Monday 18 January 2016

Whatever happened to two church services on Sunday?

I use the word Sunday rather than the biblical term which is the "Lord's Day" or the theological and pastoral term "the Christian Sabbath" for good reason. Why? Well, once ignorance sets in regarding the idea of Sunday being the Lord's Day, this then opens the door to a multiplicity of changes. One of these is to never teach that the Lord of the church has a claim upon his people to worship him on this Day. It is most usually churches that refer to Sunday who do this and I want to appeal to that audience in this blog post.

It is so easy for pragmatism to set in and to begin to ask the wrong questions regarding the doctrine of the church. Questions such as "what do people want?"; "How should we grow our church?"; and other such things get asked, instead of a thorough consultation of Scripture. I wanted to call this blog post after a chapter in a book by R. Scott Clark on "Recovering the Reformed Confession"; the chapter is called "Whatever Happened to the Second Service". However, in the UK today, many evangelical church's have moved their Sunday programme to a single service and often it is at a time in the mid-late afternoon, commonly it seems at the moment at 4.00PM. Therefore the question here in the UK is: "whatever happened to two church services".

Quite frankly, it is not a biblical imperative to have two church services on the Lord's Day, but neither is it discouraged to have two, but it is prohibited to have none on that Day. But, why would a church want to starve the sheep and only have one service? Psalm 92 has long been sung and preached for around 3000 years because it is a Psalm for the Sabbath. Let us hear what it says.

"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" (Psalm 92:1-2).

Psalm titles, though they are often in italics, form part of the inspired text of holy Scripture and they should be read. Here we learn that the people of God sing praises to the Most High God morning and at night. Should not the church do the same and desire to do the same in our day?

I think that what is connected to this downgrade in the doctrine of the church, is that a man-centred pragmatism creeps in, and before you know it the convenience of people is placed above the Command of God. In congregations that move to a single service on the Lord's Day, there is commonly a down-playing of the moral law, an influx of an emphasis on musical instruments for singing and the rest of the church calendar in the week begins to get loaded with activities. Instead, the Christian Sabbath is intended to be a Day of entering into God's rest, being fed spiritually, worshipping God as he expects us to do, and not least in honouring his Day.

I would not go to a church with my family which only has one service; this is not primarily or only based on my commitment to the Lord's Day. But, because of my spiritual hunger. I got converted in a church that was committed to two services on Sunday and it was also committed to preaching. From day one as a Christian, if the church had three services, I would have gone to them all, such was and is my spiritual hunger. How about you? Are you spiritually hungry? If you go to one service on the Lord's Day, is that really enough to equip you to live righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-14)?

"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Is 58:13–14)".


Brett Hoskins said...

Good thoughts. I like the challenge to hunger and thirst more and more after God, delighting to be under the instruction of the Word of God and in the company of His people. But what do you make of Colossians 2:16 and what is says about the sabbath?

Kevin Bidwell said...

Brett, Thanks for the question, though I suspect that you already know the answer. Colossians 2:16 states that "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ". I have included verse 17 as well.
Paul was having to deal with many issues in this church, one of which was the Judaizers wanting to get Christians back under the old Testament ceremonial code for worship. This is what Paul is refuting. The OT law had many Sabbath observances at feast times such as the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, besides the weekly Sabbath. These were shadows but the substance is Christ.
The Christian Sabbath is fulfilled through Christ and observed with joy by Christians. The church have moved forwards from the Last Day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath, to the First Day of the Week, the Lord's Day following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord has ordained a fixed appointment to meet with his people together, which is on the Lord's Day. May we avail ourselves of this joyful appointment. If I lived in a country where a Friday or Saturday was the norm for a day off, I would still want to meet with the church on the Lord's Day evening. This was the day of the resurrection, not a Friday or Saturday. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 "Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come".
I find the Westminster Larger Catechism very helpful in teaching on this and you can access a copy of this in Modern English on our church website: