Are Our Service Times Sacred ??????

08 Jul


This past Sunday after church (we were visiting), we had lunch with a group of church leaders. Next Sunday will be the final one for the current pastor who is a dear friend of mine. Since I won’t be in town for the next few Sundays I was invited this past Sunday. He suffered a severe heart attack a few months ago and is retiring and moving home to Western Oklahoma where most of his family live.

As I looked out on this congregation I saw a mainly older congregation. They are wonderful people, many that we know well, but there were very few younger people. I have been reading lately a lot of statistics of the lack of church attendance in our young people. I read only last week that between the ages of 18-30 only about 20% of them attend church. The question is why? I’m not here to tell you I know all of the answers, but I have given much thought to it.

I want to share something with you that I experienced in Mexico City in the early 1980s. I took over a fledgling group of people that were assembling from another missionary who was heading back to the States. It was a great group of people who had been meeting for a couple of years  but it was hard to get many of them to congregate on Sunday mornings. As I observed the way people lived in that culture I noticed that the parks were full on Sunday mornings. Families were walking the parks, soccer balls were being  kicked from fathers to sons, and picnics were enjoyed. They had worked hard all week and Sunday was their family time.

As I thought about it, we were trying to get people to change their culture to become what we would call “good Christians” who regularly attended church. I have observed in every country that I have traveled that the missionaries established the same protocol for church that is observed in the U.S.A.; Sunday school at 9:00-9:30am and worship service around 10:30am.

Being the independent thinker that I am, I changed completely the time of our services. I completely eliminated the Sunday morning service. We had our Sunday school at 5:00pm and worship at 6:00pm. What happened because of the simple time change? Our attendance exploded and never stopped. It became a vibrant body that completely sustained itself with it’s own national pastor within only a few months.

By making the above changes I was ridiculed, and even called a heretic, because this is just not the way it was “supposed” to be. I actually took this as a complement. I don’t like to do anything only because that’s the way everybody else does it. It worked in a great way. There is nothing in Scripture that says we must worship at a particular time on the Lord’s day.

As I think about our young people, I think a similar thing is occurring in regards to our culture. Today, almost all women work outside the home, besides all of the regular work that is done at home. Almost all weekend is catch up to prepare for a new week ahead. There is no time allowed for a down time of only a few hours. Come Sunday morning they are completely exhausted and they need some extra rest. The regular times of our church services are like preparing to go to another job instead of to worship the living God.

My kids fit into this same category and have the same struggles. It’s not that they don’t want to worship God and be involved in church, but it is a real struggle; especially when you have 2-3 children. By not being plugged in faithfully every Sunday morning they are then looked upon as 2nd class, or not very spiritual people.

These are my thoughts for today and I shared some of these thoughts with the pastor search committee. This is not the only reason young people don’t regularly attend church today, but I do think it is one of the problems. Things aren’t as they were 30-50 years ago. Our message has never changed. and never should. The way of how and when we proclaim it can, and I think needs to be changed. I could add much to this but I don’t like to have too long of post. Hopefully, this will give you something to think about today..

What are your thoughts? Am I a heretic and gone mad?


Until tomorrow, Lord willing,



Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Christianity, Faith, Religion


Tags: , , , , , , ,

59 responses to “Are Our Service Times Sacred ??????

  1. lookingthroughanotherseyes

    July 8, 2014 at 4:47 am

    You most certainly are not a heretic Levi. Good on you my friend, I like this a lot and I’m absolutely sure God does too. Fantastic open minded pro active thinking like yours is exactly what the church needs in my opinion. I think only a fool could argue that the concept of, not change but re arrange is wrong. High five to you Levi.

    One small point I didn’t agree with. You do not have to go to Church to be “A Good Christian” There are many good Christians doing The Lords Work who never attend Church for a myriad of reasons. Enough said. Su x


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 5:59 am

      Thanks Su for your comments. Hope you are better today. On not attending church, we are admonished to gather for the sake of fellowship, hearing of the Word, and the two ordinances, not to be “good Christians” but to be with His people and to use our gifts in the body of Christ. We don’t attend to earn salvation. Have a great day!!😀

      Liked by 3 people

  2. LF6

    July 8, 2014 at 4:53 am

    First verse that comes to mind after reading this is

    Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
    (Acts 5:29)


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 5:53 am

      That’s good. I like those forts thought on a subject. Thanks for sharing it.


  3. Rivera

    July 8, 2014 at 5:49 am

    You bring an excellent point. But I would say today’s society is a ‘bit’ more complex than it was some years ago.
    Many churches in many areas offer 2 services on Sunday, one at the “traditional” time, the other at 6 pm. Some, also offer a service during the week.
    One denomination offers several services throughout Sunday, plus 2 on Saturday for all those unable to attend on Sunday.
    I would say each church should understand the needs of that particular community, and adjust accordingly to better serve.
    Wonderful post, Levi.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 5:52 am

      Certainly every church would have its own particular needs. I appreciate your comments. Thank you!


  4. jameslantern

    July 8, 2014 at 6:06 am

    that was a bold move levi thetford,


  5. Lilka Raphael

    July 8, 2014 at 6:31 am

    YOu have not gone mad at all. When my boys were about four and five years old, our church had a Saturday night service at six in the evening. It was a Godsend for us!

    I think if the “church” would be a bit more flexible in the times for the services it offers and actually look at how people live and work today we could pull more people into the “body.”


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 6:33 am

      I think so too. It is probably one of the reasons that more young don’t attend. I know that it isn’t the only reason. Thanks for the comment, Lilka.


  6. atimetoshare

    July 8, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Great post, Levi – again! So often our churches become steeped in tradition and forget their real purpose. Isn’t that what happened with the Pharisees? I love the church sign too. LOL!


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 6:42 am

      Thanks Kathy. Traditions are hard to break and we are very pharisaical in many regards. Thanks and have a great day!


  7. windleg

    July 8, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Does God only show up at 10:30 on Sunday mornings? No, He is always present. Thus, time is of no issue. I think it is a wonderful idea to offer non-traditional options to meet the needs of others. Of course, I live in the Bible Belt and can see some folks getting a little miffed at the break of tradition.
    We have to ask ourselves who we are trying to please – God or man? God tells us to feed His sheep. To feed them, you have to get to them even if SS is at 5 pm.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 6:41 am

      I agree and I too live in the middle of the Bible Belt. Non traditional thinking is rarely used in Gospel presentation. Traditions die hard. Thanks for your comments which are very good.


  8. lulu

    July 8, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Indeed, you are not a heretic. What difference does it make what time church is? The important thing is to go.


  9. bill theunfetteredpreacher cote

    July 8, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Good word Levi,
    I’m one of the young guys at our church (61)….a time change may help…..


  10. Sue C.

    July 8, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Oh you rebel rouser Levi. All that free thinking is dangerous. lol I agree, meet the needs of the people where you are. If it means change for the better then do it. Blessings to you guy. 🙂


  11. Little Monk

    July 8, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Heretic and gone mad?


    But it’s no big stretch for anyone here to agree that worshipers often have a lot of emotion and passion invested in the comfort and security of our traditions and rituals. We USE tradition and ritual to EXPRESS devotion, piety, and worship. I see nothing wrong with that. We grow up, or grow to, invest a sense of stability, security, and devotion into those practices. I see nothing wrong with that either.

    However, when we take that one step too far… when we mistake the sentiments of comfort and security for true piety and devotion… when we substitute tradition and ritual for true worship and reverence… then we no longer worship God Himself in accordance with the scripture, but we bow down to our own ideas and constructions about God . We leave the realm of “spirit and truth”, and shackle ourselves to the dimension of “temple or mountain”.

    This was a major task of Jesus’ ongoing struggle during His walk with the Companion Disciples!

    “Temple/Mountain Worshipers” knew the “right place, times, and manner” that God would be present and how to honor Him with the hands and what went into the mouth.

    Jesus taught His Spirit/Truth Worshipers that God was ALWAYS present, equally in all places, and that to worship Him required entry into an other dimension entirely. That customs of hands and mouth… cleansings, washings, diet… did NOT define sanctity. He spoke of His disciples not fasting for the Bridegroom was yet among them. He said the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. He said what went into the mouth did not make one unclean, but what came out of the mouth as words of slander, hurt, falsehoods.

    If you are heretical or crazy for saying “times and places do not define worship”, Levi… Well, all I can say is you are in very good company. That message was repeatedly taught by Jesus.

    If you are rejected by religious authorities and church management for saying it,.. Well, it seems you are again in good company. Religious authorities and church management arranged Jesus’ murder for much the same thing.

    And if you do not condemn those who worship in customary and traditional ways, but develop new and culturally relevant ways to worship and honor God among people in a variety of venues and styles, it is very likely that you will generate division, dissent, and antagonism from those who believe they have a solid lock on the “right way” to honor God. But Jesus faced the same and said, “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” [Matthew 10:24-25]

    Crazy? Heretic? Well, these were the crimes for which Jesus was executed. Whether you and I are, or aren’t… I myself am more than satisfied with the company we keep.

    Grace to thee! — LM

    Liked by 1 person

    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Hey, LM, how are you? Thanks for all of the comment. I for one prefer the more traditional worship service. I like “old” a lot. Maybe because I’m getting old but I’ve always been this way. I’m thinking about actually young and old in this. There are many older people that aren’t early risers, especially getting around early. I have spoken to many. As for me the earlier the better because I rise very early and get around. I only wish I could sleep in.

      This shouldn’t probably become the new norm but many churches should consider it. The whole purpose of fellowship ping with the saints and breaking bread and hearing the Word proclaimed. It would be much better in my opinion if the worship peers were wide awake and “in the mood” so to speak.

      I know that this isn’t the only reason many don’t regularly worship, but I think it is one of them.

      Thanks for the great comment. Have a great day!


  12. Karen Pickering

    July 8, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Thought provoking. It sounds like you had a good solution for the community you were in at the time. My concern isn’t so much with the when but with the determination to set time aside for consistent worship. Family time is important, but God must come first. There is a cost in following Christ. Do we make it too easy? Do we remove the cost? Do we put aside the all or nothing mind set in order to get bigger numbers? I’m thinking the root problem isn’t the time not being convenient or attractive to families, but a lack of conviction or real repentance. I will continue to think on these things. Very, very good post.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Hello Karen. Thank you for your always thoughtful comments. I’m not saying that we make everything easy for everybody because it’s impossible. This is only one reason I think many don’t attend regularly. Our culture is about the same as Mexico City was in 1980. I see very little difference. I myself actually like the more traditional approach, but that’s my preference. I don’t think it is for many young and old. I’m not sure that worship and church attendance is part of counting the cost of discipleship? I need to think about that one. If I had to fight myself to worship my Savior, then maybe I don’t really have a Savior to worship.

      I think the worship and fellowship experience is one that we should look forward to and have great joy in doing it. It’s hard to settle down after scurrying around just to walk in on time and really be in the right frame of mind and heart. What I’m thinking doesn’t need to be done everywhere, but only where the real need is. There are many things we’ve made biblical that aren’t at all.

      I always appreciate your words. Thanks very much and have a great day!!!


  13. Stacy Tolbert

    July 8, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Levi you are not at all a heretic. The religious leaders in Jesus day missed Jesus completely because of their religious viewpoint. I don’t believe much has changed in our day. I believe that if Jesus was to come and walk among us (in the flesh) on today many Christians leaders would miss Him still. Many of us are bound by tradition, but I agree with you totally, the message itself should never change, but change in other areas of service is a necessity at times, but this takes boldness and courage. Thank you Brother Levi for allowing God to use you in such a BOLD and COURAGEOUS way. Blessings to you my brother!!!


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Thanks for the great comment and kind words. I appreciate you!!!


  14. Paul Simrell

    July 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Well said. Our congregation is currently exploring this very issue as we try to balance our commitment to worship with the reality of what seems to be an ever shifting schedule, especially for our young families.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks Paul. I watch my own children and grandchildren. Come Saturday night they are just exhausted. When they get to church they have hurried just to make it on time and really aren’t in any frame of mind or heart to listen really well and worship. The culture in the US now is almost exactly like Mexico City was in 1980. I think it is one element that needs considered among others.

      Thanks for your comment. Have a great day!!!


  15. "light and salt"

    July 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Oh for those who would hold “God in a box!” Our “traditional thinking” can so limit us in minor matters such as times of worship. Another one that gets me is people who insist on sitting in the very same pew every service!

    Gotta look at the more important things…

    Thanks for this one, Levi!



    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks Steve. Most do sit in the same seats, or at least same area, me included. Lol. I’ve seen people, visitors mine you, run out of the seats they had taken by and older couple who always sit there. Terrible!! Have a great day!!!


      • "light and salt"

        July 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm

        Yep, I got a “kindly ear full” on Sunday night from a group of 3 very elderly ladies who jokingly scolded me for taking their seats! They went on to sit elsewhere as I had already settled my mother there…

        I like sitting in the same place, but it’s no problem if I do have to move!

        Take care, Levi!



  16. Truth2Freedom

    July 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Great article & provocative thoughts from someone who’s neither a heretic nor mad but one who’s simply pondering & thinking “outside the box”.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Thank you brother. Common sense isn’t so common Will Rogers said. Even less so today than then maybe.


  17. Garden Walk Garden Talk

    July 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I don’t attend a church because my husband is Catholic (never attends) and I am not. I have been looking for a church I would enjoy and hope to start now that work was slowed as I near retirement. I myself would prefer mornings but do understand the 6pm worship for younger folks only because many could fit that schedule more easily. I just like after six to be my time to relax.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      I understand and feel like you do. Earlier is better for me but I was just looking at the problem from the way culture is today. I do hope you are able to find a good church.


  18. Rob Barkman

    July 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm


    I have found over the years it can be a real challenge to help God’s people understand the difference between something mandated by the Lord and a tradition that is not found in the Bible. In my way of thinking, as a Pastor, or Missionary, we must put the Word first, and what is best for the local assembly second, with all other things a distant third.

    You did that my dear friend. You met on the Lord’s Day (mandated by the Scriptures) and you met at a time that was best for the congregation ( as you say the time of meeting is not mandated in the Scriptures). Well done! Lord bless.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks, Rob. I have noticed of the churches that have changed their service hours to fit their people that many meet on Friday night or Sat. Night. I agree that it must be on the Lord’s day, Sunday. What a mess we people are. Lol. Have a nice evening!


  19. Debbie

    July 8, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you so much for understanding like you do and seeking Him for a way for those too challenged by an early Sunday time to be able to come and worship.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 8, 2014 at 9:11 pm

      Debbie, I see it as a challenge for many people, young an old alike. We get stuck in patterns and we do things without giving much thought to it. Hopefully it has created some thought and may be of some benefit to some who need it. Thanks as usual Debbie. 😀


  20. Cate Pane: The Clear Parent

    July 8, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I believe your “out-of-the-box” decision was inspired!


  21. beenough

    July 9, 2014 at 1:52 am

    We attend at Saturday night service with our three wee boys (under 7). We enjoy a Sunday of rest and unscheduled time together as a family. I wonder who initially decided to hold church on Sunday morning? I wonder what Jesus would say?


    • Levi Thetford

      July 9, 2014 at 6:07 am

      You are a great example of what I’m speaking of. I am positive Jesus doesn’t care what time on Sunday. Thanks for sharing!



    July 9, 2014 at 3:56 am

    Personally I would love to have our service more later; but the church felt that it was making our church “second class” when we use the time slot that is typically for churches that rent; I think an afternoon service is not a bad idea.
    Good point Levi.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 9, 2014 at 6:02 am

      If you add an afternoon I would like to know how it works.


  23. beverley

    July 9, 2014 at 4:26 am

    When my children were small the local Catholic church changed it Sunday morning service to Saturday night to get more people to attend. It worked for a while, but now they no longer attend on Sunday or Saturday, although they will always be the stalwart and true. I spend 3 hours in church every Sunday. I spend over an hour in the family service and the rest of the time teaching children. My condition doesn’t give me any alternatives to then come home, eat lightly and then nap and rest for the rest of the day. But would i stop going? No! You see i am teaching my granddaughters that church is where you go on a Sunday even when you tired and your body is hurting. I always taught my children that we went unless we were too sick to get out of bed. But then i always taught my children that they attend school every day they were supposed to unless they felt they were too ill not too and if you didn’t get up when called then i wasn’t coming back and you would be late. It is about teaching responsibility not changing the rules to suit them,


  24. Paige Hamilton

    July 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Lots of great thoughts in your post … and in the comments! I’ve enjoyed reading through each and every one. I’m not sure I have any grand thoughts to add to the conversation, but I will reiterate that worship is no where in scripture confined to two particular hours on Sunday mornings, and that it is important for us to learn to sacrifice of our time in order to make corporate worship within our church body a priority on a regular basis. 🙂 As always, Levi, you challenge me to have a more authentic faith.


    • Levi Thetford

      July 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks for your comment to add to the others. Regular worship should be a priority on the Lords day but i think a change of time may be needed in some churches to make this more possible. Have a great day and thank you.


  25. Emily Grace

    July 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Levi,

    If you’re a heretic, I’m with you! My Farmer and I switched to a Saturday evening worship a few years ago. It’s a smaller gathering, but it’s a strong gathering. We now start our Sabbath by 6pm if not earlier on Saturday. Then, Sundays, we can rest and spend time together and with friends. It’s a much more sacred and intentional experience for us. You are right – Sunday morning feels like going to work – or at least it did for us. Now, our “go button” doesn’t get pushed Sunday morning, and that’s an important thing to leave alone on a farmer! One little push and he’ll be mowing and repairing and checking cattle all day, because there’s always something going on. This Saturday night worship has shifted our entire world because we now have a day of rest and refreshment and fellowship. I think your Sunday night idea would work for us, too, if that was the option here.

    Thanks for writing about this important topic! Maybe some people reading will see that making a simple logisitics change totally remakes the issue. We experience no guilt and no stress for attending worship now. What a blessing!

    Emily Grace


    • Levi Thetford

      July 9, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      I’m glad to year of how your group meets. Neat story. This post has had quite a pot of feedback so maybe it will create some change in places where needed. Thanks!!


  26. InfiniteZip

    July 10, 2014 at 7:24 am

    great post my friend, I think in this day and age you have to do what works to accomplish the goal. I loved Sunday school as a child and went to a Christian horse camp every year. you are not crazy:)


    • Levi Thetford

      July 10, 2014 at 7:34 am

      I may be only half nuts. Lol. Hope you’re having a good week! 💐🌸


  27. Michael

    July 10, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Excellent insight! Is this not “becoming all things” that we might win some? I also appreciate your nod to the importance of understanding and honoring others’ culture, which is a big factor in getting anything to grow and produce by anyone, whether its faith or a product we sell. I was astonished by your results in Mexico.

    Most certainly we need to be mindful of the role of today’s culture. Some churches even have widely successful Saturday services. No problem for me. Of course, there are the churches that overdo it. I saw one recently that just made me angry. You never compromise the message due to success. You hit that nail on the head, too.

    And too much glitz and Hollywood…it sickens me and causes me to wonder about the quality of message folk are getting. Not long ago I visited a notable fastest-growing church in America. I really like the young pastor, because he is of God; but the service…it was a veritable concert and show! I was annoyed by the lights, fog, and bone-crushing loud music–I mean LOUD! 😀 And I’m young! Maybe it’s me. I want to feel like I’m in church and in the presence of God, not the movie theater or what I commonly encounter daily in the world.

    Really enjoyed this, Levi. Continue this discussion. Cheers!


  28. Moore to ponder

    July 11, 2014 at 6:18 am

    ” We had our Sunday school at 5:00pm and worship at 6:00pm. ” I would just love to attend a church with that schedule!



    • Levi Thetford

      July 11, 2014 at 6:21 am

      It would fit many peoples life better than what we practice today, I think. Thanks, Theresa



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