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Some Sunday Churches Reconsider Day of Worship

Posted on October 14, 2019
Some Sunday Churches Reconsider Day of Worship

In much of the evangelical Christian world, and certainly among the 12 million Southern Baptists in the United States, few voices are more respected than that of Thom S. Rainer, the author of many books on church leadership and church growth, as well as a researcher and the former president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptists’ publishing house.

So when someone with his reputation says Sunday-keeping churches may be missing the boat in attracting worshipers primarily because their services are held on Sunday morning, it bears some attention.

“Our churches did well in reaching the agrarian culture. We gave the farmers time to get the chores done and get to church by 11:00 am. Unfortunately, this culture began to wane around 1860 with the onset of the railroad and industrial age,” Rainer wrote in a recent blog post. “Most of our churches have worship services for the farmers who no longer exist.”

You may not have thought about the timing of worship services in that way, but once you consider it, Rainer’s statement has a ring of truth to it.

“We Keep Hoping Farmers Will Show Up”

He added, “A dramatic shift is taking place in the American workplace. More people are working on weekends, many of them on Sundays, than ever before. But most churches haven’t moved their worship day at all. It’s still on Sunday mornings. We keep hoping the farmers will show up.”

Rainer makes it clear that he is not suggesting an end to Sunday worship, but he instead asks, “I wonder why so few churches offer a non-Sunday alternative. There is a huge demographic we are missing: those working on the weekends.”

He may be onto something. For decades—certainly the years after the end of World War II and up until around 2008 or so—American life was patterned after a five-day workweek, with time off on the weekends. In the 1960s, of course, email didn’t exist, AT&T allowed only 40,000 customers in the entire country to use its mobile network, and a call from the boss generally signified a truly major business emergency.

Today, a 24/7 work ethic has taken hold in many organizations, declarations of devotion to “work/life balance” notwithstanding. In other circumstances, weekend work on both Saturday and Sunday is not uncommon, which is one of the reasons many Sabbath-keepers have greater trouble finding work or keeping it, as when an employer arbitrarily revokes any Sabbath exemption the employee might have.

According to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34 percent of the 160 million Americans employed today work on the weekends. Rainer works this out to 54 million people and calls this the “biggest demographic churches are missing.”

To reach these people, Rainer suggested having services on a weeknight so that the weekend workers can catch up on church attendance. Some churches, he noted, have services on Thursday evenings before a “long weekend,” such as a Monday federal holiday, acknowledging that many families will be away on the usual Sunday meeting time.

He concedes, “The reasons for not doing weeknight services are rarely theological. If you have a biblical conviction that Sunday should be the only day to have a worship service, stick with your conviction. For the rest of you, please consider this issue prayerfully and carefully.”

It would be interesting, to say the very least, if a growing number of Sunday-keeping churches started holding worship services on, say, Saturday afternoon or evening as an option for congregants. Many, if not most, Roman Catholic Churches hold a mass on Saturday evening, which can be counted for mandatory Sunday attendance. Megachurches such as Lakewood Church in Houston also hold Saturday evening services that are often well attended.

What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible, of course, is clear about the day of rest—and, consequently, worship. In Exodus 20:8—11, we read: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

If God “blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it,” doesn’t that seem like a good day on which to worship Him?

It turns out, as Pastor Doug Batchelor explained during a recent call-in radio program, that tradition, not Scripture, governs the decision many have made to worship on Sunday. The change, he explained, “happened over a period of about 200 years. Matter of fact, the Catholic catechism freely admits that Sunday is not rooted in Scripture but in tradition, and it’s by virtue of the Church’s authority that the day was transferred, not by the Bible. However, if you’re going to go by the Bible, the seventh day of the week, which the Jews still acknowledge as the Sabbath, is still Saturday—it’s still the seventh day.”

You can also view a great video Bible study called “Don’t Be Fooled,” which contains detailed information about what the Sabbath is, and is not, and why it’s important. It’s worth investing your time to discover the truth, and then to ask God to help you obey!

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