More adults under 65 died from alcohol-related factors (74,408) than from COVID-19 (74,075) in 2020.

Alcohol-related deaths are up 25 percent from 2019 to 2020 (as opposed to a 3% increase the previous years of 1999-2019).

Young adults ages 25 to 44 experienced the greatest increases in alcohol-related deaths in 2020, rising nearly 40 percent over the previous year, according to a new report. 

As we experienced lockdowns in 2020, it can only be assumed that Americans did not engage in communal drinking. Rather, having been cut off from so many rhythms which brought us together, we looked to comforts available in isolation. If deaths increased 40% in those 25-44, we can only imagine how drastically drinking-dependency grew during the pandemic. 

While mask mandates and social distancing have mostly disappeared, our muscles for fellowship are still experiencing atrophy. Yet, gathering with the church and enjoying the fellowship of other believers is the medicine we so desperately need. The policies hindering gathering have long since gone. But we are still in a physical therapy moment where we must strengthen our fellowship muscles which are so severely atrophied.  

Our new Sunday PM rhythm goes like this: 
1st Sunday Prayer Meeting 
2nd Sunday Men’s Fellowship 
3rd Sunday Member Meeting
4th Sunday No PM gathering

Why come back on Sunday night? Aside from being a very real and intentional response to isolation brought by Covid, there are so many principal reasons to come back Sunday night. Whether it's a two-minute walk or a 30-minute drive, why come back Sunday nights? 

Keeping Church Covenant 

Review your church membership covenant. Gathering on Sunday evening can only help you in those areas. 


Relationships Deepen Through Hours Together 

Sunday evening is not the peak of personal relationships. But as one of our staff members shared, “Relationships deepen through hours together”. Spending more time with the church in various settings grows your relationships with others. Sunday evening is a prime opportunity to do that with the church. 


Discipleship Develops Through Being With Each Other

Relationships that turn into Tuesday lunches, Thursday dinners at home, and prayer breakfasts Friday mornings begin by gathering with the church. This is a place to likely have a conversation that ends with, “Let’s have lunch this week” or “You guys come over to our place for dinner”. If your fellowship during the week is minimal (or non-existent) don’t be surprised if you are minimizing your gathering with the church on Sundays. And don’t be surprised when your faith, obedience, joy, and growth are minimized, too. 


Hear Others Teaching 

The way our gatherings are structured going forward, we will enjoy devotions and sermonettes from others in the church besides the Sr. Pastor. My goal is to never lead the Sunday evening devotion. This means we have the opportunity to hear from many others. We get to enjoy watching some address the large gathering with the word for the first time. It trains us to hear the word regardless of who is preaching. It gives others the opportunity to grow in teaching.


Fellowship With the Whole Church

Your main gathering is not your small group. Be careful that you do not think of your small group as your primary circle of fellowship and the church is simply a gathering your small group attends. The whole local church is the fellowship under the elders, covenanted together, affirmed, and guarding each other. Your membership covenant is with the whole local church.  Sunday evening is a prime opportunity to be with the whole church. 


Sunday Morning Can Be Busy

Sunday morning is the spearhead moment of discipleship and church ministry. But it can be hectic. There are several service ministries happening. You can find yourself serving in children’s ministry, singing on the worship team, or other areas all morning. It may happen that you interact with a lot of people and your service to them is a ministry of the Lord. Yet, you can find yourself finding it difficult to connect personally. 

Sunday evening, being much more low-key, allows for more relationship-building and personal interaction.


Interrupting Your Time is a Good Thing

It’s Sunday afternoon and two clocks are ticking. One is the clock ticking toward the time you need to leave your house to be on time for the PM gathering. The other is the game clock ticking toward the end of the fourth quarter of the game you ware watching. While there is nothing inherently evil about watching football on Sunday or any day, it is good to be interrupted. Sunday morning is a leisure hour in our culture. It costs little time to do whatever you want in that three-hour window. Sunday evening provides a wonderful time to more fervently say “no” to worldly ideas of rest and comfort, experiencing the rest that comes with Christ and the church. 


Hard to Get There, Always Grateful 

Maybe you don’t live in the two-mile or even the five-mile radius of the church. If so, traveling through the city requires commitment and motivation. This is a running theme for those who come back on Sunday evenings. As one of our staff moms shared, “It can be hard to get there, but I’m always grateful”. Like an oasis in the desert, the getting there can seem impossible. The benefits may feel like a mirage from the viewpoint of your couch. But the fellowship and benefits are life-giving! Having a time or distance in front of you is not an obstacle. It is a measure of value. Maybe you remember the song, “And I would walk 500 miles…..”. 

Tip: Redeem the time in the car as a family. 
What did you guys learn today?
Who did you talk to today?
What was your favorite song we sang? 
Can you remember one thing from the sermon?


I Don’t Know Anyone 

Not knowing anyone is not justification for not gathering. It is the other way around. Gathering is a cure for the loneliness problem. Gathering is the cure for the disconnection problem. If you feel like you don’t know anyone and don’t have relationships at the church, gather. Loneliness is something we can enable by suggesting loneliness is the cause. It would be like saying, “I’m not going to the doctor because I don’t have any medicine”. It is nonsensical.  

Consider what is really going on:

My strength/desire for developing relationships is low. 
I’ve been hurt before.
I feel like I am always the one initiating.
Groups are hard for me.  

There could be any number of deeper concerns. Be careful that your reasons for not being motivated to gather with the church are not actually keeping you from the very medicine you need. 


Your Kids Just Might Actually Enjoy It (We Should Teach Them To If They Don’t)

This has been a surprise to me. My kids enjoy Sunday evening church gathering. They do not always feel gung-ho when we shut down Sunday afternoon play to get back in the van. But generally they enjoy the church, the meals, seeing friends, playing, and more. They also enjoy the gatherings themselves. Not all my children. Not all the time. But we should not be surprised that what God thinks is good and wonderful is enjoyed by children, too. 

That said, odds are high a good number of weeks you’ll hear, “Ugggghhhhhhhhhhh! Why do we have to go back again?” Our children’s feelings don’t dictate our lives, parents! And when they do, it is a sign of our own tiredness, lack of conviction, or simply preferring our own comfort above the development of our children’s hearts. We are to train our children. Those kinds of responses are the exact reasons we gather. We gather our children to the church with us because they don’t yet know its benefits. But we do. 

For His Glory,

Pastor Nathan and Staff