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A Pastor’s Reflections: Evaporating Evening Worship

May 10, 2016

VFT

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the last ten years is, more and more Reformed churches are letting the evening worship service fall to the wayside. Churches either drop the service all together, or turn it into a Bible study, or perhaps only have one evening worship service a month. While I do not have the space to offer an apologetic for the importance of evening worship, I do want to offer a few observations on this sad and growing trend.

First, we must realize that Reformed churches have historically placed a high premium on the preached word. The Second Helvetic Confession (1566), for example, states that preaching was the means by which God personally and audibly addressed his people. Moreover, the Westminster Larger Catechism makes a similar point when it answers the question, “How is the word made effectual to salvation” (q. 155)? It answers, “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners” (emphasis). Bible study and reading the word are blessings, but not to the level that hearing the preached word is. Why is this so? Because Paul identifies that preachers (Eph. 4:10) are Christ’s gift to the church, moreover, he identifies that it is through the preaching of the Gospel that God draws sinners unto himself (Rom. 10:14-16). The preached word is the fulcrum, I believe, in the church’s corporate life of sanctification. Yes, Bible study and reading the word are necessary vital elements of a healthy spiritual diet, but preaching is the main course.

Second, historically Reformed churches held morning and evening worship to mark the beginning and end of the Lord’s day, a practice that echoed the morning and evening sacrifices conducted in the Old Testament tabernacle (e.g., Lev. 6:20). In other words, God does not expect us to sit continually 24/7 under the preaching of the word, as we would be unable able to live life. The same could be said of Old Testament sacrifices—they were an act of worship but God did not expect his people to perform sacrifices 24/7. Rather, in the Old Testament morning and evening sacrifices were an important way to demarcate the day as one dedicated to the Lord. In the same way, morning and evening worship is a fitting way to demarcate the Lord’s Day.

Third, I’ve heard some people say that they do not want to attend evening worship because they want time for their families. Personally, I don’t buy it. There are 168 hours in a 7-day week, and if you attend morning and evening worship (assuming each worship service is roughly an hour long), that leaves you with 166 hours, more or less, to do as you please. I do understand that we live in busy times and making it to church for morning and evening worship can be a challenge. But using the excuse of needing more time for family shouldn’t be a reason not to go to church in the evening. Instead, I should cut out other things in my life before I cut myself off from the means of grace, from the preaching of the word.

Some might accuse me of being legalistic because I’m trying to encourage people to go to church for evening worship. Would the same be said of a beggar who was telling other beggars where they could find a free meal? If God sends forth the heavenly manna, indeed Christ himself, through the preaching of his word, then he spreads out a feast for us each and every Lord’s Day, and if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, then only Christ, our heavenly manna, will satisfy us. Go to church, morning and evening, and feast upon Christ and his word.