How many times should we meet on a Sunday?

The format of two services on a Sunday no longer seems to be standard. In general, there appears to exist three broad approaches to Sunday meetings: One meeting only (usually Sunday morning); Two meetings – one morning, one evening; or, multiple meetings spread throughout the day. All these approaches have merit yet each has its drawbacks. Whilst this issue is unlikely to ever become a hotbed of theological controversy it seems worthwhile exploring questions relating to how many times we ought to meet on Sunday and whether the number really matters.

It is hard to make a biblical case for a specific number of meetings. Some use Psalm 92:1-2, John 20:1, 19 and Acts 28:23 to infer that meeting twice on Sunday is part of a scriptural pattern. However, these verses can readily, faithfully and more naturally be interpreted without reference to church meetings. The most we can infer from such verses regarding corporate worship is that it is acceptable to worship corporately both in the morning and in the evening – something on which there is very little, if any, disagreement. Similarly, there is no scriptural command for us to meet only once on a Sunday and there is certainly no proscription of more than one service. As such, we cannot use scripture as a means of insisting upon a certain number of meetings and must conclude that we are under no scriptural obligation to meet together a set number of times. Ultimately, we cannot claim that one particular format is ‘acceptable’ while all others are ‘unbiblical’.

There are two main arguments in favour of holding only one Sunday service. The first states that many, for whatever reason, choose not to attend the Sunday evening service and to therefore go through the rigmarole of preparing sermons which nobody will hear seems like a waste of time. Whilst we may have some sympathy with this predicament, the argument appears to strike at an entirely different issue. Rather than making an effective case for one service it acts as an entirely negative reason for not bothering with a second or, at best, a positive argument for tackling apathy within the membership. In reality, this concern relates to teaching, namely why one service is perhaps not the preferable pattern (which indeed must be the view of the church if they intend to run two services and fail to do so only because of the lack of an evening congregation). This argument therefore does not support holding only one Sunday service but rather makes a case for tackling apathy within the membership. Rather than dealing with this issue, however, this reasoning is employed to simply forgo an evening service.

The second argument in favour of one Sunday service is far less compelling and revolves around the question ‘why should I have to go to two services on a Sunday?’. The operative words in the question are ‘have to’. In reality, nobody has to go to any service (1). However, Christians should want to meet with God’s people and, more than this, should want to spend time worshipping God. If we have chosen to run only one service on a ‘why should I have to go to two services?’ basis we need to seriously consider our teaching on this matter. Those who view church services in this way say, as much to God as the rest of the membership, ‘wasn’t the hour I gave you this morning enough?’. This is no basis upon which to have a relationship with God or with our fellow believers. To run only one service on these grounds is to lend credence to this faulty thinking when, in reality, our teaching should be warning strongly against it.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who choose to have many meetings throughout the day. Such an approach is not guilty of failing to give due time to the worship of God and usually works best when such meetings are a direct result of each individual believer’s love of coming together to meet with other of God’s people. Nevertheless, if there is any danger in this approach it is in overlooking the principle of rest inherent in the fourth commandment. Of course, meeting to worship God with the people of God is vitally important, however, we can be so overtaken with meetings that we are afforded no opportunity to rest. Jesus states ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27, ESV)’. When we insist on attendance at endless meetings on a Sunday we remove the principle of rest from the fourth commandment and we begin to turn Jesus’ statement on its head. Whilst we should love worshipping God and meeting with his people this should not completely subsume the command to rest. Many meetings on a Sunday is a perfectly valid and worthwhile use of time, however, we must guard against meetings eclipsing all else and giving no room for rest.

Although there is no scriptural mandate for a particular number of meetings on a Sunday, two meetings seems to strike a healthy balance between giving God due prominence in the day, meeting with his people and fulfilling the command to rest. John Benton, in an article for Evangelicals Now and reproduced by Day One (‘Why Two Sunday Services?’,, offers seven reasons for holding two Sunday services. I think a number of his reasons are faulty (2), however, I find three of his arguments particularly compelling, namely points 1, 6 and 7. Irrespective of where we disagree, I believe his points 1, 6 and 7 make a forcible argument on their own for maintaining two Sunday services. By holding two services we help those who work necessarily during one or other meeting to still be able to meet with God’s people and we increase our opportunity to invite those from outside into the church. More than this, by holding two services we increase our opportunities to encourage one another without making this an overbearing burden of endless meetings affording us no opportunity to rest. In these ways we strike a balance between worshipping God, encouraging one another and truly having a day of rest.

Therefore, we have no scriptural obligation to a set number of Sunday services. The bible is not proscriptive in this matter and it is not for us to look at the practices of different churches and sneer that they have either too many or too few services. In reality, all considerations relating to how many Sunday services we should have revolve around practical matters and the balance between rest and spiritual benefit. On this basis, and this basis alone, I would argue that two Sunday services strikes this balance most aptly.

1. Specifically referring to one’s salvation and leaving aside any argument from Heb 10:25
2. Points 2-5 (inclusive) do not stand up to scrutiny. Points 2 & 3, as outlined earlier, are not the biblical mandates Benton seeks to suggest they represent. Points 4 & 5 are somewhat irrelevant as to whether it is right for Christians to hold two services or not (point 4 in no way constitutes a point of authority and point 5 is debatable as to whether two services in any way rebukes secularism – I would argue it very much does not).


  1. I agree that points 2, 3, 4 and 5 don't strengthen the case.

    Point 1 raises the delicate issue as to how much the church should adapt to meet the individual needs of the members, or how much it should expect the members to adapt to the church's structure and way of doing things.
    I think that shift workers and week-ender workers who can't make the morning service every week are exceptional. I've not met any, although I know people who sometimes have to work Saturday night/Sunday morning, that hasn't been all the time.

    Points 6 and 7 are logically so simple that they don't stand up as debatable points. If x happens at y then doubling x means double y and so on.

    My personal view is that if a church has a healthy evening congregation then no change is required. But if evenings are very, why? Maybe it's not due to apathy, but people's lives being stacked to capacity and church needs to think about catering for their spiritual needs in a different way? (that delicate issue again)

    An sparse evening service can actually serve to discourage the church rather than serve the function of double encouragement.

    Also, with churches prone to 'meetingitus' we need to think carefully about the nature of ministry. Less can be more. Focussed teaching once a week (reinforced by midweek groups etc.) can be more effective than two different foci every Sunday.

    Then again, that could be addressed by using Sunday evenings in a way that supports the morning ministry!

    My loosely connected thoughts and no real concrete conclusion…

  2. Whilst I tend to agree with you that points 6 & 7 are logically simplistic there is nevertheless an element of truth to them. In theory, I agree with Benton that two services represent double encouragement although there are two notable exceptions: 1. Where the services are so poorly conducted that they, by virtue of what they are, fail to act as any sort of encouragement (although fellowship can still be encouraging in the midst of a dire meeting) 2. As my paragraph re 'many meetings' suggests, there is a tipping point where doubling x stops doubling y and causes the opposite of the desired effect although I don't think 2 meetings is that tipping point.

    As for the church bending to the needs of the congregation, I think we have to be careful to distinguish between the 'needs' of the congregation and the 'wants' of the congregation. For example, is low attendance at evening meetings the result of necessity (necessary work, illness, etc) or the result of simply wanting to 'prepare for the week ahead' by watching telly? In my, albeit limited, experience low evening attendance tends to flow from either general apathy towards meetings (which may be the fault of the church for being dull/irrelevant/etc or may be the fault of the individual in having no interest in meeting with God's people) or a feeling that there is other secular work that must be done. In the first instance, the church must change it's approach to make itself as relevant/interesting as possible whereas in the second instance one might argue the individual is falling foul of the first, possibly second, and fourth commandments.

    You mention about people's lives being 'stacked to capacity'. I lean towards the view that this is the very reason for a day in which we can truly rest. Given the very real need for rest, I do not advocate filling up the day with a different, no less tiring form of Christian work and meetings. Nevertheless, and maybe I am unfair in this conclusion but, I fail to see how two services encroaches on that rest (especially if we are truly putting away our secular work)? We have the majority of the day (for most between about 12-6) to rest inbetween two meetings – I struggle to see how that is overly demanding.

    To me, there are practical reasons to have two Sunday services. Whether these should be conducted differently, should seek to complement, rather than copy, one another or should follow different formats are all separate issues to the one at hand (although they are well worth considering). The extent to which the church should seek to meet the needs of the individual is also a useful discussion but we must, as I mentioned, distinguish between people's 'needs' and 'wants'. As I'm sure you agree, sometimes what people want isn't what they need and perhaps it is the church's role to teach them the difference (though if folks don't attend the meetings that becomes increasingly difficult!).

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