventually
mean to lose all Biblical distinctive and to lose our faith itself.
The practice of morning and evening worship is conducive to preserving
the sacred meaning of the day and thus the sacredness of all life.
elders of Christ’s Church have been calling His people to
worship twice on the Lord’s Day for many centuries. If we
will continue to hear that call, He will continue to bless us.
This point leads naturally into the next. The preaching of the
Word and the keeping of the Sabbath are keys to Christian culture,
a whole way of life that blossoms and spreads through the faithful
use of these means.
Maintaining and Propagating Our Christian Culture
There is a quality of spiritual life that develops and thrives
around the worship of God twice on the Lord’s Day. Something
about being in church with God’s people twice every Sunday
has a wonderfully positive effect, producing not only Christian
individuals but a whole Christian culture, a community lifestyle
distinguished by its caring, Christ-like quality, and a missionary
zeal that reaches out to the whole world.
Such a church
is modeled for us in Acts 2:42-47. Here is a beautiful example
of a "normal" Christian church community. Frequent preaching
and teaching of God’s Word is obviously the very heart of
this early church, and was wonderfully productive of that first
Christian culture, setting the pattern for healthy, self-propagating
church life from that day to this. Churches that develop along
these lines can expect God’s blessing for generations to
sees the opposite in the modern "church growth" movement,
the movement that, more than any other influence has contributed
to the abandonment of Sunday evening worship. Guiness warns that
such churches may have "no grandchildren" because "the
tools of modernity are successful in one generation but cannot
be sustained to the third generation" (No Good But God, p.
157, 1992). We should stay with the established pattern. It has
and Reformed churches of recent history have come in for their
share of just criticism. We have been far from perfect. At the
same time, we should be reminded that it is those churches with
their "twice every Sunday" pattern of preaching and
teaching that have produced the many positive benefits of the
Reformed and evangelical movement. These "twice very Sunday"
churches were all we had until about 20 years ago. The older model
may not have grown as fast as the new stream-lined "once
on Sunday" types but they produced nearly all of our present
pastors and denominational leaders, just about every Christian
college and seminary professor you or I ever met, and an entire
modern missionary movement. This is no small achievement.
also supports this point. Please forgive me for being just a little
autobiographical at this point, but 37 years in one pastorate
has given me a somewhat unusual perspective. I have been able
to watch people in my congregation grow up, get married, raise
children and finish careers - in short, live out large parts of
their lives - during that lengthy tenure. My generalizations about
my parishioners may seem to narrow a database to satisfy all the
demands of contemporary scholarship, and I am sure that I am lacking
in total objectivity. At the same time, I am confident in one
conclusion: Those who regularly participate in morning and evening
worship over a period of years are the most stable and productive
Christians. They are, furthermore, the most joyful and effective.
membership is 300. Over the years more than 1,000 have come and
gone, largely because of the nature of employment in Huntsville.
Among those who have come to church twice on Sunday there is a
remarkable record of family stability and spiritual productivity.
Of course, there have been exceptions, but from these families
had flowed a constant stream of children who have grown to maturity
honoring the Lord, marrying in Christ and following the Lord in
their vocations. This is what it is all about.
fact is that in all those years there have been only three divorces
among those who have been regular in our morning and evening worship.
I have been reluctant in the past to tell such a statistic in
public for fear the devil would attack more of our marriages just
to embarrass us. Confident that we can trust the Lord to protect
our people, I tell it now in order to give praise to the Lord
and to the means of grace He has given us to make us strong in
Him. Participation in Sunday morning and evening worship is a
proven means of helping God’s people to be "strong
in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). It
certainly is not the only thing we need, but it is an important
source of strength and blessing to those who have used it.
I have written this to encourage church members, officers, and
pastors wondering about the present shift away from evening worship.
I believe that we are seeing a major paradigm shift away from
a tried, tested and proven means of practicing our faith. Advocates
for this change have not provided adequate reasons for us to follow
them. Such changes in the past have proven disastrous. We have
every reason to keep the course we have been following and to
persuade those who might be wavering to return to this established
a great evangelical leader of the 19th century, described the
leaders of the first Great Awakening in terms that should encourage
us all in this direction. Ryle said:
The good old apostolical plan of incessant preaching, both
publicly and from house to house, was nearly the only machine
that he could use. He was forced to be preeminently a man of one
thing, and a soldier with one weapon, a perpetual preacher of
God’s Word. Whether in the long run the minister of the
last century did not do more good with his one weapon than many
do in modern times [late 19th century] with an immense train of
parochial machinery, is a question which admits of much doubt.
My own private opinion is that we have too much lost sight of
the apostolical simplicity of our ministerial work. We want more
men of ‘one thing’ and ‘one book,’ men
who make everything secondary to preaching the Word. It is hard
to have many irons in the fire at once, and keep them all hot.
It is quite possible to make an idol of parochial machinery, and
for the sake of it to slight the pulpit (Christian Leaders of
the 18th Century, pp.269-270).
Keep Our Sunday Evening Worship
We should reaffirm this practice and continue it. Last Sunday
night as I walked out of church, there were the children - out
on the lawn catching lightning bugs, playing tag, chasing girls
with toads. I am praying it will still be that way until the Lord
comes back. I am praying that all of you will join me in working
to that end.
Permission to reprint this
article has been given by PCANEWS (www.pcanews.com)
, the web magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America.
Paul H. Alexander is the MTW Country Coordinator For
Ukraine. He retired recently as pastor of Westminster
PCA in Huntsville, Ala., where he had served for thirty-seven