Friday, June 15, 2012

Thoughts on the Endangered Evening Service

Worship is the single most important activity for the Christian. Church is where God meets us in a special way (through his chosen means) to bestow his grace through the Word preached and through the sacraments.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say we must worship twice on Sunday. But why, if the possibility avails itself, would we not want to?

We are pilgrims, strangers, and aliens on our way to the Promised Land, the new heavens and earth. Like the Israelites, however, we tend to care little about the things that are most important in the Christian life. Is it any wonder that as church has become more of a dull tradition in our modern context, the evening service has become about as popular as crocs are fashionable?

We are called to be salt and light in this world of darkness. To be the fragrance of death and life to a world that is perishing. We are the most “fragrant” when we are in public, corporate worship.

In church we receive a foretaste of the marriage feast of the lamb, of singing with groups of angels in festal gathering before the throne singing “Holy Holy Holy” to our God and King. It is not merely the elders who are calling us to worship. Rather, “This is God commanding that we appear” (R.C. Sproul Jr.). If our God is commanding us to appear, shall we miss the evening service because we are tired, or worse, simply don’t care? And what message does that send to the world, and more importantly to God? It speaks a message to the world that we are comfortable American citizens living our lives in ease and without much need of God's Word, the primary means of grace. Otherwise, we would make it a priority to be at the evening service.

If there was a great persecution tomorrow, like the one that happened after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8), I believe that the members of our churches would have renewed vigor in not neglecting to meet together “as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25). We should be continually encouraging each other more and more as we see the Day drawing near. It seems hypocritical to sing in the morning service, “We long to see your churches full” (Trinity Hymnal 469), and then miss the evening service. 

Excuses for missing generally revolve around being tired, or wanting to rest (after all it’s the day of rest, right?). I hope that we will not be tired when we see the Son of God coming again upon the clouds. I hope that we long more for spiritual rest than we do for physical rest. The Lord’s Day never had anything to do with taking a nap (though that isn't wrong to do), but rather in acts of charity and kindness, in visiting widows and orphans, and in resting in the one who gives us true rest! We rest most decisively in public worship as God feeds us with his Word and sacraments, and makes us wise for salvation.

You know what characterized King David’s life? He was a man after God’s own heart, and his life was one full of desiring to worship God in the assembly. Reading through the Psalms, we see that one of David’s foremost desires was to be in the House of God.

Psalm 84:2
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

Psalm 26:8
O Lord, I love the habitation of your house
    and the place where your glory dwells.

Psalm 22:25
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.

Psalm 27:4
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

Jon D. Payne, in a recent article in Modern Reformation gives five reasons why we must continue the evening service:

  1. He says that the evening service bookends the Lord’s Day with worship. What a wonderful way to begin and end the day!

  1. He says that an evening service follows a biblical pattern of worship by quoting Psalm 92:1-2 which says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night”.

  1. He says the evening service is part of a Reformed heritage rich in biblical and systematic theology. If we give up this practice, it had better be for a good reason!

  1. He says the evening service is a divine and providential call to worship. There is a call from God by his Word, and a providential call by the elders. As under the authority of God's Word we should be at evening worship. As under the authority of the elders, we should respond in affirmative to their decision of an evening service, and so “be subject to the elders” (1 Peter 5:5).

  1. Finally, he adds that worshipping twice on Sunday is a double portion of the means of grace. Why would any Christian not want that?

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