The last eighteen months have caused churches to take a long look at themselves. Thoughtful leaders have placed many schedules, events and ministries under critical review. Churches have had ample time to evaluate what they do and don’t do, and thus are now at a place to largely start fresh with purpose and intentionality. Coats Baptist is no different.
On July 11 we introduced a Sunday morning model of ministry intentionally designed to better reach and serve families. The model includes two appropriately timed identical, back-to-back services (9:00 and 10:30 a.m.), each supported with Sunday groups and age specific ministries from 6 months to 12th grade at the same times. I can’t be more excited about this move for our church. It puts us in the right place to grow and maximize our efforts on Sunday. As we have said before, our job is to put the sail in the air; God’s job is to send the wind. Our sails are up on purpose and with intentionality. That’s always encouraging.
Sunday is the big day for evangelical churches. It defines their ministry. What happens on Sunday (and doesn’t happen) drives everything, and rightly so. From the time of the early church, it has been the one day of the week set apart for corporate worship as it commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the grave (John 20:19; Acts 20:7). As the apostle John wrote in the early 90’s AD from the isle of Patmos, it is the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). As we evaluate our Sunday, one question is in order for us as a church: What do we do on Sunday? And in particular, what do we do on Sunday nights?
As you may know, we’ve historically answered that question with a Sunday evening service at 6:00 p.m.. Yet, this summer we’ve leveraged the calendar and the schedule of many families by taking a 10-week break, suspending in-person Sunday evening gatherings. In their place we’ve intentionally studied a curriculum published by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) called “Starting Point” to train and equip us to live more faithfully on mission for Christ. As the study comes to an end we want to reintroduce the Sunday evening service on August 22, but not without purpose, conviction and intentionality.
Allow me to share some thoughts.
Not every church gathers for Sunday evening worship. To be sure, there is no biblical prescription for multiple worship services or evening worship. Some churches use the evening time for in-home and on-campus small group Bible studies, others participate in missional projects in their community, while some churches do nothing at all. The Scriptures prescribe the autonomy of the local church. Each church should choose their philosophy and methodology of ministry according to their context and culture. Yet, in light of current trends, allow me to advocate for a Sunday evening service for Coats Baptist and provide a rationale for holding it with purpose and meaning. When we gather again in a few weeks, we need a vision for Sunday nights. Allow me to answer the question many may be asking, “Why do we hold a Sunday evening service?”
We believe the mission of the church is to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). That is to make fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ who are equipped to live on mission for him. We also believe discipleship is an incarnational (in the flesh, face-to-face), communal endeavor which begins with the local gathering of the church for worship (Acts 2:46). Therefore, the mission to make disciples can never be separated from the intentional gathering of the local church for worship for the primary means of grace: the preaching of the Word (Acts 20:7), the singing of songs, hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16), and the observing of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26).
There are valid reasons why some people cannot attend a Sunday evening service: families have infants with early bedtimes, adults are required to work Sunday evening, etc. There are also valid reasons why some churches cannot hold Sunday evening services: cultural persecution, geographical location, facility constraints, ministry programming, etc. There is no chapter and verse prescribing the evening worship hour as normative for churches. The schedule of Sunday activities and services are at the discretion of the local congregation. However, what is agreed upon across the Christian community is that Sunday is a day set apart for the corporate worship of Christ.
Therefore, as much as it depends on us, we want more of Christ and seek to leverage the Lord’s Day for our spiritual success. Such is the spirit of the Sunday evening service. We believe churches need more Bible, more fellowship, more singing, more ministry—not less. In sum, we want more of the Lord on the Lord’s Day. Listed below are four reasons why we choose to gather a second time on Sunday.
1. Extended Fellowship – Hebrews 10:23-25
Through the years, I have been convinced of this truth: God’s people want to be with God’s people. The fellowship of believers has always been the mark of true conversion and the healthy church. Sunday evenings give us more time to be together. Compared to the morning hours, the evening service is more conducive for social engagement and provides a great opportunity for catching up and connecting with those you were unable to see at other times in the day.
2. Corporate Prayer – Acts 2:42; 4:31
God’s people are not only a praying people, but they pray together. The Scriptures attest to corporate prayer as a regular rhythm of the church. There is no formula for revival. It is not stirred up by man but sent down by God. Yet, history has proven it to be true — God moves when churches pray. Without specific, intentional time in prayer we should expect very little supernatural activity among us (John 14:12-14). The evening service allows us an opportunity for focused, extended prayer time. A church that prays together stays together.
3. Intentional Preaching – Colossians 1:28-29
In the spring of 1969 Martyn Lloyd-Jones delivered a series of lectures on preaching at Westminster Seminary. Those lectures were later published as Preaching and Preachers and have been a treasure resource for preachers and parishioners alike. In the opening sentences of his first lecture Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” I can’t agree more with “the Doctor” as he was affectionately called. The pulpit drives the church, and preaching drives the Christian life. Let’s be honest with ourselves — can you think of anything better to give your attention to than God’s Word on the Lord’s Day?
The book of Acts gives the assumption that the early church devoured Scripture. They “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching” (Acts 2:42). Paul “did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:37). The same is true Coats Baptist. They have a high view of Scripture and expect those who teach to have the same. They love their Bibles, and they love their Lord. They know that the way a church views the Word is the same way the Lord will view the church.
The Sunday evening service is the second meal of the day. Not, lunch or dinner, but the second meal of Scripture. I’ll confess, it may not be the best meal each and every Sunday — but it is a meal! However, both services, both morning and evening, are intentional preaching events. They are approached with prayer and preparation, and with the expectation that God will meet with his people and nourish us with his Word (1 Peter 2:2). I cannot think of a better place I’d rather be than seated with the church, Bibles open. Sunday by Sunday we feast on truth and devour sound doctrine. You are what you eat. Let me encourage you to come hungry.
4. Leadership Development – 2 Timothy 2:1-2
One of the most encouraging moments in a ministry is seeing leaders developed, especially new preachers and teachers of God’s Word. As we have said before, Sunday evening is a terrific platform for men to hone their preaching skills. Young seminary students, staff pastors, or potential elders are all the beneficiaries of a second preaching hour on the Lord’s Day.
As we resume our Sunday evening services, we will be studying the book of 2 Timothy. Let me encourage you to begin reading this book, the last canonical letter written by the apostle Paul. He writes a second time to his young protege in ministry, the pastor at Ephesus, Timothy, in order that he might strengthen him for spiritual service. The theme verse of the letter is surely verse 1 of chapter 2, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Strong leaders make for strong churches. Let’s grow in grace together on Sunday nights this fall.
Allow me to recommend a few commentaries for your personal study:
- Stott, John R. W.. The Message of 2 Timothy. Downers Grove, IVP Academic, 1984. (Originally published in 1973 as Guard the Gospel) Link
- Guthrie, Donald. The Pastoral Epistles. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009. Link
- Platt, David, Daniel L. Akin and Tony Merida, eds. Christ-centered Exposition Commentary: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Nashville: B&H Publishers, 2013. Link
- Doriani, Daniel M. and Richard D. Phillips. 2 Timothy and Titus. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2020. Link
- Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000. Link