EDITORIAL: Sunday night — A spiritual discipline
Some say the tradition of two gatherings on Sunday descends from the rural American frontier when travel was slow and difficult. Families brought their meals with them for what was often called “preachin’ and dinner on the grounds.” This was followed by an early-afternoon service.
Once cars appeared, families went home to eat and returned later in the day for what became a separate service.
Today, Sunday night services are in decline — in Churches of Christ and many other religious groups, according to news reports.
The economy has played a role. When the price of fuel spiked in 2008, several Churches of Christ in parts of the country where churches are few and far between canceled Sunday night worship. Driving 20-plus miles to church, twice on the same day, was expensive.
But even church members who live just blocks from their place of worship are finding alternate venues on Sunday night.
Some meet in homes for Bible study and fellowship. A few practice acts of service in the community or team up to visit shut-ins and share communion.
A growing number stay home, claiming it is the only opportunity they have for family time.
Perhaps it is time for individual congregations to examine more closely the tradition of assembling on Sunday nights, so that God is glorified and we are richly fed.
The downturn in attendance indicates that church leaders should consider the need to reinvigorate Sunday nights.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Sunday night worship should receive careful planning to provide the best possible experience.
Try something fresh. Focus the time on praise and worship, prayer requests and well-developed Scriptural themes or meaty lessons.
• Churches that opt for small groups in homes on Sunday nights must make them worthwhile. That means planning studies and activities that both strengthen personal relationships and deepen spiritual lives.
Have a curriculum for your small groups. Share detailed prayer requests. Get involved in each other’s lives by knowing and supporting each other.
Use small-group ministry to invite into your home people who otherwise might not visit a service in the church building.
• Find ways to lessen the cost of travel twice each Sunday. In some rural communities, Churches of Christ share lunch at their building, followed by an early-afternoon devotional in lieu of a Sunday night service.
Christians who genuinely want to be together find ways to make it work for as many individuals as possible.
• Focus on bringing family members together. This may provide opportunities to strengthen both social and spiritual relationships.
In a poll conducted on our news blog, ChristianChronicle.org/blog, some busy respondents described Sunday night as precious time for their family to be together.
When churches intentionally plan rich and inspiring Sunday evening worship, both spiritual and social needs are met.
As it is, we spend so comparatively little of our week in God’s Word, worshiping at his feet, being the church to each other.
Let’s resign ourselves to do something — rather than sit in the pews and watch as an additional opportunity for Christians to gather together dwindles.