I realize this will be a very opinionated blog but would you expect anything else? Some of you will disagree with what I have to say here. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you walk away thinking, "Well, that explains why Radiant Fellowship isn't larger." However, I believe the day we place all the responsibility on the pastor to grow the church is the day the rest of the church needs to get a clue. Churches that rise on one person’s efforts will fall when that person leaves. I believe sustained growth only happens when a church rises up as a group to do ministry together. So just what is so controversial that I would feel the need to make these statements before I offer my opinion? Easter. Yup, Easter.
While sitting in a public establishment this week I had a conversation with a staff pastor at a large church. Seeing that Easter is just a few weeks away, many churches are putting a lot of time and effort into this one service. It is much like Christmas or even someone’s wedding! Days, weeks, and months are poured into every aspect of this one service even though it will only last an hour or so. This is something I have never really understood. Inevitably, I was asked how things are going at my church, Radiant Fellowship. I almost felt guilty about not responding with the requisite, "Very busy," but I couldn’t do it. My answer was simple: "Very good. How are you doing?" That question was quickly met with a flurry of statements like, "You know how it goes, we have not been able to breathe for a month as we get ready for our Easter service...you know how it goes." My reply? "No, I don't."
There is an old adage that says, "The way you win people is the way you will have to keep people." I don’t know who said it, but I do know this: whoever made that statement is right! It’s beyond my ability to understand why a church would spend weeks toiling over one service. This is usually the time when churches roll out the big choir and an over the top worship experience. Church members who are not usually on the worship team want to be a part of it for that one Sunday because their relatives will be there and they want to perform for them. Rather than throwing a message together at the last minute like many pastors commonly do, the sermon is usually one that the pastor has poured hours and perhaps even days into. All of these things make for an unforgettable Easter service and leave attendees wondering if they are in the right place the very next week when things go back to “normal.”
Putting in extra effort to make the Easter service extra special is a tradition in the church. Like it or not, there is a bit of an unspoken competition among churches on this big holiday. Why else would you see all of the ads in the local newspaper with churches promoting their Easter Sunday service(s)? This is the time of year, much like Christmas, when people are going to go where they want to go or where their relatives attend. Likewise, people who only attend church service once or twice a year often choose Easter as their “church day.” Pastors know this and want to hook as many of those travellers and stragglers as they can. Who knows, they might put a buck or two in the offering…right?
Bottom line, we need to ask God to forgive us for putting everything we have in this one single pot. We as a church invest so much time into this one service that we lock ourselves away, get stressed out, and can even cause a church split over our desire to make Easter perfect. It's good to remember the importance of Easter...it’s the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! What I’m saying is that rather than ending up worshipping a holiday, we ought truly celebrate the Resurrection in the way we operate in our churches and communities on a daily and weekly basis. Let’s follow in Jesus’ footsteps and honor his sacrifice by taking the time we invest into a single service and put that into outreach.