Attendance at Morning and Evening Worship

26 August 2010 by Wes Bredenhof

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)