Church is happy with switch to Saturday service


For a long time, Evan Fisher thought weekends ended too fast and that he didn't have enough time to go to church on Sundays as well as spend quality time with his wife and two children.

Then something happened.

The Rev. Steven C. Davidson, pastor of the Good News Christian Fellowship in Clarksville, asked his 43-member congregation to consider attending church on Saturday nights. But before he accepted its answer, he asked the members to think -- and pray -- about the idea for a month.

"I felt like there was a need [for an alternative] for families who had other commitments on Sundays," the pastor said.

A month later, Mr. Fisher and the other congregants gave the pastor's idea two thumbs up.

"I like the Saturday service because of the convenience. It's like gaining a whole new day on the weekend," said Mr. Fisher, a 38-year-old computer specialist who lives in Columbia. "I thought it would be a good way of attracting people who'd normally stand back from the church environment."

The Saturday service accommodates the schedules of nurses, doctors and other professionals in his congregation, Mr. Davidson said. Saturday night services also allow families to spend more time together.

The congregation stopped meeting at Clarksville Elementary School and now rents space at South Columbia Baptist Church, where it held its first 7 p.m. Saturday service during Easter weekend.

Last year, Covenant Baptist Church in Columbia held Saturday night services, said the Rev. Darrell Baker, associate pastor of that 10-year-old church.

"We did it to provide the community another outlet," Mr. Baker said. "It's a very user-friendly service for people who work maybe six days a week and want to spend time with their family on Sunday."

Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, like Jews, observe Saturday as the Sabbath because it is the seventh day of the week.

To announce the "Good News Saturday Nights," members of the Good News congregation mailed 5,000 brochures to residents along the Route 32 corridor last month, and attracted seven new families.

Though Saturday is a nontraditional Christian Sabbath, Mr. Davidson said there's nothing wrong with having services on Saturdays.

"The Bible never says that Sunday is the day of worship," the minister said, explaining that Sunday worship became a tradition. The Bible says only that the Sabbath must be holy, he said.

During the two-hour Saturday service, Mr. Davidson gives a 30-minute "Bible study message." Contemporary Christian music is provided and casually dressed members split into discussion groups to examine what they learned from the minister.

At first, Mr. Davidson thought members would bolt immediately after the Saturday service. But some stay until 10 or 10:30 p.m.

There are no plans to return to Sunday services, Mr. Davidson said.

He formed Good News Christian Fellowship four years ago. Members are mainly married couples and singles in their 20s and 30s, who typically have no church backgrounds.

"They affectionately call me the old guy," the 40-year-old pastor said, adding that there's one couple in the congregation older than he is.

A native of Dodge City, Kan., Mr. Davidson said he can relate to not having a church background. He started attending church during his junior high school years.

"I started to learn something about the Christian faith, but I never accepted the Christian faith," he said.

As time passed, his faith grew, especially as he tried to learn what a friend's mother meant by constantly telling him that "Jesus died for your sins."

"I began reading and studying everything I could find to find out what it meant for Jesus to die for my sins," he said.

He finally got the answer.

After getting a bachelor's degree in business administration and biblical studies from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas in 1977, he got a master's degree in New Testament studies from Baylor University in 1980. He was ordained in 1983 in Camarillo, Calif.

Seven years later, he got a master's degree in theology from XTC Southwestern Seminary and came to Howard County to start Good News.

How did the congregation get its name?

"It comes from the word that means gospel, which is a Greek word which literally means 'good news,' " Mr. Davidson said. "The personal relationship with God is the best news that anyone could have."

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