Not all the changes affecting local churches are positive or progressive from a spiritual perspective. Take the change in “Sunday” as an example. In previous generations, Sunday was a day set aside for “spiritual” activities. It was a day of worship, teaching, children’s work and outreach.
Sunday School in the past
In my early days of life, the assembly my family attended had two Sunday Schools, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. The total attendance was over 400 children.
That was in days before Sunday cartoons, sports and open stores. It was also during a time before the publication of child abuse and suing “churches” were common practices.
A change in Sunday
Somewhere around fifty years ago Sunday moved to a day for “social” activities. It was a family day, a day for quiet pursuits, a walk, a drive, reading or board games. Entertaining others and showing hospitality was more prominent than it is today. Attending meetings morning and evening was a family activity.
Today, Sunday is for many believers a “secular” day (not necessarily wrong). Numerous Christians go out for lunch on a Sunday, some will shop, and many with children are active in sports and other similar pursuits. As a result, for some, the priority of the assembly and its programs has suffered.
Changes in culture
Some of the changes are societal in that it is difficult to get children from “unsaved” homes to go to a Sunday school. Outreach on a Sunday has become difficult and in relation to some activities, impossible. Very few assemblies see unsaved people coming into meetings regardless of how one advertises the meetings.
One of the consequences of changes in culture and its affect on the church is that it is hard, in many places, to get believers to attend meetings other than Sunday morning. Some assemblies that still have a Sunday evening meeting find that the numbers are a small percentage of the morning crowd.
In most places where I preach Sunday evenings, the audience is smaller and tends to be mostly older saints perhaps joined by one parent from families with young children.
How do we respond?
These changes are not good news for local churches, which includes nearly all types and sizes in North America. There may be some assemblies where this is not an issue.
There are many that have done away with the Sunday evening meetings (not a biblical issue). Others struggle with this and wonder how to respond.
Thinking outside the box
The lack of interest for many individuals may be a reflection of the state of their spiritual life and the depth of their commitment. Knowing that fact and that the problem does exist does not solve the issue. Assemblies that face this must “think outside the box”.
There may be value in continuing for the sake of the saints who do attend but with careful thought to the type and purpose of the ministry. There may be a creative alternative. One that generates interest and that leads to greater involvement in the meeting.
These are not biblical issues
It is worth considering that there is nothing sacred or scriptural about the number of meetings, the time, the format, or the structure. For one hundred years, all assemblies functioned in the same way, a pattern that developed in previous eras and became the tradition for all to follow.
The Bible is clear on why we meet, the need for order, but it is silent on these other issues.
Considering other perspectives
In these articles, I am not offering solutions I am merely trying to highlight some of the changes that have and are taking place. There are other issues that are not covered by a “word from the Lord’ (the Bible) leaving local churches to determine their own course of action.
One of the greatest dangers is that men who are old and perhaps out of touch make decisions based on their perspective. Equally dangerous are decisions based on a “pragmatic response” that violate clear instruction with regard to ‘church order” and “divine purpose”.
We need to work together and be sensitive to the Spirit and not push each other away with personal opinions and preferences.