Let's Talk A Little More About Sunday Night
Where Did It Come From?
Writing last week's article about the importance of attending our Sunday evening services, I did not intend any follow-up. That changed when some good-hearted questions were asked. This article is written to answer one of those questions - where did the custom of Sunday evening services come from? Next week's bulletin will answer another question by describing what do we do on Sunday nights and on Wednesday nights.
The Chicken Or The Egg?
Unlike the eternal riddle about "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" there is no riddle about the background of Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. We place greater emphasis on our Sunday A.M. service because there is greater emphasis given to a primary service by the New Testament.
New Testament writers spoke of entire local congregations coming together at one time and in one place (I Cor. 11:17, 11:20, 14:23, 16:1-2). This worship service was given greater emphasis because that is the occasion (the first day of the week) when Christians are to share in the fellowship of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7). The first day of the week also coincides with the day of our Lord's resurrection (Mk. 16:9). This is the assembly that we are not to forsake (Heb. 10:24-25).
These passages do not describe a brief gathering. Included in them with the Lord's Supper are other worshipful behaviors such a singing and praying (I Cor. 14:15), preaching (Acts 20:7), and giving (I Cor. 16:1-2). Our primary Sunday assemblies were not developed from creative thinking. Instead, we do what we do because the Bible's books, chapters, and verses tell us what to do.
More Chickens, More Eggs
Just as there was a uniquely important assembly on the first day of the week, the New Testament also describes the earliest Christians as yearning for some kind of "day by day" gatherings (Acts 2:46, see Heb. 3:12-23). Seeking to implement these first-century "day by day" assemblings into today, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening meetings have been added. When was the first Sunday P.M. or Wednesday P.M. service? No one knows.
We do know that they were added for the best possible reasons. Brethren often speak of their need to be with other brethren, hear more of the word, and be strengthened with fellowship at other times during the week. These are the reasons for Sunday evening and Wednesday evening gatherings. Sunday evenings have the additional purpose of providing an opportunity to observe the Lord's Supper for those whose schedule prevented them from attending the primary service on Sunday morning (like some of our shift workers who evidence super examples by their determination to share in the Lord's Supper on Sunday nights with bleary eyes after pulling a long shift).
But Not Too Many More Eggs
While many dutifully attend "whenever the doors are open" (God bless them!), it is important to distinguish between what is commanded (a primary first-day service) and what have developed as very good opportunities, but as secondary opportunities. Promoting our additional times of genuine fellowship, worship, and Bible study as wonderful opportunities and not as woeful commands is, I think, the better route.
The better approach is to (i) highly prioritize the primary worship service, (ii) do your best to do the better, (iii) not think of yourself as worse if genuine necessity keeps you away from Sunday night or Wednesday night, and (iv) cautiously and conscientiously monitor your excuses about "genuine necessity." The weakness of the reasons to reject Sunday and Wednesday evenings (no, you are not more tired or busy than everyone else) is one of the strongest arguments in their favor.
Outside of purely religious responsibilities, we do not fall apart when life challenges us to set primary, secondary, and tertiary priorities. Neither should we fall apart when challenged to set aside time (less than 5% of the total hours in a week) for the Sunday morning assembly first and foremost, and for other important, but secondary, opportunities for praise, Bible study, and the mutual encouragement of brethren.