Purpose and Philosophy of ourSunday Night Ministry
History of the Sunday Night Service
Honestly, the very first Christian gatherings would have been in the evening. Before the ‘Christian era’, Sundaywas considered a workday. As such, New Testament era believers would have worked at their jobs all day andthen gathered together on Sunday evening for worship (in individual homes). However, for our purposes we canlook back to the sixth century when the Catholic Church began to have regular prayer and worship timesthroughout the day at the local churches and monasteries. The first of these was called
(morning) andthe last
(evening)—though these were not ‘services’ in the Protestant sense of the term. ManyProtestant churches kept these two gathering times, though they placed a greater emphasis on the Word(actually, during the Reformation it was common for Protestant churches to have daily lectures on the Bible). Inthe 1660’s the Puritans in America had a Sunday morning and a Sunday evening gathering time as well as aThursday morning lecture. Later, mainly through the influence of revivalists like D.L. Moody, the Sundayevening service became a staple in many conservative churches. Some churches used this service to train &equip its members in God’s Word whereas others used it as an evangelistic opportunity.Quite often the Sunday evening ‘service’ never occurred in the Church building. Instead, God’s people went outon Sunday afternoons and evenings to hospitals, orphanages, & prisons to minister to the lost and hurting. Assuch, they were offering “service” to God (from where we get the word ‘church service’ today). Thus, ‘churchservices’ historically was something that was missional, active, and outreach oriented.The Sunday evening service, sadly, began to displace the much more ancient (and biblical) practice of meetingtogether in homes for worship, prayer, and Bible study. Many churches today are trying to reclaim the biblical practice of “small groups”, which allow for deeper discussions on Scripture and more intentional discipleship.However, the Sunday evening service still has much to offer—and it doesn’t have to be an ‘either-or’. Ahealthy and vibrant congregation, if it is willing to be flexible, can (and should) accommodate both structures.
Purpose & Philosophy
We see the purpose of the Sunday service primarily as a tool to equip and train believers. Furthermore, we feelit is a mistake to simply make the evening service a ‘repeat’ of the morning service—either in terms of contentor form (e.g. order of service). Whereas the morning service is generally larger, more formal (e.g. the messageis a lecture), and static (i.e. its format doesn’t really change that much), we believe the evening service (whichattracts a smaller audience) is most effective when it is informal (e.g. the message is a dialogue rather than alecture) and varied.We seek to create an environment that focuses on (1) teaching, (2) training, (3) equipping, and (4) involvingGod’s people in the work of ministry.
By teaching we mean an emphasis on Bible knowledge and content.
By training we mean learning practical skills to be more effective for Christ.
By equipping we mean helping each other identify & develop their spiritual giftedness.
By involving we mean creating opportunities (during the service time) to plan for and be engaged in themission of Jesus Christ.
©2009 Indian River Baptist Church. Pastor Josh Gelatt