Early Services in History

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16).

I have just spent Monday morning encouraging myself from church history that an early church service is the mark of a vibrant church. Here is what I found.

  1. Start with Jesus. Not only did he rise before dawn to pray (Mark 1:35), but he also held early services: “Early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him” (Luke 21:38).
  2. Then watch the apostles: “They entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach” (Acts 5:21).
  3. In Wittenberg, Germany in the early 1500’s, while Martin Luther was preaching, “there were three public services on Sunday: from five to six in the morning on the Pauline epistles, from nine to ten on the Gospels, and in the afternoon . . . on the catechism” (Here I Stand, 272).
  4. In Geneva, Switzerland while John Calvin was preaching, “each Sunday began with its service and sermon at daybreak (six o’clock in the summer and seven in winter) and went on with catechism for the children at midday and another sermon at three o’clock” (Portrait of Calvin, 82).
  5. Jeremiah Burroughs preached at 7:00 a.m. each Sunday in the 1640’s at Stephney, England and was called the morning star of Stephney (The Rare Jewel, 14).
  6. The Sunday labors of George Whitefield “began at six o’clock in the morning, with a meeting for young people at his sister's house,” then he preached twice (George Whitefield, 257).

So I am greatly encouraged! What a privilege to be counted among such early risers. A new day is dawning at Bethlehem, and its dawning is early! I feel like Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who wrote in his diary September 30, 1837, “Very happy in my work. Too little prayer in the morning. Must try to get early to bed Saturday, that I may ‘rise a great while before day’” (Memoirs, 56).

See you at 8:30 next Sunday!