,,Învață și din greșelile altora. Nu vei avea timp să le faci tu pe toate“.
Articolul despre întâlnirea bisericii în seara zilei de duminica a strârnit, așa cum și trebuia, un interes major. Este încă un semn că i-a venit vremea. Vă invit la o masă rotundă pe acastă temă, prilejuită de seria de comentarii apărute pe blogul de unde am preluat articolele.
Dincolo de superficialele diferențe de limbă, denominație sau cultură, ca și ei, avem și noi aceleași probleme în ceea ce privește prezența la adunările de duminică seara alebisericii. Îi admir pe americani că pot discuta această problemă delicată fără să se ,,osândească“ unii pe alții. Măcar atâta și tot am avea ceva de învățat din lectura de mai jos.
Creștinismul românesc neoprotestant seamănă și cu creștinismul ,,sabatian“ al reformaților olandezi din America (Rom. 14:5), dar și cu cel adaptat ritmului trepidant al vieții moderne. Putem învăța din comparațiile și confruntările dialogului redat aici.
Sigur, o traducere în limba română ar fi mai mult decât binevenită, dar cine are timp s-o facă … Poate doar cei care nu merg și la serviciul de duminică seara.
P.S. – Pentru cei ce vor să afle poziția și părerea mea, este suficient să vă spun că la Bethel avem două întâlniri duminică, una vineri seara și visez să începem două servicii ,,americane“, în limba engleză, miercuri și sâmbătă seara (unde tinerii noștrii să poată să-și aducă prietenii la evanghelizare). Clasele noastre de școală duminicală funcținează ca ,,grupuri mici“, iar miercuri avem un astfel de grup care se întâlnește acasă la familia vecinului nostru, Ștefan Fericeanu. Tinerii au un grup al lor care se întâlnește cu Valer la noi acasă. Tot la noi acasă se întânesc din când un grup de fetele cu Christine, fata mea (care le aduce la noi și pe celelalte mame din grupul lor de Home School). Ca și pe evrei, exilul ne-a făcut ,,să ținem aproape“ și să ne manifestăm mai ales în zona de confort a familei noastre etnice.
Dacă îmi veți zice că nimeni nu vine la TOATE aceste întâlniri, voi recunoaște că aveți dreptate. Nici u nu particip chiar la toate.
Wonderful post Tim. I enthusiastically agree with everything you say, and would also add that our evening service allows us to serve those who have legitimate trouble making it to the morning service, lets us have more reports from visiting missionaries and guest preachers without disrupting our normal morning expository series, and is a natural venue for learning new worship songs. Lloyd-Jones was in the habit of preaching a more explicitly evangelistic message in the evening service, and encouraged the people to invite lost friends and neighbors. Thanks for your work.
This is nice, but the evening services we so loved as children are declining across the U.S and Canada and I see that as inevitable. I don’t want to spend the rest of my ministry beating the drum for something that isn’t going to flourish. I don’t want to always be badgering people to do something that the Scriptures do not command. I would rather lead people to lean into the mission of Jesus… Great Commission Obedience… opening their homes for small groups and getting ministry into their hands. As much as I love to preach and as much as I fantasize about a Lloyd-Jones-like Sunday evening service, it is not going to happen in my life-time. It’s not inspiring to gather dutifully with a small group of people and try to replicate what used to be a thriving ministry. If it is going to become a small group anyway, then meet in a place appropriate and conducive to small group dynamics and then launch more small groups.
If you want to work hard to build an evening service there is no doubt benefit to it, but what would happen if pastors were to inspire and train a significant percentage of the people to form groups with missional-evangelistic intent. The church should be a people in motion out among the world on the mission of Jesus, not just a group that gathers for a lot of meetings and listens to a lot of preaching.
I dream about a church in the future that is gathering to worship and then actively and organically GOING to connect with people who are far from God. The people only have so much time. We are trying to use the Simple Church approach so that we have a discipleship process in place that involves a large gathered assembly once a week, groups where people pray and study the Bible with a bent toward obedience, and plotting and planning and strategizing missional/evangelistic efforts.
These groups may happen on Sunday nights or any other time during the week and the people may gather in a group at church on Sunday night or they may be at home with their family on Sunday night because they have devoted another time of the week to a “Jesus Group.”
Tim, thanks for your thoughts and your fruitful and productive ministry. We all benefit from it greatly.
Ken, it looks like Evangel still has an evening service. Are you saying, based on your thoughts here, that you are prayerfully considering doing something different?
Very thought provoking article. Before the advent of the modern evening service, church consisted of two separate services, but these were divided only by a fellowship meal which was physically held at the church, as those in an agrarian society typically could not physically travel back to the farm and to church again twice in one day. It is that sort of fellowship and Sabbath day activity I personally long for, where the morning and afternoon are taken up with two worship services set apart by a fellowship meal, and not the modern two services model separated by numerous hours and double the travel obligations. For those of us that travel a great distance to attend church, it is simply not practical to expect we travel back home only to turn right around and travel back again, especially as a family with numerous small children. Separately from these practical considerations, most all of the arguments I see for two such completely separate services in the modern format, are also arguments made by the Dutch reformed regarding attending their three lord’s day services, such as those at the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids Michigan. Where does it stop? I hold that it has to begin and end with a purely scriptural argument regarding the obligatory requirements and duties of those who worship in Christ’s church. Outside of such pietistic, emotional, and pragmatic arguments that are routinely set forth, I would love to see a purely scriptural defense of multiple obligatory services on the Lord’s Day, and once such a defense is set forth, a practical hashing out of the circumstances of meeting that requirement that takes into account the real challenges of ALL of the congregation.
Un dialog ,,de milioane“:
I think this is pretty ridiculous for Christians to mourn the death of the evening service. It is merely a tradition, that may or may not have been helpful. If the entire body meets together on Sunday morning and meets individually or as small groups the rest of the week why do they need another service? Public services are not the only avenue of discipleship. If a church is actively pursuing discipleship and mission but does not have an evening service there is no actual loss.
Of course there’s a loss, Tad. You are turning it into an “either-or” situation – i.e., you can have a Sunday evening service, or you have small groups (not sure what you meant by the entire body meeting “individually”). Why shouldn’t you have both? How can meeting together to focus on worship and God’s Word not be “helpful”?
If the Sunday evening service is “merely a tradition”, isn’t that also true of the Sunday morning service, or any Sunday gathering? Does the commandment regarding the Sabbath mean anything anymore – even in principle?
Is it asking too much to devote an entire day to God?
If something else is more, or just as, effective at fulfilling the purpose of the church than there is no loss in not having a Sunday evening service.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with an evening service, merely that the leadership of some churches have decided that there is a more effective way of fulfilling the mission of the church. There is nothing in the Bible that says we must meet twice on Sunday.
I believe every day should be dedicated to God, but I do not think you need to be in a church building having a church service twice every Sunday to accomplish this.
I think the limit on having both is having someone to do it. In our church, the pastors either lead a small group or take turns visiting the small groups to see how things are going and offer encouragement. There is no one to lead a separate service, even if there was a desire for one. Since we have moved away from the evening service to small groups, I find Sunday to be much more fulfilling and spiritual. You have time to get to know each other and talk on a one-on-one level, where in the past it was 5-minutes in the lobby while chasing your kids down to get inside on time.
In terms of “devoting an entire day to God”, I would have no problem doing that, but it is very difficult when so many other church activities fall outside of Sunday. There is Awana one night, choir practice another, and usually at least one more night every week or so too for a meeting, practice, etc. With my work schedule, kids, etc. I cannot give up an entire Sunday every week and still make those things happen, I find often that the church does a great job teaching the importance of what to spend time on Biblically, but a poor job of teaching prioritization and stewardship of that time. One can’t have everything as top priority, then judge those who can’t attend everything (by making the necessary calls on what to attend and not attend based on their individual and family needs).
If a church decides to make Sunday Sabbath the top priority, then I think they need to be careful of being too hard on the congregation when all of a sudden they have fewer people in choir, not enough Awana volunteers, etc as if somehow they are now being “less spiritual” by giving those things up.
I agree to a point, assuming at least some of what Tim’s pointing out is happening in the other settings you mention, but I think the key word is “IF” – “…If the entire body meets together on Sunday morning and meets individually or as small groups the rest of the week why do they need another service? Public services are not the only avenue of discipleship. If a church is actively pursuing discipleship and mission but does not have an evening service there is no actual loss.”
Traditions can be meaningful but devotion to them can be counterproductive. .I grew up in rural Southern Baptist churches:. Sunday school (9:30am- 10:30am), Morning worship service (10:45am to 12:00pm), Choir Practice (4:00pm-4:45pm), Training Union (5:00pm-5:45pm), Evening worship service (6:00pm-7:15pm).
There were many things to commend about this schedule. There was a sense of community. There was the possibility of a reset for the new week. But were we making disciples? Did the generations that lived that schedule from the cradle role through retirement really advance the kingdom? Or did we just evaluate our progress the way we have pretty much for more than a century in the West.and count attendance and offering amounts?
Whether we have 1, 2, or 3 worship services, our local churches are going to have to start focusing on multiplying disciples who make disciples by whatever method is both consistent with Scripture and successful. Or we can continue to insist on our own culturally centered traditions and watch the ongoing decline.
That is one intense schedule you list! I came across a small church recently that had a very similar schedule and I sincerely wondered what they hoped to accomplish with all that activity. The church I grew up had a similar schedule minus the “Training Union,” and youth group was on Sunday nights after the service. We had a big youth group, so that involved a lot of the families.
That was the schedule of my childhood (and I’m a pastor’s son). What I remember was my father being exhausted by the end of Sunday and needing to take Monday off to recover.
When I became an adult, I continued in churches with similar schedules. But as an adult in a non ministry related career, working 60 hour weeks during the work week, then preparing to teach Sunday school (at least 30 min prep time per night and a few hours on Saturday), I found that I too was exhausted by the time I got home from church on Sunday evenings…with no option of taking Monday off. At one point, I began to evaluate and prioritize the schedule and realizing where Christ placed making disciples, I began to significantly draw down and focus my areas of participation in ministry. Choir was dropped first, then churches stopped offering Training Union (or discipleship classes) on Sunday nights. I changed my discipleship making/teaching style away from lecture to question based (almost Socratic) personal engagement, but I was still exhausted by Sunday evening…and I started hearing “concerns” about my reduced time in the church building from members of the pastoral staff.
What I had to recognize was that those men in the full time ministry had very little understanding of the work requirements of the professional in a global marketplace (I also travel outside of the US several times per year on business…FWIW, a 60 hour work week quickly becomes an 80 hour work week when you do extensive international business travel.). I also had to confront my own past of engaging in brow beating what we used to call SMO Christians (“Sunday Morning Only”).
I honor Tim’s passion. I honor those who serious find meaning in being in church “every time the doors is open”. But I have also be given the blessing of the type of experience that enables me to minister to the growing number in our culture who do not live the traditional week of work and rest that our current church schedule is designed for.
I guess that’s my point. I’m a pastor and I’m very exhausted by monday morning as well. Preaching a sermon can really take it out of you, and in addition to that I’m typically there early for praise team practice, these days I have been teaching Sunday School, I help lead a home group on Sunday night and in between there are often visits to be made, dinners to have, meetings to sit in on, impromptu counseling sessions to hold etc. But I’m a pastor, I know that it comes with the territory and it doesn’t bother me one bit that Sunday is quite busy. Now, for the average lay person is who I feel for, trying to keep this kind of schedule on his “day of rest.”
Until recently (maybe 4 or 5 years ago) I would have said the same thing. We were old-school sabbatarians from childhood I am almost 50, grew up in a faithful, balanced Christian home (Presbyterian in the deep South), and my wife (also a faithful covenant child who grew up in a loving, faithful Presbyterian home) and I attended the evening service at our churches for 45 years without varying – even during the difficult years with 5 children squirming and needing to be taken out and walked occasionally. I memorized the Shorter Catechism as a child, and taught it to all 5 of ours. But the more we reflected on Scripture we came to reject the Westminster view of the sabbath, which led then to our re-thinking our attendance at the evening service. My wife had begun working (teaching Bible at our church’s school) to help pay for 3 in college, and our schedule was just too full. Now we skip the evening service and have a family dinner – usually grilling out or having a favorite meal of one of our kids. And I now LOVE Sundays! It is, without question, our favorite day of the week now that we stopped viewing it as “sabbath” and just enjoyed it. An evening service is fine. Certainly not a bad thing for folks to get together and worship! But it can also lead to some serious horizontal comparison/judgmentalism. Not always but certainly sometimes. And it also can just wear folks out – faithful Christians trying to do the right thing by attending, etc. We regret our vigilance about the sabbath and about attending the evening service so rigidly – it became something that it should not have become – an avenue for performance instead of love for Christ. I am just beginning to see a little of what Paul was hitting on in Galatians 4 and Romans 14. And I love it. And I love a Sunday night grill!
I am grieved by the loss of the evening service.
No matter how it is rationalized, in most cases the evening service has vanished for one primary reason: lack of interest.
Out here in rural ranch country our monthly (yes, monthly) service starts at 4:00PM in order to allow the ranchers time to complete their chores beforehand. Worship is usually one hour and fellowship is roughly another hour, and is looked at as a special time each month. Weekly services can not be supported with a small congregation, however we hold dearly to our tradition that continues to provide access and meaningful worship.
Great post Tim.
You seem to be tackling a couple of different issues and I wonder if in doing so you are confusing the two as one.
I am concerned when I see Christians getting more fired up for a sporting event, or anything else for that matter, on a Sunday than they are for going to church and having the priveledge of praising and worshiping God alongside other Christians. We think of this as a foretaste of heaven where we can be singularly focussed on praising God and being fed by him through his Word. For us, it is unquestionably the highlight of our week. We attend a church that has identical services at 9:15 and 11:15 so there is the opportunity to serve in one and attend without serving in the other. We always leave feeling spiritually refreshed. After that, we want to hold off from sports, TV, social media, email etc. for as long as we can to just hold that peace and that restful time which is a break from the rest of the week.
But, unlike what you describe, we do not feel the need to have an evening service to help keep our day properly focussed. On the contrary, six other days of the week we lead such busy lives that are always scheduled and run so short of time that we simply delight in the freedom of having time on Sunday to rest. We might visit with friends or family or we might just sit around and relax or even have a nap! – and yes, sometimes we might even watch a movie or a game, but apart from the Sunday morning worship services, the thing that sets Sunday apart from all the other days of the week is that things slow down. We slow down and we rest.
I love and appreciate your perspective, but perhaps there are also other people, like ourselves, who attend one church service and then use the rest of the Lord’s Day to rest, reflect, be thankful, meditate etc.
Sunday’s are an incredible blessing. Rest is an incredible blessing. Whether we attend one service or two services may we all enjoy the Lord’s Day to the glory of the One who gave it to us.