Being with Jesus at the Evening Service
Years ago my wife and I sat down next to my seminary professor of New Testament, Dr. Renwick Wright, and his wife for an evening service. Looking around the sanctuary, he expressed a bit of disappointment that not more people were there. Then he said something that has always stayed with me. ”I always want to be at the evening service. For that was when Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, and if the Lord chooses to show Himself again tonight by the Spirit I sure want to be here.” An excellent teacher of the Scriptures, Dr. Wright was referring to John 20:19, which says, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Dr. Wright was emphasizing the importance of the evening service as being another time on the Lord’s Day for the church to experience her Savior. Sadly, the situation over two decades ago seems not to have changed much, as the evening service of the church often is dismally attended. Though the above proof text alone may not be compelling enough to convince you of this, here are some further reasons.
Attending the evening service honors the Lord of the resurrection. Christians worship on Sunday, which is known as the Lord’s Day or Christian Sabbath, because Jesus was in the tomb burying our sins and the old covenant Sabbath on the last day of the week. But on the dawn of the first day of the week, He arose to establish a new created order with its new day of worship. Having the worship of Christ bookend this day with morning and evening services honors His sacrifice for us and strengthens us in our service to Him.
Clearly in Luke 24:28-36 the resurrected Lord did spend time on a Sunday evening with the men on the road to Emmaus then, after He mysteriously vanished and they went to tell the disciples, He showed up to the gathered group again. We often get distracted a bit with Eutychus’ fall out of the window, but let us not forget that so enthralled was the early church in Troas with the teachings of Christ crucified and resurrected that they listened to Paul late into Sunday night. Are we as desirous to be with Him and learn from Him?
Attending the evening service fulfills the signs of the Old Testament. One of the sacrifices of the Old Testament was the grain offering, half of which was to be offered in the morning and the other half in the evening as it accompanied the whole burnt offering. Though clearly the actual practice has been abrogated with Christ’s sacrifice, what did this offering signify and what are we to learn from it? A Tabletalk article reminds us:
Minchah, the Hebrew term for the grain offering, is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to the tribute that was offered to a great king as a sign of and thanksgiving for his goodness to his subjects (Judg. 3:15). In essence, the grain offering served the same purpose. When ancient Israelites offered up their grain on the altar, they were thanking the Lord for His mercies and for supplying their needs…This offering emphasizes the need to dedicate ourselves to the Lord and provide for the work of the clergy. It also encourages us to recognize that all we have comes from the hand of God and is to be returned to him. Today, our gift of time and service to the church is a tangible way in which we can enact the eternally binding principles seen in the grain offerings.
What better tribute or gift to show our love and thankfulness to our King than a willing desire to be with Him and His people morning and evening on the day that He arose?
Attending the evening service helps us obey the call to earnest prayer. Additionally, the lamp was to burn continually(Exodus 27:20-21) and the incense perpetually (Exodus 30:8) in the tabernacle and then temple. Knowing these sacrificial elements in part were prophetically representative of the church’s witness (Matthew 5:14-16) and praying (Revelation 8:5), is not coming together again on Sunday evening, on the day He has set apart especially for us, a chief and primary way for displaying this type of earnestness?
Many congregations spend additional time in praises sung and petitions offered in their evening services. Notice that David describes his praying this way in Psalm 141:1-2.
O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
Isaiah foresaw the church in the Messianic age as praying day and night (Isaiah 62:6-7):
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;
All day and all night they will never keep silent.
You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves;
And give Him no rest until He establishes
And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
Is it not fascinating to consider that we are part of prophetic fulfillment when we gather for evening prayers on the Lord’s Day?
Attending the evening service causes you to grow in the Word of God. We are to be meditating on His Word day and night (Psalm 1; Joshua 1:8). What better way to encourage this than the church setting aside times on Sunday evening devoted to singing His Word, reading His Word, and hearing His word?
Having grown so much in my knowledge of the Lord in evening services when I was a young believer; having missed not having them regularly in church planting; having then worked toward implementing them as a pastor with those not accustomed to the practice; and now having recently been blessed in my move by learning from other men as they preach, I want to encourage you to consider growing in your discipleship and faithfulness by attending evening services when possible. You will grow in God’s Word.
Attending the evening service emphasizes the body of Christ over personal endeavors. Often, though not always, it is personal and even selfish pursuits that cause God’s people to forsake evening worship. Yet if we truly consider others as more important than ourselves, we would realize that when we miss evening services we are missing opportunities to encourage, serve, and strengthen others in the body of Christ.
We use Hebrews 10:24-25 for a call to morning worship, but what about in the evening?
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
If your church offers evening services, that means the elders that you have promised to honor deem it important for the health of the body for you to meet at that time. To neglect this service when we are able to attend is to make our own pursuits more important than the ones encouraged by God’s appointed leaders.
Attending the evening service proclaims to the world there is something greater than their temporal pursuits. Though we are not to attend church in order to be seen by others, when the church withdraws from the world to gather for worship she is showing what she values. When people see us giving ourselves to God before careers we could advance, games we could watch, or sales we could benefit from, eternal values are brought closer to them for their consideration. Indeed, we have seen churches established, people converted, and disciples sanctified through the use of evening services.
In a highly significant passage in Isaiah, where the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day are equated, forever setting apart the glory of the Christian day of worship, the Lord Himself promises the greatest treasure of all to those who honor this day. He will become our chief delight even as He in turn delights in blessing us.
If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Dr. Wright was right. We should want to be there so as not to miss the Lord and His blessings.
For further encouragement, see Kevin DeYoung’s article “Don’t Give up on the Evening Service.”