Let the light shine (brief thought on the gospel service)

one sexy lightbulb from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Vinovin, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
My good friend who is a Presbyterian minister finally gave me an answer to a question I’ve had for a while, and it was how we managed to have Sunday Evening gospel services; when did they start? There is certainly no scriptural basis for having two Sunday services, yet most evangelical churches here in Northern Ireland stick rigidly to the morning communion service and evening gospel service, with the ever-present “invite someone along with you to hear the gospel!”

So how did it come about? Are you as keen to know as I was? He told me it was in late Victorian times here that in any town or village, churches were the first to get electric light and people would come at night to see this new marvel, and so ministers thought “well, now they’re here… we may as well share the gospel with them!” This may not be the case in other countries, but I’m confident you might find similar reasons.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve noticed a big change recently. Numbers attending the morning communion were always less than the evening gospel service, even maybe as recently as ten years ago, but now that has been turned on its head. My brother-in-law is a Baptist pastor in Scotland and concurs it’s the same there, with one colleague of his seeing 200 in the morning, and 10 in the evening!! Yet still, if anyone dare suggest we change things and drop the gospel service or change the format, we are met with accusations of ‘watering down’ the message, or becoming ‘easy Christians’ – as if we are just meant to carry on regardless and suffer meetings for their own sake. A friend at Bible College did a field term in a church in England that held a full gospel service with a hellfire sermon, hymns, announcements, and a collection, and nobody but the pastor, his wife, and my friend were present! I kid you not!!

We don’t need to just ‘maintain’ the evening service, we need to make it attractive to non-believers. And I don’t think saying “we now have fluorescent lights!” will work.

Grace be with you.

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