Jesus commanded us to make disciples. This is one of our core values. Another value is to meet (as much as reasonably possible) the worship needs of our people. Most of our congregations meet on Sunday. Many in our culture find Sunday more convenient for meeting (especially for families with children involved in school and community programs on Saturday).
The new covenant does not demand or forbid any particular day for corporate worship. Since no one day is inherently better than another, the denomination does not require all congregations to meet on the same day. It is up to each local community of faith to decide on which day to meet for corporate worship. A number of factors may come up for consideration.
Since a primary purpose of the church is to preach the gospel, which day would be best for attracting new people in the community? Most Christian churches meet on Sunday in the U.S. It is the Christian norm, and therefore is most understandable to the “unchurched” people we would like to bring to Jesus and attract to church. On the other hand, many unchurched people do not have a preference.
In the U.S., many teens and children are involved in school and community projects, sports, etc. on Saturday, thus making it more difficult for these families to attend a Saturday meeting. Also, some of the adults work on Saturday. On the other hand, some may work on Sundays.
Historical records from the first and second centuries show that Gentiles in the early church met for corporate worship on Sunday, perhaps because they saw a “new creation” in the day of Christ’s resurrection. This has been the most common explanation for the origin of worship on Sundays. The New Testament shows that the disciples met at least part of the time on “the first day of the week,” i.e. Sunday, for worship. Churches that have a tradition of meeting on Saturdays usually started that tradition through a legalistic misunderstanding of what Scripture says.
Meeting facilities may be easier to lease on one day or the other.
We allow congregations to change meeting times, locations and days according to local needs. We encourage each congregation to meet on the day that serves its needs and purpose best. It is our intent to provide, as much as is reasonably possible, for the worship needs of our people — whether that be congregations who want to meet on Saturday, Sunday or, in certain situations, another day or evening of the week.
How can a change be done?
In churches that have switched the day on which they meet, the best transitions have been achieved by the pastor first educating the congregation 1) that Scripture permits corporate worship on any day of the week, 2) that Sunday has been the primary tradition of the Christian church, and 3) that in the specific community and culture, it has various advantages as a day for corporate worship (including, perhaps, evangelism). After ensuring that everyone was informed, the pastor then surveyed the congregation to determine their needs and desires for the day of worship services.
Everyone’s reasonable needs (not necessarily desires) should be provided for. Some are unable to meet on one day or the other due to work; others due to conscience. If only a few feel they must either stay with Saturday or move to Sunday, perhaps a house church or other worship opportunity could be provided for the minority.
Basic principles to keep in mind
Can we remain together when members worship on different days? If Christ is in us, we can. This wars against our human nature, but with Christ it is possible — even imperative — to love people who have different opinions and practices on this topic. Let us point out some basic principles:
Paul says that worship days don’t matter (Romans 14:5). That applies equally to Saturday as to Sunday. Neither of these days is so important that it should cause anger between members. If we have the “right” day of worship, but the wrong attitude, we gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
In Christ, we are free to meet on any day of the week, any day of the year. But no matter when that is, we are to preach Christ, not the day. Our worship and our messages must focus on him, not on the day. We do not want anything in our messages to imply that people who observe one day are better or more obedient than those who observe another. The focus is on Christ. We worship him, and we commemorate salvation in him. We want to lead people to Christ, not to a day of the week.
The early church apparently worshiped at the temple on the Sabbath — with no complaint from Paul. He did not criticize the Jewish believers for any deficiencies in their understanding. Paul strongly objected to seeing the old covenant days as requirements for Gentiles, but he seems to have no objection to them as options. Paul felt free to go into the temple, and free to preach on Sunday.
Our desire throughout is 1) that Christ is preached, 2) that no one judges others because of the days they observe, and 3) that we consider the needs of those who do not yet fellowship with us. Pastors should support and encourage those who wish to meet on either day, and will lead in such a way that Christ is honored, preached and taught. That means that pastors will not be teaching that a particular day is in any way required or expected, or that keeping it is more pleasing to God. Logistics and numbers may require some worship meetings to be held in homes.
It would be inconsistent to preach grace and freedom while forbidding worship on days that have origins that we don’t like. Wherever and whenever we gather as God’s people, we have an opportunity to preach and worship Christ!
Christ should be our focus. As we draw closer to him, as we become more like him in love, days on a calendar will decrease in significance. The days on the calendar are useful for worship, but they are not our primary goal. Our goal is not to force one day in, or to force another out — our goal is to lead people to Christ, and to let him live within us, to let his attitudes dominate us — attitudes of love, of respect for others, of humility, of being God-focused. Our sense of community, our devotion to fellowship within the church, must be based on these internal truths, not the external matter of considering one day better than another.
Suppose we could forget the past, and just start with Christ first, and his gospel. What are the most important things about Christ, and how do we celebrate those? Perhaps the most important thing about Christ is not days at all, but the manner in which we treat one another. How can we celebrate his love for us? How can we keep his greatest commandment, and his second-greatest commandment? How can we preach his message more effectively to the world that needs it? How can we be less concerned about ourselves and more about others?