Attendance at Morning and Evening Worship

I pulled this off Oceanside URC Pastor Danny Hyde’s blog who in turned pulled it off an OPC church website.  I think it’s worthwhile reading for those who may have doubts or questions about the subject.  Of course, you’ll have to change what has to be changed for our situation, i.e. substitute Afternoon for Evening.

Attendance at Morning and Evening Worship
A Statement from the Session of Matthews Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Biblically oriented churches have historically conducted both morning and evening worship services on the Lord’s Day. Today, this practice is waning. The evening service in most evangelical churches is ill-attended or non-existent. The discipline, by professed Christians, of attendance at both Lord’s Day worship services has tragically broken down in the past few decades in our society.

The Session of Matthews OPC remains convinced of the propriety of having both morning and evening worship services on the Lord’s Day. It is also our position that members of this church ought to be exhorted to attend both services on the Lord’s Day, unless there is some legitimate, providential hindrance. The following is a summary of the reasons we have for holding these convictions. We are indebted to the Sessions of Grace OPC in Columbus, Ohio and of Franklin Square OPC in Franklin Square, New York for their similar papers which we have adapted for use here.

First of all, God summons us to keep the entire Sabbath day holy unto the Lord (Exodus 20:8-11). Christian churches hold both morning and evening worship services partly to stress that the Lord’s Day is the Lord’s Day. The entire day is to be dedicated to the Lord. This is emphasized when we “bracket” the day with both a morning and an evening worship service. Another reason for this is simply to fulfill the central purpose of the Lord’s Day, which is worship. God calls us to “remember” the Sabbath day and to keep it “holy.” That is, the day is to be consecrated, “sanctified,” or set apart in a special way to the Lord. This principle is certainly not abandoned in the New Testament, for Christ did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), and He declared Himself to be Lord also of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).

Connected with this, we find that Old Testament worship included both morning and evening sacrifices (Ex. 29:38-43). Likewise, the Psalms encourage worship in both the morning and evening. Psalm 92 is “A Song for the Sabbath Day,” and it says: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness at night” (vs. 1-2). Some Psalms speak specifically of the “evening worship” of the Old Covenant, e.g. Psalm 134, 141:2. From this we see a long standing biblical precedent for our beginning and concluding the Lord’s Day with worship.

Second, public worship is the time in which God meets with His people in a special way. God’s Old Testament people assembled for worship at the tabernacle or temple. God made promises to them concerning “the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory” (Ex. 29:42, 43). Now, Jesus Christ fulfills this as Immanuel: “God with us” (Matt. 1:23; compare John 1:14). Through Him, we draw near to God in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 10:19-22), and He draws near to us (James 4:8). He promises that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt. 18:20). In public worship, Christ both declares His name to His brothers and sisters as His Word is proclaimed, and sings the praises of the Lord in the very midst of the congregation (Hebrews 2:12). Who would want to miss any opportunity to meet with them and by joining with them to exalt the Lord? In giving an account to Jesus for how we used our time on earth (see Matt. 25:31, 46), it is striking to think that we must answer His question: “Where were you when I met with my people?”

Third, we have the specific admonition of the Word of God, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together as is the manner of some” (Hebrews 10:25). Some may think that meeting together on Sunday morning is adequate. “If we do this, we are not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, are we?” Certainly this is far better than withdrawing from all worship services, but note the way the passage begins: “Let us consider one another in order to stir up to love and do good works…” (vs. 24). The idea is “to consider thoughtfully and with commitment.” If we willfully miss opportunities to gather when the church meets, are we really considering our brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we honestly say we are stirring them up to love and to do good works if we miss God-given times to be with them in fellowship? To fulfill this mandate of the Word of God, we should commit ourselves to make use of every opportunity to be with other believers in the church of which we are a part.

Fourth, consider the role and the example of the church elders. These maintain an evening service as your leaders, and they seek to set an example with respect to it as your servants for Christ’s sake. This is part of their work of “shepherding the flock…being examples” (1 Peter 5:5). Humble submission to one another is the mortar that holds together the living stones which make up the church. To obey God, we need to follow those whom God has given to the church as elders and appointed to the task of rule (Hebrews 13:17).

Finally, remember that when you became a member of this church, you took membership vows which are in accord with these biblical doctrines. Your promised God that you would submit to the government of the church, heed its discipline, and support its ministries. You took on yourself obligations which include attending the church meetings to which the elders summon the congregation. God expects you to do what you promised Him you would do. “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4). Attendance at morning and evening worship, and at other meetings called by the elders, is simply a matter of keeping our promises made when we became church members.

The basis for Biblical churches historically conducting morning and evening worship services, therefore, is not arbitrary, and the reason your elders summon you to attend both morning and evening worship services on the Lord’s Day is not out of mere tradition. It is out of a sincere desire to apply the precepts and principles of the Word of God that this church might increasingly be a “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). God’s Word gives many reasons why we ought to gather with God’s people for both morning and evening worship. We commend this case to your conscience.

(Reposted from Yinkahdinay, 06.09.06)

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

9 responses to “Attendance at Morning and Evening Worship

  • emmilglenn

    Isn’t the Sabbath Saturday? Why admonish members if services are on the wrong day?

    Glenn Mariano

    • Wes Bredenhof

      The authors of this piece hold to the Westminster Standards. In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we find this question and answer (59):

      “Which day of the week has God designated as the Sabbath?

      From the beginning of the world until the resurrection of Christ God established the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. From that time until the end of the world the first day of the week is the Christian Sabbath.”

      I agree with that, though I more often refer to Sunday as the Lord’s Day.

      • emmilglenn

        Oh I see. But shouldn’t one’s beliefs be based on Scripture, not a catechism or tradition? Because the Bible clearly teaches that the Sabbath has been the same day, no hint of a change of day from Gen to Rev. So it’s misleading to call Sunday the Sabbath, or Christian Sabbath for that matter.

        Glenn Mariano

      • Wes Bredenhof

        Glenn,

        I’m not really interested in arguing this point with you. In quoting the Westminster Shorter Catechism, my point was simply that the authors were writing from within a community of people who agree that this is what Scripture teaches. When the Westminster Assembly drew up the Shorter Catechism (and the Confession of Faith/Larger Catechism) they had their reasons for saying what they said, and those reasons came, they thought, from the clear teaching of the Bible. Just for WSC 59, they mentioned 1 Cor. 16:1-2 & Acts 20:7. The Larger Catechism adds Revelation 1:10. If you’re SDA, I wouldn’t expect that you would find those texts convincing. Again, I’m not looking to argue with you — just helping you to understand where this is coming from. In the orthodox Reformed and Presbyterian churches, the Confessions don’t replace Scripture or stand over Scripture. Rather, they are regarded as faithful summaries of what the Bible teaches. It seems that the “Fundamental Beliefs” document of the SDA Church would be comparable. I hope that helps.

      • emmilglenn

        Ah okay, they’re summaries of beliefs. Are WSC’s available online also? When were they drawn up?

        Glenn Mariano

      • Wes Bredenhof

        The Westminster Standards were completed in 1647. You can find them online here. Confessional Presbyterian churches hold to them. I am a minister of a Reformed church that has its roots in the Netherlands. Reformed churches usually hold to another set of confessions known as the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort). As far as content goes, they are quite similar to the Westminster Standards. The main difference would be in the level of detail.

  • Mike de Groot

    Thanks for this post. Having recently joined a CanRC, I am wondering how the tradition of having such early second services started? Most are at 2:30 or 3:00PM and I don’t know of any that are in the evening. I speculate that it goes back to the needs of dairy farmers. Does anybody know why the second service is early afternoon?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Wes Bredenhof

      My guess is that it goes back to pre-electricity days. It would be more difficult and costly to have a service in the evening if you have to use lamps. But that’s just a guess — although if I remember correctly the second service in Geneva was in the afternoon too.

  • Thea

    In early years in the Netherlands after the Reformation the Reformed churches held three services every Sunday. And a prayer service every Wednesday evening. This went on until the early 20th century. In those days one walked or biked to church. Unless you had a newborn in the house, entire families attended all three Sunday services. It was simply accepted practice.
    I especially agree with the second point in the article above. I lament the trend towards emptier churches for the afternoon (evening) services, and hope we never fall into the trap of trying to attract church-goers with innovative practices. The elders of today need to implement discipline on “oncers” much more quickly and be more aware of who the “oncers” are. That’s why if you attend a sister church other than your own, you really need to let your elders know where you will be. Every time!

    Thank you Rev. Bredenhof, for bringing our attention to this timely issue!

    Thea Heyink

%d bloggers like this: