Question:

In the history of the church (the Lord's church) when did evening services start? I ask this question because I grew up without a evening services due to preacher circumstance in a small community. I understand we should desire to meet with our brothers and sisters when the opportunity presents itself, but I witness condemnation of a brother because of his absence on evening services a couple times a month related to work. The passage used was Hebrews 10:25 which was taken out of contact and misused. The brother is not in a habit of missing, he works on a rotating shift.

You may disagree with me, but if we practice worship as the first century church we would be doing a lot of things we don't do now such as the example of Act 20:7 continuing our speaking until midnight, or meeting from house to house. Is our building out of convenience? It doesn't make it wrong to have a building. I think (I know what I think is not the Scripture) in the case mention above the church leader is out of line with this brother.


Answer:

There was a question asked earlier concerning attendance at Bible studies which I think also applies to your question. Rather than repeating that information here, I would like you to take a moment to read, "Does the command to "forsake not the assembling of ourselves together" apply only to Sunday worship?"

Evening worship services are generally traced back to World War II when businesses shifted to seven-day, 24-hour work schedules in order to support the war effort. In an effort to make it possible for their brethren to worship, two assemblies were offered. I don't know the circumstances involved in this situation. For example, I don't know if the brother being discussed is locked into a rotating shift (such as a person in the military might be required to do) or if he volunteered for the shift work even though non-shift work is available. But generally when a brother is required to work we understand that it isn't something he desires to do. It is sad that some condemn their brother for things he cannot fully control.

Still, the method you are using to argue against these people is not correct and you are doing more harm to your position than good. When we read, "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight" (Acts 20:7), care must be taken to determine what is an example to be followed versus an incidental to the specific event. In this case, there is nothing in this passage that indicates that congregations were in the habit of meeting until midnight. Instead we learn that because Paul was leaving the next day, the church met until midnight. That I could understand fully. If I had an opportunity to hear God's word directly from an apostle and there was only one day available, I would make the most of that time. The wording in this passage implies that the assembly until midnight was the exception and not the rule. To say that congregations are not worshiping as they did in the first century because they are not worshipping until midnight is false. You are creating a rule that does not exist in the Bible.

The "meeting from house to house" comes from Acts 2:46-47, "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." This passage is not dealing with worship as it discusses daily gatherings. The breaking of bread from house to house is a reference of going over to fellow Christians' homes to share meals together. It is not a reference to the Lord's Supper. They were eating their food. When the Corinthians were turning the Lord's Supper into a common meal, Paul condemned them by saying, "What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?" (I Corinthians 11:22). He later also said, "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment" (I Corinthians 11:33).

In the same context, there is a description of the meeting for worship. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). It is this breaking of bread that refers to the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is to be partaken by the entire congregation together (I Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:20-21, 33). Remember that 3,000 were added to the church on the first day. There would not be many homes which could accommodate this congregation. But we see in the passage that these people did gather at the temple and there room could be found for such a large assembly. (Acts 2:46 tells us they gathered at the temple on other days as well.)

Therefore, there is no requirement that churches must meet only in homes to be like the first century church. To make such a claim is to add a command that does not exist in the Bible and contradicts what the Bible says the early church did.

The authority for a gathering place is found in the command to assemble (Hebrews 10:25). The examples of assemblies in the Bible shows us a variety of places being used, such as the Temple, homes, and schools. Thus where a church meets is not specified and it is left up to the individual congregations to decide where to meet that is most expedient for that particular group. See "What is an expedient?" for further examples.

Justifying not keeping a command fully because others are not keeping a command fully is wrong. "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?" (Romans 3:8). As I said earlier, you are using the wrong approach. I would suggest using "Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 4:11-12). These brethren, in condemning a brother who had to work, are also condemning those who were ill, those who were caught in a traffic accident, or a number of other reasons where a person wants to attend, but is kept from doing so. In this they are placing themselves in the judgment seat because God did not state that these people are condemned.

Thanks for the response. Great website!