By Larry Ray Hafley
From Alabama: “Would it be sinful to change the time, or even perhaps the day of the week, of the midweek Bible study so as not to conflict with an athletic contest, such as the Orange Bowl?”
This question is from an Alabama brother, and in case you have forgotten the Alabama Crimson Tide played Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl on a Wednesday night, January 1, 1975. I suspect there is more to this query than meets the eye. I have no way of knowing or judging the situation or circumstances of the questioner. Both he and his particular position are unknown to me.
There are indications in the Bible that the first disciples met frequently, but there is no binding precedent for a mid-week service. It is a matter for each local church to decide. Many American churches have mid-week study sessions on Wednesday. Some churches have their “Wednesday evening Bible study” on Thursday night! Scripture does not regulate this matter as to the day or the time of day the saints may meet during the week. There is no contention over what day a church may set aside for mid-week worship. It is left to the discretion of each congregation. Since it is true that the church is not scripturally obligated to meet during the week, as it is on the first day of the week, then each church must determine what day or days will be most suitable. Should the brethren elect to alter their usual practice, if it be done with consideration and without overbearing rule, I see no reason why they may not meet earlier or later than usual as circumstances may make expedient.
Some churches have changed their mid-week services so as not to conflict with graduation exercises. I do not think they did wrong. Their services are conducted a day earlier or later as they choose. It is more convenient for many in the church and others agree to live with the disruption of their normal routine for sake of others.
The Orange Bowl
(Unless you know a rabid Alabama football fan, you do not appreciate the pressure this question creates!) Two churches known to me altered their mid-week services on Christmas Day, 1974, .and New Year’s Day, 1975, because both fell on Wednesday. They did this because of many factors connected with such holidays. It was strictly a matter of judgment, convenience, and expedience on their part. They did not make the decision with regard to an “athletic contest.” But what if they had? Would it be sinful? Technically, it would not be a sin for a church to revise their usual schedule, but doing it on account of an athletic contest goes against my grain.
Once a church begins to change their services for the benefit of football fans, they will have to do so for the convenience of basketball and baseball fans. Where will it end? It does not appear to be wise to initiate such a practice. I recognize that what I have said may appear arbitrary and self-serving. However, we must be careful lest matters of liberty are used as a license to circumvent other principles. In all things the Lord comes first. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). “Set your affection on things above and not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). God comes before graduation exercises and before football Bowl games. I cannot say it is a sin for a church to schedule its own worship to edify itself, but an attitude that puts carnival festivities before spiritual activities is a step to disorder, confusion, and strife.
Truth Magazine XIX: 56, p. 882
December 11, 1975