I like second service Christians. Wait. Let me rephrase. I like second service Christians better than first service Christians. There. I said it.

I remember when a church I was attending switched from one service to two. It was not pretty. Most certainly the church needed it. It was packed. The general rule is when the service is consistently up to eighty percent full, plans need to be made for some sort of change. If no change is sought, filling out that extra twenty-percent usually won’t even happen. The idea is that people don’t like to be that crowded and will just seek other places of worship. It was time for this church to think bigger.

Half the people thought it was a good idea. The other half did not. The half that did not argued that it would take away from the intimacy that was currently present. They liked the way it was and did not want it to change. The half that did wanted to experience the excitement of growth and new faces. They liked the way it could be and were willing to risk the change. It is amazing how many people left because of this growth “problem.”

Change did occur. A second service was inaugurated. Invariable, certain (predictable) things happened. There was an “early” and a “late” service. Those who did not want the change (and stuck around) went to the first service. I don’t know why, I suppose it felt like it was the “original” service. Those who did want the change went to the second service.

Head with me for a slight turn here.

When I preach at a church that has two services, more often than not, I get a lot better reception from the second service than from the first. They laugh more at my jokes. They cry more at . . . well, those parts they are suppose to cry. Their facial expressions are more dynamically indicative of the movements of the sermon. And there is even a bigger line of people who want to talk to me afterward. All and all, it is simply a more positive experience during the second service.

“Yeah, that is because the second service is LATER, Michael. People are more awake!”

I don’t think so. You see, first service Christians never fall asleep. Their eyes do not even glaze over. Fatigue is not the issue. They are listening to be sure. But the type of listening is different. Generally, they are more likely to have their arms crossed. Their countenance seems to default to scowl. If it is not, then they look like they are having to make quite an effort at keeping it from gravitating to such. In short, they are more critical. It is as if they are looking for creative ways to criticize me rather than listen to the word of God and let it change them. Are they waiting for me to slip up? Do they already know everything? Are they (perish the thought) the fundamentalists of the church? I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that excitement and energy are far from them.

When this church switched to two services, there were two personality types that were separated. Those who did not want growth and change and those who did. First service Christians are protective. They are protective of their way of life. They are protective of their truth. They have made it as far as they can go and only exist to keep the status quo. On this journey called Christianity, they have set up camp, become comfortable in this camp, built walls to protect themselves, keeping their flock in and others out, and stationed canons pointed toward the outside. They are scary to be around. It’s that simple.

Second service Christians are excited about possibilities. They are never ready to make camp and build walls. Their arsenal is small. They have “Yes faces.”  They are looking for the good first, rather than the bad. They gravitate toward acceptance rather than criticism. Their arms are never crossed. They just seem to have hope. That is why I like to preach during the second service.

Now, hopefully you have realized that much of what I have said is somewhat metaphorical. It is not really about first and second services. 

I know of a local church pastor who is head of one of the largest churches in America. One time he said that he would not hire pastors who were outside of their 20s. When asked why, he said because in your 20s, you still believe you can change the world. After your 20s, you don’t.

I have struggled with this idea. Most of the struggle is because I realize there is some sense of truth to what he is saying. Many times when we get older, we slowly lose the excitement about life and possibilities. We start to become first service Christians. Our self-evaluated “wisdom” and experience reekss of bitterness, hopelessness, and a downcast spirit. We begin to fold our arms to life itself. Any thoughts of change, hope and development become living heresies. “Been there, done that” is our motto. Joy is replaced by self-preservation. We become immobile and, worse, we justify this and seek to reproduce after our kind. We just want things to remain as they are. Change is a treat.

Not all first service Christians are “first service Christians”…don’t go there. And I know that there are churches who have more than two services, so don’t ask about “third service Christians.” By now you should know that the first and second service stuff is not really my point. Also, not all of us outside our 20s are “first service Christians” (I hope!). But we have to fight, as individuals and churches, to keep from becoming such. The moment this disease (and it is a disease) infects us, spiritual rigamortis is next on the calendar. The gravitational pull of lives filled with hurt and disappointment causes us to roll up into a ball on the floor for the remainder of our existence.

But we are not called to be in this ball. We cannot duck our head in our shell. Yes, change, development and starting a second service are all risky. Standing up straight is risky. It is easier to have no hope than to expose ourselves by fickle hope again. It is easier to be critical than hopefully accepting. But did you know “Been there, done that” is not in the Proverbs?

Let us find joy again. Let us become second service Christians and return to the joys of hope and possibilities.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    31 replies to "I like “Second Service Christians” Better"

    • Ed Kratz

      Ouch. Are you saying that all elderly people are like this? I know of many who are not! 🙂

    • cherylu


      While I agree with what you say in many cases, it seems to me that for someone, especially those that are getting elderly, who has lived a life of pain and suffering for many years your advice would seem oversimplistic or maybe almost like a slap in the face. I am thinking about a family member of mine. While not really elderly, she is in her fifties and for 30 plus years of her life, she has lived a nightmare existence mainly because of her marital circumstances.

      Frankly it seems to me that sometimes it is just better to tell folks that have suffered for years due to dreadful circumstances, severe health problems, or severe mental or emotional problems , or whatever the cause, that yes, sometimes life just plain hurts, is not fair, and is very painful and that our only joy often comes from the Lord. To keep dangling the carrot of hope in front of someone that has been hurting and disappointed for years with no answers to their prayers for relief in sight, starts to seem almost cruel.

      Take a look at the folks in the second half of Hebrews 11 that were praised for their faith. Things did not in any way get better for them on this earh. But they were praised by God anyway.

      Hope this isn’t too full of typos as I don’t have time to edit at the moment.

    • Jeremy

      I understand that what you’re saying is mostly metaphorical, but about “second service Christians” smiling, laughing, crying, and just reacting better, could part of that be that the preacher has warmed up and worked out the kinks with the first service? From the (slight) reactions of the folks at the first service, he has a feedback to work with, and adjusts his tone, expression, and wording accordingly for the second time around. At least that’s how it is with me when I speak on the same topic more than once.

    • Cadis

      I was mostly stirring up trouble 🙂 or trying to, but yes! I would say the majority of elderly people would be “first service” Christians. That should call for a moment of reflection. I get your overall message. There is nothing worse than a constant bombarding of negativity, but young niavete and gaga enthusiasm can be annoying as well. I would like a mixture of both or an unsegregated congregation. You gotta love the nay-sayers too. It keeps balance. The problem with optimists is, they don’t know when to draw the line. The “first service” will stop you “second service” Christians from doing really stupid stuff. Ok , I’m giving away my first service status. In reality I probably would not attend a two service church that’s how bad I am. 🙂

    • mbaker

      ” The “first service” will stop you “second service” Christians from doing really stupid stuff. Ok , I’m giving away my first service status. In reality I probably would not attend a two service church that’s how bad I am.'”

      Me too! I was just saying the same to a friend. I hate the segregation that exists in some of the modern day church services as it makes it into an ‘them’ or ‘us’ type thing. Old versus young.

      It’s like like we older folks are just totally behind the times, and unnecsary nowm or even an impediment, rather than being ‘seasoned salt’ as I like to call it, and necessarily equipped with a little more caution BECAUSE we have seen so much wrong happening in the modern day church and know where it leads.

      At my advanced age, almost 69, there’s no one who has to hold more hope for the future to keep going than I do! 🙂

    • Joe

      Hi Michael,
      Could I offer a dissenting opinion? Maybe your delivery is just better in the second service. It’s not that I think you’re completely wrong, certainly you have some valid points but this phenomena is not only experienced on Sunday mornings in churches. In another life (by that I mean when I was much younger and in college) I performed quite a bit of theater. I noticed that our reception on the second performance was almost always better, even when the first one was at 6 in the evening and the second was at 9.
      I have talked to other actors and they all agree with this. I do public speaking of a non-preaching nature now, and the same experience can be had in those endeavors.
      So the funny thing here is that I agree with you about the two completely different reactions but I think the issue is more with the speaker than the audience except that I agree with the points you are making. Perhaps, not with the metaphor to make them though.
      BTW, First time commenter, long time reader. 🙂

    • Ed Kratz

      Whew, for a minute I thought you going to advocate for the entertainment factor.

    • Hodge

      Maybe second service Christians are the crowd who stays up later on Saturday night, is more lax about getting up earlier, and is a part of that more entertainment oriented generation that expresses itself in more emotion than the first? Is it simply that our generation is more bipolar, emotionally unstable, care less about commitment to what is and more about what’s new, and wants to make sure they get their two cents in? I think that would explain why they’re more emotionally expressive, are good to go with the two services, and talk to you more after the sermon. The personalities who are more disciplined, and thus more scary to those of us who are lax, are more likely to have self control over their expressions, not want to abandon the unity of a congregation, show up early, and have self control over their need to talk to you about what you said. It’s just a theory.

    • mbaker

      Oh, completely off the subject for a minute, but just so you folks know here (those of whom I am friends with on on Facebook,) I deleted my page after it had been hacked 4 times. So if you see me disappear from your friends list there, please don’t think I dropped you personally.

    • mbaker


      I know we don’t always agree 🙂 but I do think you have explained some of what at least what makes some of us folks ‘first service’. That, and we simply prefer the earlier services because it means more times with our families on Sundays to enjoy the Lord’s day together.

    • Joe

      I’m not comfortable with the notion that if one is a Christian they must always be happy. People do go through some very tough times at some point in their lives. I remember back in the day I was depressed and my pastor told me that since I was a Christian I should always be joyful. Which kinda threw me off since I was sure of just two things in my life at that point. One, I was a Christian. Two, I was absolutely miserable. Every single second of every day was just pure torment. After that conversation I was just sure of one thing. And I couldn’t even comfort myself with thoughts of suicide anymore since I would be going to the hot place. Maybe instead of just writing off “first service” Christians, or telling them to “get happy” one should find out why there are the way they are. But that would be risky and most likely not even “second service” Christians would invest the time and energy.

    • Hodge


      I’m actually closer to an Evening (third/fourth) service guy, 🙂 but I have a lot of respect for you “first servicers” and wish I was more like you. More power to you.

    • mbaker


      Can’t believe we are in such agreement * gasp* 🙂 but I totally agree with you on the third service thing. I’m there too!

    • cherylu


      You said, Maybe instead of just writing off “first service” Christians, or telling them to “get happy” one should find out why there are the way they are. But that would be risky and most likely not even “second service” Christians would invest the time and energy.

      Did you ever say a mouthful there! I am going to go back to the example of my relative again. This is something very fresh in my mind at the moment and having listened to her pain in this situation, it seems very appropriate to use her as an example here.

      The “second service” Christians that inhabit the same world she does are great to tell her to be happy, etc, etc. But they are often absolutely terrible at offering her any real support in any tangible way whether it be physical help, finantial help, or even basic friendship.

      They simply do not invest the time or energy. Maybe they are just too busy being happy themselves.

    • Ed Kratz

      Good conversation, but remember, it is not REALLY about first service or second service, but about how we gravitate toward a certain attitude. Think the local pastor who would not hire people out of their 20s.

    • Joe

      I put second service in quotation marks thinking everyone would understand it was to be taken metaphorically

    • Rick

      “Pity the nation that won’t listen to its boys and girls.”- Bono

      I think First Service Christians are also more tired since they got up so early. But, I have had the same experience, 2nd Service always seems a bit more lively, and less people telling you to move because you are in their seat.

    • Leslie Jebaraj


      I am a second service Christian, and I agree with you. 🙂

    • Rick

      1 question: What time are the services?

      I think people that prefer the 1st service probably have a different type of personality. They are more the “early bird gets the worm” types, and not expressive types. They want to get it done and get it done right, then want to move on to the next thing. They are a little more serious.

      2nd service people are probably more appreciative of the moment, not in a rush, and more expressive.

    • mbaker

      I think putting long time or older Christians into a box marked contents out of date is big mistake. Most older Christians I know just don’t feel the need to jump up and down or act giddy just to prove they are joyful in the Lord. I sure don’t.

      And most of my older Christian friends aren’t adverse to change so much as they get resentful when some of the newbies reject them or make fun of them simply because they are older. They may not seem as lively as some of the younger folks, but if you look at who quietly volunteers and who tithes I think you’ll find that older Christians are pretty darn faithful in those areas, and good to have around in a pinch.

      I think folks who cue their ministries strictly to the younger generation are actually running off a lot of older folks who have been loyal and loving supporters of their churches, because they don’t think they are relevant any more.

      Thankfully I have a church who values all it’s members.

    • Ed Kratz

      I suppose that there is a sense in which “wisdom” and “hope” can butt heads here. Sometimes wisdom becomes a fancy way for us to justify our bitterness. “Been there, done that” can be taken either way. “Hope” can also smack of naivety.

    • mbaker

      I just don’t think we should assume that joy in the Lord is necessarily an age related thing, or has anything to do with resisting or accepting change, or the lack of hope, or relying on outward signs that folks are accepting or rejecting preaching.

      Rather our concern should be showing the grace of God equally to all members of a church.

    • Dave Z

      I don’t think CMP is putting anyone in the “past the expiration date box.” He’s just referring to types of Christians, but I’d say it’s really types of people in general, not limited to the church.

      Somewhere (maybe in MC) C.S. Lewis speaks of each decision we make and each atitude we adopt “bending” us in a particular direction. Each individual bend may be tiny, even hard to see, but over a lifetime the cumulative bends transform us into grumpy old farts who want things our way or open-hearted people still experiencing the joy of life with even greater wonder for the experiences they’ve had. (this is heavily paraphrased)

      I see this all the time. When people habitually indulge their self-centeredness throughout an entire lifetime, it becomes painfully obvious. It’s age-related only in that age reveals it more. But age also reveals the true beauty of those who live lives submitted to the leading of the Spirit, resulting in advanced sanctification and the fruit of the Spirit hanging heavy on every branch.

      The guy who will only hire 20-somethings may be successfully avoiding the weary “been there-done that” attitude, but he’s also losing the “been there-done that-it was awesome-let’s do it again even better” group.

      I agree that the segregation of services by age is sad. When I was under 30 I left a large local church (Calvary Chapel – cutting edge in those days) partly because it made me nervous that there were none in the congregation who had been walking with the Lord for 20, 30 or more years. Something didn’t seem right about that.

    • Hodge

      “Pity the nation that won’t listen to its boys and girls.”- Bono

      This is actually the reverse of both biblical and the wisdom of most cultures throughout time. I saw this on Frank’s blog and thought it would partially apply to this concept.

    • Nate


      The local church pastor you mentioned who is head of one of the largest churches in America likely only hires pastors in their 20’s because they will “jump when he says jump”. Young men can more easily be molded and often will ask less questions due to their respect for the senior pastor. However, lack of maturity can often leave a path of destruction in it’s wake. The business model works much the same way. I’m now in my 40’s and would like to continue advancing my career but have found that new college graduates will do the same job at half the pay and will work twice the hours for no extra pay because they often do not have the same level of responsibility outside of work (family). I guarantee this pastor doesn’t employee more mature pastors for the same reasons.

      On another note, most churches in my area do not have many members with gray hair which is just sad. We in the body of Christ can learn so much by those who are mature in the faith, and while I recognize that you are not singling out age but rather resistance to change I think a more accurate analysis would conclude the real need is for us to be better at communicating with one another in the “body” and encourage one another to seek God’s Truth together for His glory. Sometimes that might mean creating a new service, but I think in the last 30 years we’ve overlooked the possibility of instead creating sister congregations and the planting of new churches to fulfill the needs of growth in the local church. Should the answer really always be more services, new building programs, larger auditoriums and satellite campuses with a CEO pastor at the helm? Those who embrace change may think so, but those with wisdom would admit that investing our lives in perhaps a new congregation for the glory of God may be an even better change.

    • other Rick


      Some of the thinking w/ large churches is that the existing staff can mentor the younger staff, and can learn much from the younger generations approach to ministry- of course with oversight. The older staff knows that the younger generation, including staff and laity, will one day be the mature generation, so their approach to ministry needs to be appreciated- within boundaries.

    • ScottL

      We could plant out rather than build upwards and we would probably multiply quicker and reach more (not to mention it alleviates two ‘crowds’ on a Sunday). It seemed to be the model in Acts. And you know what happened the last time they built upward – Tower of Babel came a fallin’ down.

    • StuartB

      Love the Bono quote.

      Another good quote is “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s why so many first-servicers who are in leadership and are mentoring the second-servicers actually just create more first-servicers.

      At times, the best thing that can be done is to start fresh.

    • phantom


      I feel like you’ve picked out the worst of the “first service people” and the best of the “second service people.” I understand the point you’re making, but there are extremes on both ends that are harmful to the church; conversely, we need both the young and flexible, AND the seasoned and cautious types in the church. Interestingly, just about every culture in history but ours puts greater value on the older and wiser types…..

    • Brandon

      A quick survey also suggests “first service” christians are more likely to correct an error (perceived or actual) ; )

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