Recovering The Lost Treasure Of The Second Service

Unfortunately, these days the heart attitude of this dear elderly woman is almost as rare as the evening service itself. Indeed, over the past twenty years the evening service (in a variety of Christian traditions) has either been turned into a kind of informal fellowship (attended by a mere 10–15% of the congregation) or it has been done away with altogether. Even within our own Reformed heritage, where morning and evening worship have been historically viewed as a non-negotiable part of Lord’s Day observance and congregational nurture, evening worship is increasingly being jettisoned. Why is this happening? Perhaps because we are more spiritually mature than our Reformed forebears, and have less need of the ministry of the Word, sacraments, and prayer? I don’t think so! A better answer may be that, in general, we have become less mature, more distracted, and increasingly more consumed with earthly comforts and leisure than the glory of God and the health/expansion of Christ’s church. In short, our values have changed.

… The Lord’s Day is meant to be a spiritual blessing to the church, not a burden. If it is a burden, we must ask ourselves why. Why is it so onerous to return to evening worship? The Sabbath was designed to be an entire day of delighting in the triune God and celebrating His works of creation and redemption. Faithful attendance to both morning and evening worship bookends this special day with God-centered worship, and helps us not to turn the rest of the Lord’s Day into something which God never intended. Evening worship guards the Lord’s Day from becoming just like every other day of the week.

… Until recent decades, the second service has been an essential part of Lord’s Day observance for conscientiously Reformed believers. In his book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, R. Scott Clark reminds us that the

Classical Reformed practice was to hold two worship services on the Lord’s Day. In recent years, however, the second service or vespers has fallen on hard times. It is becoming more difficult to find a second service. Judging by anecdotal evidence, a significant number of Reformed congregations have eliminated the second service (R. Scott Clark, 293).
Clark adds that the second service was established in the “early stages” of the Protestant Reformation (i.e., 1520s). It was put in place largely in order that congregations would get more of the Word of God. In the more faithful expressions of the historic Reformed faith, the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments are highly esteemed. Having not one, but two (and sometimes three) public services on the Lord’s Day, reinforces belief in the power, efficacy, and sufficiency of the ordinary means of grace to save, sanctify, and comfort God’s elect.

On the sacred Day that God Himself set apart for sacred worship and the building up of His church, why would we not want more preaching rather than less, more singing of Psalms and hymns rather than less, more prayer rather than less, more participation in the sacraments rather then less, more corporate worship and fellowship rather than less? Perhaps our tendency to marginalize (or cancel) the evening service in Reformed circles today discloses something about our lack of understanding of our Reformed and confessional heritage. Maybe it discloses something about the longing of our hearts. Clark comments that,

In our setting, as in times past, the second service is a countercultural act of defiance against the antinomian spirit of our age. It is also a statement about the centrality of the Word and sacrament to the Christian life. It is a testimony that Christ’s people have been redeemed in a community and to a community. It is a confession of faith that God the Spirit uses divinely ordained means to save and sanctify. As history and experience show us, it is not easy, and it is not popular, but it is Reformed, it is worth the effort, and it is the way of the Christian life (Clark, 340). Read more»

Jon Payne, “ Recovering the Lost Treasure of Lord’s Day Evening Worship,” Gospel Reformation Network (January 16, 2021)


    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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One comment

  1. 😢 Of the 4 NAPARC churches in my area, only the URCNA has two services on the Lord’s Day, a main service and a doctrinal service. Because we have a commuting congregation, we moved the evening Catechismal/doctrinal service such that it follows the morning. Not the best option but it allows for full attendance.

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