By Clint Adams
One of the clearest and easily recognizable signs of our need for revival and reform may surprise you. It is something that churches don’t try to hide, and at times even look upon it as a move in the right direction. A quick glance at a church’s website or social media presence as well as a drive by the property at certain times of the day can reveal the church’s direction. What is this sign? It’s often the absence of church services besides the normal Sunday morning gathering.
To not be misunderstood, I myself am not arguing for mandatory Sunday evening services (though a good thing!) or Wednesday night meetings. Churches and pastors have liberty when to have and not have these church services. A church may meet Sunday morning, but have Bible studies and meetings for fellowship at different times and places throughout the week or month. My point is not that we must share the same times for worship, but that a sign of a healthy church and of a healthy Christian is a desire to meet together, and that more than every now and then.
Why is a lack of desire to meet together, often seen by fewer and fewer times for corporate worship, a sign of our great need for revival? Think about it. We make time for and participate in the things we love. And what could we love more than the things of God? Having hearts opened to understand more of the height, length, breath, and width of the love of God as we listen to the Word of God opened; to see the excitement of a new convert speak about the wonderful things he has recently learned and his desire to see his family saved; that sweet fellowship that only Christians know of as they sit and talk about ministry and the Lord. Who wouldn’t want these things? And here lies the problem. Why are Christians happy to meet together so little in light of these marvelous realities? Why do we not hunger and thirst for spiritual things more? Our lack of desire to meet together is often a good gauge of where we are in our relationship with the Lord. As Alistair Begg said
One of the indications of the hunger of North America for the Word of God is to be conveyed in the darkness of Church buildings after four O’clock on a Sunday afternoon.
Is it not clear that something is very wrong when Christians don’t desire to meet together?
For some, the temptation is to almost exclusively blame the people who do not regularly attend. For others it is to almost blame pastors exclusively for not having a better ministry. In truth, though each situation must be looked at individually, the most likely answer is a combination of both, with an emphasis on pastors. This is not to try to load pastors down with guilt they don’t deserve. There’s little doubt that some who read this will bear no real guilt in the matter. But in putting most of the blame for the lack of desire to meet together on pastors, I belonging to this number, I am attempting to deal truthfully with what I see. We as pastors are the earthly leaders of Christ’s Church. We have been charged with being ambassadors for Christ and His precious gospel, the preaching of His Word, and of being men of God. If we must start somewhere, we must start with those of us who are called to be shepherds of God’s Church. I see something of my need and sin. May God forgive me. May He help all of us be better servants.
When preaching isn’t life giving, praying doesn’t lift the people up to heaven and have a sense of urgency, and singing isn’t heartfelt, there is great need for God’s help. We praise God that this is not all we know! There are times of joy and blessing. But are we not in great need of God’s help when we see the lack of excitement for our church services that exists at times? And shouldn’t we start with God’s pastors when we look for the reasons of this?
Iain H. Murray, in speaking of the need for power in preaching, says,
Today there is a widespread nominal Christianity bereft of power, and even where churches are more than nominal the condition of their congregations on a Sunday evening is too often indicative of how little heavenly blessing was actually enjoyed by the larger numbers who were present at the morning service. There is a near famine for the word of God, as far as its power and freshness is concerned and everything points to the inability of man to redress the situation.
You and I both would do well to read the above paragraph again.
But another sad fact for the vanishing of church services is the spiritual condition of the people. The truth is that some who attended services are strangers to the new birth. How can you desire the milk of God’s Word like a newborn baby when you have never experienced the second birth? For others who are Christians, they have allowed distractions and the sin which so easily entangles to dampen their desire to meet together.
No matter what the cause in a particular case for the lack of interest in church gatherings may be, this missing appetite is a sign of our great need for revival. We need biblical preaching (in its content and power), prayer, singing, love, fellowship, ministry, and at times loving confrontation. We need to meet with the living God. When we have lost the desire for meeting together we see one of the easiest, and tragic, signs of our need.
What’s the answer to a lack of desire to meet together? I think it is multifaceted. But I will say two important things here. First, we need to recognize our need. That has been the main point of this article. By seeing different warning signs that are present, including fewer church services being available, we need to wake up to our need. But secondly, we as pastors and preachers need to make sure that we are individually longing for the things of God. It can be easy to go through the motions of ministry without our hearts being engaged. Do we have the joy of the Lord within us? Do we long for His Word? Do we rejoice in the gospel and in justification by faith? Are we desiring to be more dedicated to prayer? If so, praise the Lord. But if not, let’s first tend to ourselves. And as God graciously gives us a greater love and desire for Him and for fellowship with other Christians, God may give these same desires to others around us as well. And perhaps the revival and reform that we need.
Pastor Paul Edwards. “Whatever Happened to the Evening Service?” Online Video Clip. YouTube, 27 March 2019. Web. 11 November 2021. This clip from Alistair Begg helped begin my thought process about my article. Above quotation is from about the 1:19 mark to 1:37.
Iain H. Murray,