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Pretty ChurchMy whole life I've gone to church Sunday morning and Sunday evening.

My parents took us to church and Sunday school on Sunday morning, and they always took us back on Sunday evening. We even went when the Bears were in the Super Bowl. The crowd was much smaller than Sunday morning, but there were always people eager to be there.

Over the years, the evening service started to feel less like a "real" service as preaching became less prominent. We'd watch a video for a month or combine with another church for the summer or try small groups. I have nothing against videos (in their proper place), joint services, or small groups. But at the time they all seemed like efforts to keep up the tradition of the evening service without putting forth much effort.

In college I went to a Baptist church with strong preaching. My friends and I went Sunday morning and came back hours later to their well-attended evening service. While at seminary, I attended a wonderful OPC (now PCA) congregation. The attendance could be sparse on Sunday night, but I was always eager to go. I even met my wife there.

My first pastoral charge was at a large church in Iowa. As the associate pastor I would often preach on Sunday evening. We had around 900 people in the morning and about half that in the evening. I was glad to be there for two services.

When I came to University Reformed Church in 2004 the long-standing tradition of evening services had just about disappeared. I don't think the interim pastor had much interest in them, and the attendance had dwindled to a few dozen. I told the search committee that I wanted to resurrect the evening service. Over the years, the service grew to a strong core of committed folks, about one-fourth of our Sunday morning attendance.

Now as the pastor at Christ Covenant, I’m eager to pour into Sunday evening and, by God’s grace, see that service flourish.

Every church I've ever been a part of has had a Sunday evening service. I've always gone. It's what I grew up with. It's part of my rhythm as a Christian, and I am immensely grateful for it. It can be a chore to get the whole family back for the evening, and at times with young children my wife hasn’t been able to make it. But we hope to instill in our family the same habits that have served us so well.

Saying Enough, But Not Too Much

Before I say anything else, let me make clear that I don't think Scripture absolutely requires an evening service, nor do I think church members are necessarily disobedient if they don't attend their church's evening service. I know some good Reformed folks will argue that the evening service is a matter of biblical obedience. I can't make the case definitively.

Some churches may be in cultures that make a second service on Sunday evening prohibitively difficult. Some congregations may be really committed to home groups on Sunday nights. Other congregations may have repeat services that stretch into the afternoon, or they may do the same Sunday morning service on Sunday evening. Many churches have never had an evening service. It's just not in their DNA. I sympathize with the difficulty they may have in even considering an evening service. Other churches may find it difficult to pull together a second quality service because their resources and personnel are stretched thin. Many smaller churches or church plants may be in this situation.

And then there are the individual church members who may have a hard time getting back to the evening service because they live an hour away. Or someone, out of necessity, has to work on Sunday evening or at 4 a.m. on Monday morning. Or the family has young children who need to be in bed before the evening service will be over.

I know there are many reasons why having, starting, keeping, or going to the evening service may be difficult. I do not want to require more than Scripture requires.

What Is Still Worth Saying

And yet, I think you’d be hard pressed to argue that the waning of the evening service has been a mark of renewed strength and vigor in the Western church.

Here are a few reasons why I'm thankful for the evening service and why I hope you'll consider keeping yours, going to yours, finding a neighboring church that has one, or even starting one at your church.

1. Starting and ending the Lord's Day with corporate worship fits the pattern of morning and evening sacrifices. I don't think this is a slam-dunk argument for evening worship, but it corresponds to a good pattern that the day would begin and end with worship.

2. If the sermon and the sacraments are truly means of grace, let's give people the opportunity to experience this grace and take advantage of the opportunities on the day set aside for worship. Martyn Lloyd-Jones supported the practice of evening worship because he believed there should be a hunger for the preaching of the Word-a hunger that desires a second time to feast on the Bible.

3. Having an evening service keeps the Lord's Day the Lord's Day. Without the evening service I find it too easy to treat Sunday worship like an hour to get done at the beginning of the day. With evening worship, Sunday feels like a day set apart. Without it, Sunday morning worship feels like one thing to do in the midst of a busy weekend. The temptation to squeeze worship into the margins of life is even more pronounced when we can finish our worship "requirement" by 8 p.m. on Saturday evening.

4. The evening service is a lot of work, but it is good work. It can allow more teaching opportunities for others in the church. In most churches, there will be men, other than the senior pastor, gifted to teach and preach. Having an evening service gives those men, and those in ministerial training, more opportunities to exercise and hone their gifts.

5. Most pastors are busy (even crazy busy!). We aren’t usually looking for one more thing to do. But of all the things we could do, spending more time in the Word is one of the best. A second service forces the pastor to spend more time in the Bible, which is a good thing too.

6. The evening service is a great time for extra fellowship and extra prayer. We can do certain things with meals, small group prayer, and lingering conversations that are more difficult on a cramped Sunday morning. Sunday evening provides opportunities for testimonies, for prayer requests, for organized prayer for missionaries or unreached people groups.

7. I’ve found the evening service to be a great training ground and proving ground for future officers and leaders in the church. As a pastor, I take note of who is committed to morning and evening worship and who seems to be growing in hunger for the Word of God.

Just to reiterate: I don’t think we can mandate the evening service as an explicit command of Scripture. That doesn’t mean, however, that the evening service should be a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. The tradition of the church should not be quickly overturned, especially by those who want to lay claim to the Reformed-Puritan mantle. There may be good reasons not to attend your evening service or not to have one, but these should be considered prayerfully, not as an easy concession to lifestyle habits and cultural pressure. Why not give the evening service a try for three months and see if your walk with the Lord is better or worse because of it.

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12 thoughts on “Why I Love the Evening Service (And You Can Too)”

  1. Jim Korth says:

    I do miss the Sunday Evening services. It was a wonderful time for study and fellowship, plus going out for a bite or dessert with friends afterward. Living in Charlotte, my wife and I plan to start attending evening services at Christ Covenant and look forward to seeing and hearing you; however, it won;t quite be the same for us. Thanks.

  2. Zach Simmons says:

    In addition to a great training ground for officers, I’ve heard great testimony of it being great for children to learn more of worshipping with their families in the entirety of the service. Smaller, less formal gatherings tend to lend themselves positively to families who are intimidated by having their little ones in worship – for fear of disruption or not being able to worship themselves.

  3. Doug says:

    Wonderful post Kevin. I, like you, grew up with Sunday evening services. I grew to love them greatly and looked forward to going each and every time. Eventually, the church I was in opted to “phase them out” over a year as they tried to encourage the growth of “cell groups”. The angst I’ve experienced at that loss I still feel to this day. Blessings to you as you continue the good fight. Be encouraged.

  4. Dean says:

    It can be presented as a “requirement” much like one sermon a year should be preached on Christian education but no sermons are devoted to home schooling or children attending public schools & that’s when lines seem to be drawn & alienation can take place as various people push for conformity where Scripture may or may not.

    I get the connection with OT worship & realise there is great blessing in an evening service on top of a morning service from experience, much like reading the Word or giving over to prayer but more so. In some ways I miss the PM service (or a deeper experience corporate or otherwise) particularly as it was part of my life for many years. The hymns, the sermons, prayers & fellowship, the dozing, the setting sun through chiselled glass & a breast filled with a time of worship.

  5. Daniel says:

    Interesting thoughts. There are possibly some benefits to a Sunday evening service depending on the church and circumstances. I’m glad, though, that you fell short of saying it is required by scripture. So many people believe that because of their traditions. But Sunday evening services didn’t even start until the invention of electric lighting. Churches saw it as a way to use new technology to bring people into the church. They would sometimes be the only place that had lighting in the community, and they would use it to invite people in. The majority of people don’t know that, and believe that having an evening service is just the way it always was. In fact, though, the early Church wasn’t even services in a church building at all. They mostly met in homes and studied God’s Word, fellowshipped, and worshipped in small group communities. Of course, they eventually grew to become bigger churches that we know today. But there is something to be said about the smaller group setting. If used properly, it helps nurture community and encourages greater discussion of the Bible, helping people understand it beyond Sunday morning sermons. Discipleship is best learned in smaller group settings. That’s why so many churches (especially larger ones) have focused so much on small groups. It’s definitely more Biblical than a Sunday evening service.

  6. Jack DeBlaay says:

    Another great post/conversation PK any time with God should be seen as a burden a have to a cinder block necklace but a get to want to a I can’t wait to time a flower necklace my life passion is to encourage people to spend time in the word with the word Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday isn’t that why Christ came our good brother RC Sproul has a great comment in the reformation study Bible on Genesis 3:8 Blessings to all and your time with Him and maybe evan Sunday night

  7. Jack DeBlaay says:

    Another great post/conversation PK any time with God should not be seen as a burden a have to a cinder block necklace but a get to want to a I can’t wait to time a flower necklace my life passion is to encourage people to spend time in the word with the word Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday isn’t that why Christ came our good brother RC Sproul has a great comment in the reformation study Bible on Genesis 3:8 Blessings to all and your time with Him and maybe evan Sunday night

  8. Larry Marshall says:

    Read recently where the writer stated that there was a sense of the congregation being even more ready to hear and be impacted by the scriptures after the sermon in the a.m. and then coming back in the evening.

  9. Ken says:

    Daniel: Vespers? Evensong? Those services were happening long before electric lights were invented.

  10. neville briggs says:

    I see that the scripture urges believers to love one another, I don’t see any reference in scripture to loving services, rituals or liturgies. In fact several times in scripture it is stated that God does not require ” services ” or rituals, He wants our hearts for Him in all our daily walk.

  11. Josh says:

    Hi! Thanks for the article. I’m curious to know what you think is the role of rest and relaxation on the Lord ’s Day and if regular Sunday evening services are counterproductive when all factors are considered. I’ve heard some argue that the benefit of the services themselves is a type of rest, but isn’t that compartmentalizing spirituality by failing to appreciate the value found in family time, personal rest, more personal Bible time, etc.? Aren’t those thing also part of God’s gifts for his day? Your feedback is much appreciated.

  12. Brian says:

    This is a helpful article. Question in my mind is for pastors who feel so stretched that preaching twice in a day seems a huge mountain for them. Any suggestions on preparation needed in preaching twice on the Lord’s Day?

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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