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  • Writer's pictureEmmaus Baptist Church

Resolved to Rejoice in Sunday Evenings

Article by Tim Cantrell

Tim Cantrell is the senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Dear Christian friend – as we prayerfully plan for 2024, with our long lists (actual or mental) of goals and resolutions, where does Sunday night church fit in? Thanks to American pragmatism (the church growth, seeker-friendly movement) and rampant secularism, evening worship services have largely vanished. It is a once-holy habit that has now almost disappeared in today’s Christianity. One pastor remarks, “…It can be downright difficult to get the family out the door once on a Sunday, not to mention twice; and your neighbours will be convinced that you’re crazy for doing it.”

Here are five reasons our churches must recapture Sunday evening services:

1. It frames our week – It’s the one day of the week we can publicly praise God “morning and evening” (Ps. 1:3; 92:2), which sets the tone for doing that in our homes privately (and in family worship) every other day of the week. On Sundays, we get to bring our morning and evening offerings to the heavenly temple, like God’s priests of old would do at the earthly temple (Num. 28:1-10; Ezra 3:3; Lev. 6:20). Corporate worship is a detox from the previous six days of being surrounded by idolatry, and it launches us into the new week with a whole day framed by pure worship from start to finish. Our worship habits are the most foundational and influential of all our habits in life.

2. We are the Lord’s body – Missing Sunday night church weakens our church covenant about how we will not “forsake the assembly” (Heb. 10:25) and will “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) and actively encourage, care and watch out for one another (Heb. 3:13), and use our gifts and every opportunity to build one another up (Eph. 4:11-16; Rom. 12:4-8). Why would we ever want our habits to suggest to our fellow members, ‘I have no need of you’, and ‘You have no need of me’ (1 Cor. 12)? My starting point as a slave of Christ is not how I can be served, but how I can serve others, knowing the far greater blessing of giving than receiving (Acts 20:35; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). How else will we warmly welcome, evangelise and disciple new people at church if we’re absent from half the gatherings?

3. It’s family night – Sunday nights are uniquely suited for aspects of church family life that cannot be squeezed into a Sunday morning – like corporate prayer, baptisms, mission reports, catechizing, testimonies, plus more congregational singing, more sweet communion at the Lord’s Table, and more church meals together! As a child I remember Sunday nights were a highlight to play outside with my friends while my parents fellowshipped with their friends; it was a big let-down if we missed it!

4. We follow godly footsteps – Morning and evening Sunday worship was the norm for the first 1950 years of church history. Do we need the Lord and His Church less than our forebears; or have we become wiser than they? Or have we succumbed to the spirit of the age that marginalizes God? Why settle for the minimum instead of giving the maximum to our Lord who gave His all for us? (In fact, only in the last century did Saturday become a non-working day; we actually have more leisure and family time than many of our forefathers.) Why “move the ancient landmark” of a good and godly practice (Prov. 22:28)?

5. It’s the Lord’s Day – In my church’s Declaration of Faith, as members we together affirm: “We believe that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, in which we gather for corporate worship in the name of our Saviour who rose on the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:1; Rom. 1:10). Not just the ‘Lord’s Morning’, but a whole day consecrated to the risen Christ, declaring that the tomb is empty and our Saviour lives!

Our catechism asks, “Why is Sunday called the Lord’s Day?” Answer? “Sunday is called the Lord’s Day because Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and the early church gathered on that day for corporate worship in Jesus’ name.”

Before we make grand plans and pursue big dreams for the new year, we should start with recovering godly practices of our forefathers that led them to accomplish great things for their Lord, who is still our Lord today. My brother or sister in Christ, may our faithful God cause you to consider how He could work in your life in 2024 through your delight in Sunday evening services.

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