I was born and raised in Churches of Christ, which is to say I was born "Easter-challenged." My parents and the church I grew up in were far from legalists who thought Easter was a plot of Satan to get us all to worship the Easter Bunny or "Ishtar." Easter was special at our house, but I never saw it as the opportunity for ministry it is until about 8 or 10 years ago.
Over my years in ministry, I've been part of church where attendance actually went down on Easter (nearly impossible). I served in another where I was told, "Don't plan anything good on Easter, because no one will be here." The church had heavy involvement in Leadership Training for Christ, which, at the time, gave out awards on Easter Sunday. Fine program. Easter Sunday? Come on, now. Don't do anything good because no one will be there? Double "COME ON, NOW!" Let me offer just a few practical reasons why every Christian congregation should make a big deal out of Easter Sunday.
- Most importantly, it's an annual time to give special attention to the resurrection and the Christian story. I know some will say, "We should do that every day." Sure, we should, just like we should love our wives every day. But anniversaries aren't a bad thing. They're a time to find special ways to say "I love you." Easter is such an occasion when it comes to celebrating the resurrection.
- Easter is almost a free invite to almost anyone you know. It will never get easier to ask someone to come with you to worship than on Easter or Christmas. Something inside most people gives them the sense that even if they have no plans to seek God beyond that day, it's a nice thing to "go to church" on Easter. This allows believers to ask with less fear, and get used to asking their friends to join them for other things or to have spiritual conversation.
- It's an opportunity for the church to practice the kind of focus it could have the rest of the year. We begin planning Easter about 3 months out, and try to come up with an extra-creative way to communicate the truths of the Christian story. We would like to do it every week…but realistically, it ain't happening. However, if a church can't focus for a single Sunday… it ain't ever happening. As I've mentioned in other posts—if the church is consistently intentional on the weekends, there won't be an elevator drop from Easter weekend to the following Sunday.Easter Sunday is a good time to exercise creativity, thoroughness, and theological development muscles that can be used throughout the year.
- In even the most invisible, ineffective church on the planet, there is an obvious 10% jump in attendance. When I was in Dallas, we would nearly double in attendance. We're expecting 30-40% guest attendance on Sunday at NCCC. What a great opportunity! God has been given a hearing with these people. We want to make much of Him in that hearing.
This year, because we cannot accommodate the crowds in our snug facility (we already have 4 assemblies), we are gathering at the California Center for the Arts, just across the street from the NCCC facility. It's a visually stunning place and gives us a lot of tools to work with we don't have normally. I can't wait to see the Body gathered to celebrate Christ. It'll also be my newborn daughter's first worship gathering 🙂
We're pulling out all the stops, utilizing a variety of gifts within the body to paint a vivid picture of Christ. We're going creative, and that's nearly always a good thing when it's channeled toward the right things. Christ is the Right Thing. For the 1300-1400 we expect Sunday, our hope is that God will speak through those who serve, through songs, prayers, the Table, the joy, and the sacrifice. I believe He will.
If you're in the San Diego area, come join us at 10am at the California Center for the Arts. The weather report (while still early), is forecasting a typically beautiful, 70 degree and sunny day. The spiritual forecast for the day… even better 🙂