Sunday evening services are dying.

I’m speaking of a national trend. Many churches that used to have a Sunday evening service don’t anymore. There is much theorizing about reasons for that. Thom Ranier wrote about it last year. His article, along with the comments, is very helpful in understanding this trend.

Our pastors recently spent time analyzing, discussing, praying about, and planning for our Sunday evening gatherings at Calvary. We believe there is great value in what is provided during our second Lord’s Day gathering. This service is a vital part of our church’s life. We are refining the service’s focus and content and encouraging our people to make the effort to avail themselves and their families of what we prepare and offer. We want to give our people good reasons to make the second trip.

One significant change we’re making is the start time. Previously the evening service has started at 6:00 pm. Our new start time, beginning this Sunday, is 5:00. We plan to finish by 6:00. This enables families with children to get home, have some family time, and get the kids in bed at a decent hour. It also allows people to have unrushed fellowship during the evening. There’s time to get together at someone’s home or go out for a snack. This is a great opportunity to grow closer to one another.

Another adjustment we’re making is the content focus of the service. Our second Sunday service is not a repeat of the first, and it is not just another of the same kind. We will still give praise to our Savior in song, but our singing time is a little less formal, with more of a family sing-a-long feel. We will often have times of testimony, either from people who are asked or open sharing from our church family. The content of the preaching and teaching will be focused on passages and topics that relate to daily life and our walk with God in practical ways.

We want everything we do to have purpose and be shaped by that purpose. Some people may ask, “Why would I add another event to my day? Why should I make another trip? Why go to church twice on a Sunday?” Here are my answers to those questions.

  • God’s Word is infinitely rich with truth and wisdom, and we can always learn more. The second time we gather to learn from the Word is an opportunity for us to grasp more of these wonderful truths and apply them to our lives.
  • Jesus is worthy of praise because He is Lord and because He loved us and gave Himself for us. During our second Sunday service, we praise Him with our songs. We also give thanks to Him with our testimonies. These personal stories of God’s blessing and working are encouraging to all.
  • In the evening service you learn what the Scriptures have to say about topics that relate to your daily life, your family, and your walk with God. It is the goal of the pastors to make the Sunday evening messages practical. We will explain the Word and talk about how to live by it in specific areas of our lives. The upcoming topic relates to how we communicate with one another – we all need help with this!
  • If you stay for a few minutes after, you can converse with others and get to know members of the Calvary family. You might even decide to go out for a bite to eat together. People are in a little more of a hurry to leave after Sunday morning. In the evening, there is more time to just sit and talk, to meet that new person or hang out with your friends.
  • If you have children, they will be learning and growing in groups designed for them while you do the same. Truth Trackers for kids and Youth Group for teens is going on at the same time. Don’t just drop them off and keep going. There’s something for you, too!

We always find time to do what we value. I look forward to spending time on Sunday afternoons with the Calvary family.

2000 Sermons, 25 years, Some Observations (Part 3)

This is the third and last post of my observations after 2000 sermons and 25 years of pastoral ministry. In the first two I talked about preaching and about churches. This one will be about people. Of course every pastor could share the good, bad, and ugly about people (and people could share the same about every pastor). I want to present this as the kind of people I have known and am thankful for.

I have known and am very thankful for little old ladies who pray. It seems there is always at least one. They are sweet, gray-haired, teetering, reedy-voiced, mighty prayer warriors. I remember when one of them in the church I pastored passed away. At her funeral, I held up her name-filled prayer notebook and asked who was going to take her place. I would not be who I am, and the church would not be what it is, without these dear saints.

I do not have sufficient words to give thanks for the people who suffer deeply and for long periods of time, who during their great trial give testimony to the grace and goodness of God. Whether through a terrible disease, a tragic death, a devastating family issue, or other major trial, these people not only avail themselves of God’s grace, they seem to overflow with it and become an encouragement to all around them.

I am very grateful for the men who have been steadfast and strong and have been a source of strength for me when I am weak, wavering, doubtful, or discouraged. There have been 2-3 especially who, while in a position of leadership, have kept a steady hand on the helm as the church navigated rough waters. These men have become a stabilizing influence in my life and ministry. More than once I have been close to “hanging it up” and one of these men has provided timely encouragement and counsel. I praise God for them.

What church and pastor could function without the person who will do just about anything, anytime, that is needed? Some people are just servants. They love to hear that there is a need, and they almost (sometimes literally) run to take care of it. There is no task too great or small. There is no time too early or late. There is no appreciation or compensation expected. They are sometimes willing to a fault, sacrificing personal time and resources for the sake of ministry. Whatever is needed, they make it happen.

Yes, I am thankful for the people who ask the hard questions. There are people who, when a plan or decision is being discussed, will question the reasoning, or draw attention to faults in the plan, or disagree with the direction. There is almost always benefit from paying attention to what these people are saying. Most people who do this really care about the church and really support and love the pastor. Occasionally someone is just being disagreeable. Most often, the constructive critic highlights an issue that should be considered, thought through, explained better, or improved. That’s good for the church.

I am thankful for the men who have given years of their lives to leading the churches I have pastored through a major building program. There is no way I could have done it as the pastor. It is beyond my ability and outside of my skill set. There have been key men who have provided the leadership in overseeing the construction as well as coordinating the process with the congregation in both churches I have pastored. They literally poured and invested a major portion of their lives into this ministry endeavor. The church benefited greatly from them. I am grateful for them.

I praise God for the people who have had major struggles with sin and have overcome them. One example is a man addicted to drugs who was destroying himself and his family. He trusted in Jesus Christ to save Him. He met with me weekly, early in the morning at McDonalds, for discipleship and counseling. He grew and God delivered him. I also think of family situations where grievous sin threatened to destroy the marriage. I felt and witnessed the joy of repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. God is good. There is hope. It can happen. I am thankful for the people who access the grace of God for themselves and extend it to others.

There are many more kinds of people for whom I am thankful. I’ll name one more. I am more grateful than I can ever say for my wife. The pastor’s wife is in a unique position. She can literally make or break her husband’s ministry. My wife’s name is Faith, and she lives it. Her faith has sustained me countless times. Her prayer for me, encouragement, wise counsel, joyful spirit, amazing forgiveness, and unwavering support of God’s calling on my life have, on a human level, made me who I am. No words can express the gratitude I have for her. Thank you, Father, for Faith.