by Joseph MillerWhat About the Sunday Night Service
A pastor recently asked: "As you travel about the country, what are you seeing as a successful Sunday evening service?"
His concern was to not have just another preaching service that would produce more fat, lazy Christians. He wants to see more evangelism results in the church ministry. Perhaps something could be done to make Sunday evening a more productive harvest field. Or perhaps it should be more family oriented, hoping to prevent the next generation from abandoning the Bible and the church.
Many of the recent generation of younger pastors seem to believe that preaching is no longer an effective means of church ministry to develop people as "meat-eating" followers of Christ (Heb. 5:11-14). In fact, I recently learned of a group of older independent Baptist pastors who believe that expository preaching is one of the ten reasons why the church is dying. They believe in emotional fire-brand preaching instead, not distinguishing between Bible exposition and true expositional preaching that includes application and appeal for response.
I have observed across this land of churches many alternative tactics for the Sunday night service. Some have moved the Sunday school time to Sunday evening. Others have the AWANA club and/or youth program on Sunday night. Some churches try home Bible studies. Some are trying discussion groups at the church, while others are making Sunday night family night with a variety of activities. Some churches are canceling the Sunday night service. The practice tends to follow the plan of not having the service one Sunday night each month; this tends to break the habit of Sunday night attendance.
I rarely see churches ministering to half or more of their morning constituency with these alternative ministry strategies. Furthermore, the churches that follow the seeker strategies for the Sunday morning church service typically, in my observation, have a very low Sunday evening attendance, if the church has an evening service at all.
My conclusion, based on national observation of churches for over 24 years of church development ministry, is that the largest Sunday evening church attendance is in churches that follow traditional music and preaching ministries, especially emphasizing systematic expository preaching of Bible content. (This is also true of the midweek prayer meeting.) These churches cultivate appetite for the Word of God with content-oriented preaching on Sunday morning, and the hungry people return for more on Sunday night.
I also observe an evangelistic emphasis (along with food for the saints) in these Sunday morning church services. This emphasis encourages the people to witness during the week and bring their converts (or potential converts) to the morning service (the most likely time for them to come to the church for the first time) for public profession of faith in Christ. I have not observed churches with the Sunday evening service as the primary time for evangelistic appeal. The family pew is one of the best family times possible, with enthusiastic singing together and deliberate effort by the pastor/preacher to also appeal to the children with the preaching. This will grow their appetite for preaching (the foremost biblical method of church ministry) when they become adults.
E-TIPS, www.BuildMyChurch.com, is published by Discovering Life Ministries. Joseph Miller, who heads the ministry, is a church development consultant and publisher of The Church Planter-a Comprehensive Manual for Church Development.