Christianity--Church History/evening church services

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Question
What do you know about the history of church evening services?

Thank you so much!

Answer
Hi Jan,

You asked about the history of church evening services.

The earliest account of an evening service would have been the in-home family gatherings for the first Passover in Egypt (Ex. 12-13, Mat. 18:20).

During the 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were required to observe Sabbath "rest" by remaining in their campsites (homes) (Ex. 16:4-30, Ex. 33:10, Nu. 15:32-36).  

The Sabbath teaching was to be done by parents to their own children (Deu. 4:9, 6:7, 11:19).

Only those Levites who had duties in the Tabernacle were allowed in it (Nu. 18:1-7). The rest of the Israelites could only come within sight of the entrance (Num. 17:13, 18:22).

Morning and evening sacrifices were commanded (1K. 18:29, 36), but these were performed by the priests, and non-priests were not allowed inside the Tabernacle.

After the Israelites were settled throughout the land of Canaan (the Promised Land), the Tabernacle was set up at different times at several locations (Shiloh, Josh. 18:1; Nob, 1Sam. 21; Gibeon, 1Chrn. 16:39) and the Levite priests were scattered among the Israelite communities (Josh. 21), to be available for teaching the Laws of God (Lev. 10:8-11) to the rest of the Israelites.

The Temple, as a "house" for God was David's idea (2Sam. 7:1-17), and was built by his son, Solomon (1K. 7:51).  

Even then, only those within "a Sabbath Day's journey" (about a mile) could come to the Temple on any regular basis (Acts 1:12) on the Sabbath.  

The nation of Israel was originally scattered over an area of over 12,600 square miles (Josh. 13-22).  The adult males were required to attend God's seven annual Holy Days (Lev. 23) at the Temple, but when possible, the whole family would go (Lk. 2:41-43), for these annual days.

Because of disobedience to God's Laws, the divided nation ("Israel" being the ten northern tribes, and "Judah" consisting of the Jews and parts of Benjamin and Levi) suffered wars, invasions, and oppression.   In the 8th cent. BC, "Israel" was taken captive by the Assyrian kingdom.  In the 6th century BC, "Judah" was taken captive to Babylon (modern Iraq).  Seventy years later, some of the Jews were allowed to return with Ezra and Nehemiah.  When they returned, they brought back from Babylon, the concept of the synagogue.

The synagogue was originally a closet where "the books of the Law" were stored.  It was the only place for those who wanted to read them to go, and those who went there began having discussions about the Law.  Eventually, the meeting (the people, not the location) was called by the term synagogue (from Gk. "a bringing together").  
The synagogue was a human creation, developed because the people sinned, were punished (the Temple destroyed), and then tried to create an imitation to overcome the effects of God's punishment.
By the time they returned to the Land, the synagogues were the primary place for the majority of the people to learn about the Law.  Jerusalem had 480 synagogues by the time of Jesus. 

It is significant to note that God never commanded a weekly meeting.  God's Sabbath was commanded as a "day of rest" (Deu. 5:14), not meetings, recreation or business.

The synagogue traditions now include evening prayers, although some prayers require that a minimum of ten men be present.
http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/practices/worship_prayer.htm

The early Roman Catholic church (2nd to 4th cent. AD), copied certain practices from Judaism and at the same time tried to avoid appearing Jewish.  Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the obligation for Sunday or other Holy Day mass, begins the evening before. (Note: Gen. 1:5).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_%28liturgy%29

Some say that evening services originate with the Catholic "hours".  The observance of Catholic "hours" is given at the following page: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07500b.htm

Some Catholic sites attribute the origin to the allegation that the Jews, and the New Testament Christians had a schedule for prayers, going back to Daniel.  It appear, however, that the times were given only as an aspect of the story, not as an indication of a divine instruction.  

For the origin of evening services in specific Protestant or other church organizations, we would suggest researching the history of whichever group interests you, or asking someone at allexperts who has volunteered in that specific category.

One site quotes the "Dictionary of Christianity in America" as attributing the origin in America to the Puritans, who apparently brought the practice with them from England.  As we do not have access to that book at this time, we cannot confirm or comment further.

Some quote Heb. 10:23 as a basis, but it does not specify day or night, and is an encouragement by the book's author, not a "the Lord says" statement.

Another scripture quoted is Psa. 134.  This only makes reference to those "on duty" in the Tabernacle.  Only the Levites could enter the Tabernacle. This Psalm is among those written by David, who died before the Temple was built.

1Chrn. 9:33 is also quoted.  However, verse 23 shows that this was also about the Tabernacle, which only the Levites could enter.

Acts 20:7 is also referenced.  However, "breaking bread" is normally a term for eating a regular meal. (Mk. 6:35-42, Acts 27:9-38).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_bread

Paul had been there for seven days (v. 6).  This was after the Days of Unleavened Bread (which begins with Passover, or what some call "the Lord's supper".)  They were not observing Passover (v. 6).  

The evening before he was planning to leave, he met with the local disciples at their evening meal and began preaching, speaking until midnight.  Paul anticipated martyrdom and the local people knew that they might never see him again. This was a special circumstance, not a weekly event.   

Some assume that this is referring to Sunday.  The Greek says "the first of the sabbaton" (Gk. -- sabbath, seventh, or seven).  It was the first of seven weekly Sabbaths counted to Pentecost, which is why Paul was in a hurry to leave.  He wanted to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost (v. 16).  The seven weeks are counted from the second day of Unleavened Bread (v. 6). [The counting is explained in Lev. 23:15-16].  The Passover is the evening preceding the first day of Unleavened Bread.  The Passover is the meal that Christ ate with his disciples (Lk. 22:15).

Paul's meeting in Acts 20 seems to be the only account of preaching at night.  However, since the followers of Christ were being hunted and persecuted, there may have been other occasions when it was necessary in order to avoid danger.

Again, if you are looking for the history within a particular denomination, we suggest you try someone who specializes in that denomination.

We hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Mel and Guyna  

For information about the Gospel (good news) of Christ, see article at http://thechurchofgodinamerica.com/What%20is%20the%20true%20Gospel%20of%20Jesus%

For information on the "end of the world", see article at http://thechurchofgodinamerica.com/B101.General%20Introduction%20to%20Theology.h

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Mel and Guyna Horne

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We can help with any questions about the history of God's working with mankind from Creation to the Apostles, most questions about the period from the Apostles to "modern Christianity" (90 to 325 AD) and most questions about the confusion within "world Christianity" from 325 AD to the present 33,830 documented denominations. We can discuss major doctrinal differences and their origins but we will not engage in debates over doctrines. We try to avoid trivia unless it had a non-trivial effect or is just really interesting, IOHO. Please do not submit homework questions.

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Over 50 years of independent study and over 20 years experience in working with teens, young adults and singles groups. Over two years experience with a prison ministry. Author of three books with two more in development. Published many articles regarding Bible studies and Christian Living.

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While we have each, previously attended various denominational and non-denominational organizations, including house churches, we are not affiliated with any denominational organization.

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B.A. in Theology with emphasis on Church history and comparative theology. Over 40 years of independent, post-grad study and research at Baylor, Univ. of Houston, Rice, Texas A&M College Station, Univ. of Texas Austin, .

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