In Fall 2018, our church voted to suspend Sunday evening services. We did this for a number of reasons, but having a “night off” was not one of them. We think there are many great ways we can (and should) use Sunday evenings strategically to use our time well.
What can this look like? Here are three ways you can transform your “night off” into a routine of spiritual faithfulness.
When we hear the term “hospitality,” our minds likely jump to images of cooking, cleaning, preparing, and hosting guests in our home. All these are great services, but Christian hospitality is much simpler than Southern Hospitality. “Hosting” in the traditional sense often leads us to attempt to present our best version of ourselves. “Hospitality,” however, simply means opening up yourself, your home, and your life to others. Of course this can involve a little forethought and preparation, maybe even some cleaning, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. That’s not the point. The goal of Christian hospitality is to show someone else love, to be a spiritual encouragement to them, by simply inviting them into your life. At least three times, the New Testament connects loving one another to showing hospitality to one another (Rom. 12:9-13, Heb. 13:1-2, 1 Peter 4:7-9).
Some practical suggestions:
Come to Sunday AM service prepared to invite someone else over for dinner that evening. Keep inviting until someone takes you up on it!
During the Sunday AM sermon, write down a few notes or questions you have about the passage. Use this as conversation material Sunday evening. Remember, the goal is not simply time together, but time that is spiritually encouraging. Use the time together to help each other grow!
Invite yourself over (!) Most of us cringe when we hear this one, but what’s the big deal? Pastors do it all the time! Rather than having someone come to your home, why not bring a meal/dessert and make a visit on someone else’s home turf? Make sure to reinforce the idea that they need not do anything elaborate to host you. Their home is simply the meeting place for spiritual encouragement and conversation.
Include others in your weekly planning. Many of us plan our meals/trips to the grocery store/shopping lists with our upcoming week in mind. Why not take hospitality into account as you plan out your week?
This might be one of the least talked about, yet most strategic ways we can grow together as a church. Invite someone over this Sunday evening! Talk about the sermon, how the passage challenged or moved you. Pray for one another. Enjoy the time with your brothers and sisters. As you might imagine, hospitality often provides the context for our next two suggestions: discipleship and personal evangelism.
Discipleship can be an intimidating term, but just as with hospitality, it’s really quite simple. Discipleship is helping one another grow. If you are walking with Christ, discipleship is simply inviting others to walk alongside you. Are you reading your Bible? A helpful Christian book? That’s great! Discuss it with someone else. Maybe schedule a time to read with someone else. Are you praying? Wonderful! Invite someone else to pray with you. Ask how you can pray for them, and then do it! Are you struggling with a certain sin? Don’t struggle alone! Share with a brother or sister, and walk together towards Christlikeness. In short, bring others into your life with the aim of growing together.
The truth is, the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. We need others to speak into our marriages, our work life, our parenting, our entire walk with the Lord.
Some practical suggestions:
Think strategically about existing relationships. Many times the most natural discipleship relationships are relationships we already have! Who do you normally see throughout your week? How might you make these relationships and interactions more intentional? Maybe you could suggest reading a book of the Bible or another helpful Christian book together. Perhaps you could begin praying together regularly.
Think strategically about forging new discipling relationships. One of the main objections to initiating discipling relationships is that we don’t feel “ready” or “qualified.” If you are walking with Christ, you called to make disciples. There are others in the church who could benefit greatly from spending some intentional time with you. Think through who you might simply invite into your life with the purpose of helping them grow spiritually.
Think strategically about your own spiritual growth. When we think about discipleship, we often tend to think of pouring ourselves out into others. Of course this is important, but just as important is considering who might be pouring into you. Who could you approach for spiritual help? Is there anyone who could help you grow in your walk with Christ? Go to them and ask if they might be willing to meet with you and help you grow.
Disciple as you go. Another common hesitation to initiating discipling relationships is time. How could you possibly add in something else to your schedule? The beauty of discipleship is that it doesn’t require a dramatic change in your schedule. It requires a change in how you see your schedule, or rather, who you include in your schedule. Trips to the grocery store, going out to lunch, running errands, all can be opportunities to bring someone else into your life. Discipleship often happens in the ordinary. How can you invite someone else into your regular routine with the intention of helping them grow in Christ?
Sunday evenings provide a great opportunity to invest in one another spiritually. We’ve just heard the Sunday morning sermon, so we now have some material to use for discipleship. Ask one another questions such as, “what did you learn from today’s sermon?” Or, “what’s one way you plan to apply today’s passage to your life this week?” Or even, “what can we praise God for from today’s worship gathering?” Think through how you can use Sunday evenings to help someone else grow in Christlikeness.
One final suggestion: we should use Sunday evenings for personal evangelism. As important as it is to build relationships and invest spiritually in our brothers and sisters, we are at the same time commanded to share the gospel with the lost. Each of us, whether we realize it or not, has someone (at least) within our reach who does not yet know Jesus. What if each of us began to use Sunday evenings to share the gospel with our neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, golfing buddies, etc.?
For most of us, evangelism simply won’t happen without a strategy. Who do you know that needs to hear the gospel? Perhaps we could use Sunday evenings to bring the good news to them. Invite a neighbor over for dessert or coffee, and begin a conversation!
Some Practical Suggestions:
Make a list of 5 unbelieving people you know. Begin to use Sunday Evenings to pray for them, and to think about how you might winsomely engage them with the gospel.
Invite one or two unbelieving friends over, as well as one or two church members (hospitality!). Evangelism doesn’t have to (indeed, shouldn’t) be thought of as a solo endeavor. Involve other church members in the mission! Mix your lost neighbors with your brothers and sisters and see what the Lord might do.
Schedule an activity with an unbelieving friend. You could use Sunday evenings to go on a walk with a neighbor, host a game night, go out to dinner, etc. Again, it’s not so much about what you do, but the mindset behind why you are together in the first place.
Finally, simply look and pray for opportunities to discuss the gospel. In my experience, the problem with our evangelism is typically not a lack of opportunity. It's our readiness and willingness to capitalize on the opportunities the Lord provides. This could be as simple as asking a few key questions: “What did you do today?” “Well, we went to church and the Pastor talked about ______. What do you think about that?” “Have you read anything interesting lately?” “I’ve been reading _____, and this is what I’ve learned.” Sunday evenings make for easy transitions into spiritual conversation.
While the physical church building is a wonderful place to gather and worship together, much of Christian ministry and spiritual growth happens outside of those walls. These three ministries: hospitality, discipleship, and evangelism, are simple ways to take your Sunday evenings and transform them into a time of great spiritual impact. Are they convenient? No. Each of these ministries will take time, effort, and energy. I’m convinced, however, that it will be time well spent.
- Pastor Jonathan