Kendall sent me this question:
I think most of us feel the pressure to “pull out all the stops” for Easter, whether that means a drama, special choir number, special communion service, hired orchestra, etc. What are some ways you have sought to make the celebration of the Resurrection special at your church? Does your congregation and/or pastoral team do anything different to make that Sunday a more focused evangelistic outreach?
Many non-Christians are more likely to attend a Sunday meeting on “special” days like Christmas and Easter. Reasons vary. It may be persistent family members or neighbors. It might be the big production the church is advertising. I’d think for many it helps alleviate the guilt they experience for not going all the other Sundays in the year. On a more profound level, they come because God is drawing them by his Spirit to hear the Good News of the Gospel.
I’ve been blessed to serve with men who recognize the opportunities holidays provide for evangelism without feeling the pressure to “pull out all the stops” as can be our tendency. We do see it as an evangelistic opportunity and plan accordingly.
These are some of the things I’ve done over the years:
- Introduce a new congregational song.
- Add a choir.
- Have one or more vocal solos.
- Use new arrangements of worship songs.
- Have someone share how they were converted.
- Make guests aware of other opportunities to learn about Christianity.
- Perform a five to ten minute drama that alludes to the meaning of the resurrection or portrays it.
- Use orchestral ensembles (strings, brass).
- Print up invitations a few weeks in advance.
- Shorten our meeting.
As I look at that list, I realize there’s nothing particularly unique, although I still remember many of our Easter Sunday meetings and the impact they had. In any case, here are a few things we’ve tried to keep in mind when planning meetings like this.
1. We have nothing more powerful to offer people than the Gospel. If we’re most concerned about our creativity, our lighting, our talent, our “relevance,” or our cleverness, we’ve missed the point. It’s not that any of those things are wrong or unimportant. They’re just not the best thing we have to offer unbelievers who come through our doors on Easter morning. For that reason, we need to make sure that at some point we clearly explain our need for a Savior and God’s provision of His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins who has risen from the dead. Tell it plainly, biblically, and passionately. Most people are oblivious to the fact that their greatest need is to be reconciled to God. We have the privilege of telling them. What a joy!
2. Examine your motives. If we feel pressure about a special meeting, there’s a good chance we’re no longer serving in the strength that God provides (1 Pet. 4:11) and are hoping we’ll look impressive in someone’s eyes. But it’s possible to pursue excellence and creativity without being enslaved to them. We don’t have to put on the greatest Sunday service in history, in our lifetime, in our denomination, or in our area. We simply need to faithfully proclaim, in an understandable and appealing way, the greatest news the world has ever heard.
3. Use creativity wisely. Two things to remember about creativity. First, what you win people with is usually what you win people to. Second, creativity isn’t something we do – it’s a way we do something. And on Easter Sunday, that something is clearly communicating the significance and meaning of the resurrection. So our goal isn’t simply to impress and entertain – we want to instruct and educate. We want to be winsome, but we also want to win hearts. And creativity doesn’t have to be big, lavish, or complex. Simplicity can cause people to listen more carefully to what you’re saying. Oftentimes less is more.
4. Don’t forget to feed the church. Our special meetings are never so evangelistic that members of the church aren’t fed as well. But if we’re preaching the Gospel rightly, the church will recognize that continued growth in godliness is dependent on their ongoing trust in Jesus’ finished work.
5. Start praying and planning early. I always feel my need for God’s help and power the days leading up to a significant meeting. It’s amazing how I start thinking of all the things I could have done but don’t have time to do any more. I’m starting to realize that God wants me to be aware of my need of his grace long before the actual event. He wants to help me as I plan, think creatively, and look for resources. He also wants me to pray in faith that his Spirit will work in people’s hearts.
Whatever your Easter service will look like, I pray that the unbelievers who visit our meetings will encounter the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
Amen, Amen, Amen. I have been in many small villages in Alaska these past 3 years and it is hard to reach “everyone.” And especially hard to let God work when I and the other leaders have NO CLUE what God’s doing next.
The thing is, with what you mentioned – examining the motive – knowing that our hearts are pure before the Lord before we take another step to reach another…. we have no right to under estimate the power of God. It doesn’t matter what your service is like. (As long as it is Biblical!) It could be a flop, in your eyes, but if we set out to make God known and to make sure these people saw the Love that they’re so foreign to… but we make sure God’s the captain, not us, what more is there?
Sounds crazy, especially coming from me. But I think sometimes we live inside a box, putting God in that same box… forgetting He doesn’t belong there, and forgetting our mission is never going to be achieved if we don’t let him work.
okay, I’m off my soapbox now
First, bridge them to God and glorify HIm …obviously. Second, we make sure it is authentically us. We might do something “wow” but we ask, “Is this NorthWood?” We have consulted with guys who have a base “rock” sound but decided for Easter they were going to rent in a horn line and go all R&B (we advised against it, we’ll see what they do). People who return the next week who will be expecting a consistency of some sorts between weeks are going to be confused. Yes, do it. Just not on Easter. (Even if we have a guest musician etc., we always make sure our worship team kicks off with at least one song so that if someone is a guest, they feel like they know what to expect if they return.) PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS, but always be who you really are.
Interestingly, we keep very good data (perhaps because I score a 99% Beaver on the Ministry Insights test). Our data shows that for the last 7 years, though our attendance spikes radically on Easter (3,000+) and our visitor count jumps, there is same residual gain of these new folks regardless of whether we stay simple or “go nuts” on Easter. We have simplified Easter and spent the extra energy on a powerful Good Friday Experience each year (an example is posted, more to come)..
If Jesus never rose from the dead, then ours would be a dead religion. I thank God that Jesus did rise from the dead and that he offers the “abundant life.” I’m looking forward to: Resurrection Sunday
I so agree with showing the meaning of the bible and its terms for Easter than an “Amazing Laser light show” or “Amazing worhsip band”. I thinks that great but like you said tell it plainly, bibically, and passionately. We were talking about Easter in my chapel class. And we were throwing out all kinds of ideas….ideas that we thought were cool. But maybe not so cool to God. We were trying to be “creative” maybe. But not in the righ sense. And I agree totally on letting things be simple not so complex. We started to get ideas for our “after easter” chapel and I thought that was an awesome idea. I honestly didn’t think about praying for ideas a day after or anything. Thats a really good idea! thanks!