Why An Evening Worship Service?

Since the historic Christian practice of attending worship twice on Sunday has fallen on hard times, the question, "Why an evening worship service?"

One great practical benefit of having both morning and evening worship is that it provides an excellent structure to help families sanctify the Lord’s Day. The two worship services become like bookends on the Sabbath, allowing the Christian to more easily keep the day holy as we are commanded, rather than merely sanctifying a couple of hours in the morning! (Despite what is popular in our culture, it is still the Lord’s Day, and not “the Lord’s Morning”.)

 

Since the historic Christian practice of attending worship twice on Sunday has fallen on hard times, the question, “Why an evening worship service?” is often asked by those new to Reformed Christianity. Many people in our culture find it amazing that anyone would actually want to go to church both in the morning and evening on Sunday. The idea of attending worship twice seems to be an unnecessary inconvenience that takes up too much of the weekend. Sadly, even many Reformed Christians do not see the great significance in attending church twice on the Lord’s Day and remain uncommitted to the practice. So what gives? Why an evening worship service?

The Rhythm of Morning and Evening

There is a beautiful rhythm to morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day. While there is no explicit command in the New Testament to have two worship services instead of one, there is, nevertheless, a clear pattern in Scripture of “morning and evening.” This is seen in the order of creation as God structured time for us as humans in terms of mornings and evenings (Gen 1-2). Worship in the old covenant was structured around this natural rhythm. God commanded the daily offerings in the tabernacle to be made once in the morning and then again at twilight (Num 28.1-10; cf. Ex 29.38-39). This is why the psalmist declares in Psalm 92, which is explicitly identified as a psalm for the Sabbath,“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” (vv.1-2; cf. Ps 134.1).

It is not unreasonable, therefore, to see a pattern of morning and evening carrying over into new covenant worship, especially since the New Testament gives evidence of worship services that took place on the evening of the first day of the week (see Acts 20.7).

Divine Bookends

One great practical benefit of having both morning and evening worship is that it provides an excellent structure to help families sanctify the Lord’s Day. The two worship services become like bookends on the Sabbath, allowing the Christian to more easily keep the day holy as we are commanded, rather than merely sanctifying a couple of hours in the morning! (Despite what is popular in our culture, it is still the Lord’s Day, and not “the Lord’s Morning”.)

Since the Lord’s Day is a mark of God’s covenant community that sets them apart as holy and reminds them that they are pilgrims on the way to the eternal Sabbath, evening worship provides a beautiful rhythm for the Lord’s Day. For centuries, thousands upon thousands of Christians have found the interval between the morning and evening worship services the perfect time for food, fellowship, devotional reading, family prayer, acts of mercy or – by no means the least important – a good nap! Freed up from all the craziness of the week, Christians are able to enjoy a day of worship and rest. What better way to end the holy day then by gathering together with the covenant community for Word, fellowship, sacrament and the prayers? (cf. Acts 2.42)

An Historic and Reformed Norm

Some Christians balk at the practice of attending an evening service because it is not what they are accustomed to. What they must understand, however, is that if what they are accustomed to is only one service on the Lord’s Day, then they are accustomed not to the practice of the historic Christian church, but to a modern novelty.

As we look at the history of the church, we see that morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day was the norm. In the early fourth century, the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea described what he understood to be the universal practice of the church:

“For it is surely no small sign of God’s power that throughout the whole world in the churches of God at the morning rising of the sun and at the evening hours, hymns, praises, and truly divine delights are offered to God. God’s delights are indeed the hymns sent up everywhere on earth in his Church at the times of morning and evening.” (emphasis mine)

During the Middle Ages, morning worship became known as “lauds” and evening worship “vespers.” Attending both lauds and vespers was standard practice for Christians.

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