So, this Sunday is Easter.
I have been feeling enormous pressure to create a really good service: you know, an inspiring, creative message; powerful music; maybe a really moving drama or dance; all the things necessary to impress all those folks who will “go to church” on Easter because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
I’ve seen a lot of tweets and Facebook messages touting the “awesomeness” of this Sunday’s service at ________ Church.
I started wondering today if we aren’t perhaps a bit misguided.
I am wondering if Jesus is really all that interested in our “cool” worship services and all the hoopla that will be associated with our Easter Sunday events.
I confess that I have always been guilty of doing this, and as I mentioned at the outset, I have been tempted to do it again this year. My reasoning is simple: people will come to church on Easter who will not come any other time of year (except maybe Christmas Eve) and it is our responsibility to show them what we’ve got so that they might consider coming back.
This is the way it’s always been done.
But I am beginning to wonder if it’s actually supposed to be done this way.
Here are a few things that I have been contemplating today with regard to this issue.
Are we being deceptive? Are we being deceptive by really pouring everything we’ve got in to a single worship service? There is no way that most churches will be able to reproduce the Easter “show” every week. If we pull out the dramas and the videos and the full choir/band and really do it up, won’t they expect that every week? And won’t they be really disappointed if they actually do come back next Sunday and see what we do the other 51 Sunday’s out of the year? Why not simply do what we always do and Celebrate Easter authentically in the same way our faith community celebrates throughout the year. This is our first year as a new church and I want anyone who attends our Celebration for the first time this Sunday to experience The Journey the same way they would experience it if they showed up for the first time in August or October. I do not want them to be surprised if they decide to come back on April 15th. What they see on the 8th is what they’ll get on the 15th!
Will there actually be that many “un” churched folk at our services on Easter? I know that it has always been fairly normal to assume that a certain number of people will attend a worship service on Easter Sunday who would probably not attend any other time than perhaps Christmas Eve, but does this still hold true? Are we fooling ourselves in to believing that “un” churched folk still make sure they go to church on Easter morning because “that’s what you do?” Or are we truly living in a post Christian culture that sees Easter as little more than a secular holiday primarily consisting of chocolate bunnies, ham and family gatherings? And if “un” churched folk do attend our services on Easter, is there really much of a chance that they will return regardless of how ‘good” we do? I know that there are still some people who are a part of the “drug program;” that is, they get “drug” to church by someone, but I am more and more convinced that the average “un” churched person in America, if they actually attend a service of worship on Easter, will most likely not return the following week. With this in mind, I suggest again that we simply offer a Sunday Celebration that is authentic to our faith community and allow God’s prevenient grace to stir the hearts of those far from Him who may find their way in to our gatherings this Sunday.
Should we perhaps spend more time focusing on ways to connect with those who won’t come to church as opposed to spending all of our time trying to impress those who do? The story of Easter is the story of resurrection; the story of Jesus defeating death and then immediately issuing marching orders to his followers: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Jesus came up out of that grave and commanded His followers to come out of hiding, out of their preconceived ideas about what the kingdom of God looked like, and out of their comfort zones and to “go” (Matthew 28:19). If there are people in our community who will NOT attend a worship service this Sunday (and I would venture to say that there will be many) what are we doing about sharing resurrection with them? Who will tell them that Jesus is alive and that they too can be free to live abundant lives, be freed from the bondage of sin, and discover peace, joy and hope? We might want to consider what it would look like to pour as much time and energy into reaching out to those who will never darken the doors of our church as we do trying to create a spectacular experience for those who will.
These are just a few of the things I’ve been thinking about today.
I truly hope and pray that many, many people find their way to churches across this country this Sunday; people who may never go to church who might hear the message of a risen King with open ears and hearts for the first time and respond by surrendering to Him. But I also hope and pray that churches across this country will realize that many, many people in their communities will not attend their worship services this Sunday and perhaps figure out ways to share the life-changing message of the risen King with them so that they too can have an opportunity to surrender to His love.
Let’s celebrate this Sunday in the sanctuaries AND in the streets and proclaim that Jesus is alive to everyone who will listen!