I have been encouraged to see the increase in our evening worship service attendance. We have some folks who struggle mightily to make it to the morning service. (My own family has been in that place before.) So, here is a dilemma. On the one hand, we don't want to create a culture of judgment or guilt around the Lord's Day and evening worship. On the other hand, we don't want to fail to make clear the spiritual blessings offered to us in this service. (I think that we have been doing this, hence this blog post!) We believe that if you can manage it, a regular routine of morning and evening worship is best for your spiritual health and the health of our whole congregation. The larger the gathering, the greater the encouragement. With that said, I list below six ways that the evening service is complementary to the morning service.
- Catechetical Preaching. We typically preach through books of the Bible in the morning service. In the evening we are preaching through the Westminster Shorter Catechism. All of this is deeply rooted in the Reformed Tradition. The Dutch Reformed Church especially had a practice of preaching through the Heidelberg Catechism in the evenings. Such sermons impact the heart and mind differently.
- Testimony. Every Sunday night we have allotted 10-12 minutes for a testimony. Most of the time this testimony will be from a person in our fellowship. Few things are more encouraging than to hear a brother or sister reflect upon God's faithfulness in the midst of his or her own personal challenges. Sometimes we will use this time to hear from a pastor, missionary or ministry leaders on some particular aspect of ministry or contemporary challenge that the church is facing.
- Corporate Discipleship. Each week we corporately say the catechism question providing the basis for the sermon that night. This catechism question also provides the basis for the daily worship guide in the week to come. Sunday is the first day of the week, and our evening service is leading us into a new week of worship that will continue daily. We must recapture the use of the catechism in our church life and culture. It is a tried and true method of discipleship whereby we commend the language of faith to one another and to the next generation. More than one study has shown that in spite of all the efforts of programming for youth and children over the past 40 years, the lack of substantive discipleship has led to an exodus of young men and women from the church. We want to do all that we can to reverse that trend.
- Training for Children. We welcome children of all ages in our morning service. However, the evening service is a great transitional place to train children to sit in worship. We sit around tables and the setting is more relaxed while still being structured. There are some children who attend junior church in the morning who sit through the evening service with their families. The format provides plenty for children to engage without any special children's bulletins or other helps being needed. The tables provide a nice space for children to draw things related to what they are hearing in the service. The service begins and ends promptly.
- Corporate Prayer. A healthy congregation needs a corporate prayer gathering. The book of Acts provides many examples of such corporate prayer: we constantly see the early church gathered and praying. Our time of corporate prayer is planned to be intentional and kingdom focused. One unique feature of our gathering is that nearly everyone has a chance to pray. I recall vividly how shocked Phil DeHart was when we he came to our evening service and found so many people praying together. He remarked that God had given us something special. I agree. Nothing brings me more joy than hearing our congregation praying together each Sunday evening.
- Joyful Music. In this respect, the evening worship service is quite similar to the morning worship service. The singing is uplifting and joyful. In our present cultural moment when Christians are being persecuted around the world, we should not take for granted the joy and privilege of gathering for congregational singing on the Lord's Day.
So there you have it! Six unique aspects to the evening worship service. I liken the evening service to be the last course in a meal that God is serving his people on Sunday. It is a rich course of spiritual food. And this is the one area of life where it is O.K. to indulge! So come taste and see what the Lord has prepared for you on Sunday nights.