Confession: I have a complicated relationship with Easter Sunday.
Growing up, it was the one Sunday we got all dressed up in something nice…and pastel…which was not typical for Southern California churches, or us. So, my first brushes with Resurrection Sunday could be summed up like this: Easter equaled discomfort.
As the years moved on, dressing up for Easter Sunday morphed into dressing down for Easter Sunrise Service, where we went to a football field at 5am and froze to death for two hours while the pastor stood behind what I assumed was a fully insulated pulpit preaching until the sun rose.
The kicker for me came a few years later, when the new church we began attending closed the service with the entire roof retracting (who knew?!) on the final praise chorus, while rays of sun beamed through the rafters like lasers upon our unsuspecting heads.
Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with the experiences I just described, except I don’t ever remember them contributing any sense of awe or majesty to the empty tomb they were supposedly representing.
Of course, this was just a few short years before Easter Sunday turned into the lost marketing opportunity between Black Friday and Cyber Monday that it has now become. And it’s from this current evangelical reality that I’m going to make some comments on and hopefully encourage you as Easter Sunday looms on the horizon.
Question: does Easter have to be so insultingly weird and embarrassing? Must we succumb to frankly oddball forms of marketing in a desperate attempt to get the lion’s share of all the Chreasters (a horrible title given to Christmas and Easter only attenders) year after year?
Instead, how do we let Easter be what it needs to be: a declaration of the power of God to defeat death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave?
Give ‘Em The Goods, Not The Gimmicks
If I were to allow myself license to go temporarily ballistic right now, I’d probably mention how churches in recent decades have made a mockery of Easter by their shallow and consumeristic attempts to trick their guilt-ridden, once a year church-attending neighbors to their services through a not-so-subtle selection of helicopter egg drops, flat-screen TV’s, and just in case that’s not enough to herd them in like cattle, a little cold hard cash.
So instead of mentioning personal grievances, let me encourage the rest of you to not turn into a marketing machine of embarrassing proportions every spring. By all means, encourage your church to invite their family and friends. By all means, let your community know what time your Easter services are. But by all means let your love be genuine to them. If you must, be the only church in your zip code to offer an honest and heartwarming expression of the resurrection, which is that it’s not a product to be sold, but a message to be heard, received and savored. We will face the Lord someday on this one, brothers and sisters.
Be Honest To Newcomers
By God’s grace, you will get some newcomers on Easter, but one of the best things you can do is give them a picture of what services look like the other 51 Sundays of the year. Don’t misunderstand, Easter Sunday is not like other Sundays, so I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be thoughtfully intentional with your hospitality, I’m saying you should. But it should mirror the hospitable heart that you commit to your people the rest of the year. If it doesn’t, use Easter as a spring board to increase your volume in this area. If newcomers are greeted by someone warm and friendly, thanked for being there, and treated with heartfelt dignity and respect, they will have received an honest picture of your church that will be experienced again if God ever leads them back.
Preach A Real Sermon
Here’s what I mean. Easter is a unique opportunity to present the resurrection in all of it’s unbridled glory. So, do that. And not only do that, but do it in the most meaty, meaningful way possible. Easter is not the Sunday for gospel preaching pastors to turn into the attraction-driven preachers they criticize the rest of the year. Include the good, the bad and the ugly that’s contained in all gospel-centered sermons. Don’t put bunny ears on it, don’t inject it with patronizing one-liners that treat unbelievers like unsuspecting buffoons who are only able to stomach a sweeter, more saccharine version of God’s truth.
Also, don’t forget that unbelievers aren’t the only people in your pews on Easter, either. Remember all the saved and unsaved people in your congregation who call your church their home, and don’t need a watered down version of what gets preached to them every week.
So pastor, don’t miss the opportunities Easter provides by being shamefully opportunistic. Keep Easter real by extending the truth of the resurrection with a sincere heart that seeks to glorify God above all other things.