The Dangers of Easter
Avoiding the pitfalls of special services.

As we journey through Lent toward Easter, I want to be mindful of the dangers that surround this season and threaten the soul of a community and the soul of a pastor.

What danger? The temptation to bait and switch.

Every year I need to remind myself that Easter is not a marketing opportunity. The resurrection of the Son of God is not an opportunity to market our programs or build "my" church, even under the guise of concern for lost.

And as I feel the pressure to create a winning, life-changing sermon for those who may only come this one time a year, I especially have to remember: It's not about me. (Please wait a minute while I repeat that to myself a few times.) Why? Because heaven forbid we should ever do community in such a way that communicates that our main avenue for people coming to Christ is hearing the Gospel preached from the mouth of one person, rather than hearing it preached from the mouths (and lives) of the whole community. If, in your community, more people are becoming Christians on Sunday than during the rest of the week, I think you may have a problem.

Times like Easter and Christmas are dangerous for us because we begin to see them as something different from what they really are for the life of a community. This is where a more robust engagement with the Christian calendar really helps. It focuses our communal life on the events of the life of Christ all year around, and keeps us from seeing "two big outreach event Sundays!" every year in Christmas and Easter.

Yes, a lot of people come to a Sunday service once or twice a year, and they are more likely to come on Easter than just about any other time. And yes, the Holy Spirit is amazing, drawing people to Himself even through our goofy Easter pageants and songs (or our smoke machines and laser shows, if that's your thing).

The danger in giving in to the impulse to do something radically different, humongously big and special at these times is what we communicate both to our community and those we are inviting to become a part of our community. What we subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) communicate to our people is that their job is to invite people who are not in our churches to come on Easter Sunday morning so that the pastor and the drama team and the worship guy and (possibly) the Holy Spirit can take a whack at them.

I know that's overstating, but believe me - I've been there. And that's what "event evangelism" and "big" Sundays communicate, I think. Regardless of what we teach about reaching out to others, what we say through our Sunday Show actions communicates that it's not the job of the average person to introduce people to Jesus. Leave it to the pros with the degrees and the training and the gifts.

March 31, 2009

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Angiebaby

April 03, 2009  12:09pm

Easter is not "celebrated" in the scriptures, nor is Christmas. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th of each year. But the date is arbitrary, and there is slight evidence it may be the actual date, but nothing solid. Same for the year of the birth of Jesus, since there is strong evidence to suggest the actual year was approximately 3 to 4 years later than the date acknowledged by Christians. But nonetheless, I believe both the birth of Jesus and the Resurrection of Christ are worthy of joy and celebration, and worthy of all the good things included in our traditional celebrations of these holy events. The resurrection of Christ. A miracle worthy of Christian celebration and joy. The celebration coincides with the promise of new life ushered in by Easter, or the spring equinox, the celebration of rebirth. Eggs? Christian symbol for revival, rebirth and fertility. Absolutely appropriate to celebrate a Spring festival in honor of the Jesus, who has now transformed into Jesus, the Christ. Dying and hunting the eggs? A beautiful tradition which brings families together to celebrate, and receive a beautiful gift... memories of Easter, both the Christian celebration and secular traditions which bloom from faith. Easter Lilies? White, symbolizes purity and immortality, and it is a green plant which blooms white in the spring. What better plant to symbolize our Eternal life? Have you ever given an Easter Lily in remembrance of paganism, or the idea of worshipping the plant instead of God? I haven't. But the plant's beauty is a gift from God, as are all spring blossoms, and it is traditionally given during Eastertide as a physical offering to families, friends or the church, in remembrance of Christ. There are many, many more symbols of Easter which are based on Christian tradition, and overlap the bounty of Spring. Too many to mention. The trick to successfully celebrating a Christian holiday, is to have a clear personal understanding of what the holiday means to one as a Christian, which elements are symbolic of the Christian faith, and finally, what part of the celebration is taken from traditional folklore. And we must teach these differences to our children, to help them grow in their faith, yet have fun carrying out the traditions of their families, long since gone. The danger of hunting Easter eggs is that we place too much emphasis on buying more eggs, what we can stuff into them, and who finds the most. As a family tradition, the emphasis should be on family togetherness, fun and maintaining traditions which help make a family... a family. Easter. Is it pagan, or religious? Regardless of your opinion about the holiday, you can find bits of scripture in both the OT, and the NT, to back up your point. But if a celebration is a combination of secular traditions and Christian faith, does that mean it must be pagan? Personally, I don't think so. Can there be more than one meaning to a season or celebration? Absolutely. Non-Christians around the world are not expected to recognize or celebrate the Resurrection of Christ if they observe some type of secular Easter festival. Does a non-Christian religious group's interpretation of Easter mean that our Christian festival is tainted, and springs forth from the underworld? Absolutely not. Finally, the dilemma of the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny from traditional folklore. Nothing to do with the Christian faith, but a Spring tradition which brings pleasure to children around the world on Easter morning. If you want to include the Easter Bunny in your celebration, then do. But differentiate to the kids that it is a secular surprise, not related to the Resurrection of Christ. If you don't want to include it, then don't. But stop tearing one another down in the name of Christ for differences in celebrating one of the holiest days in Christian faith.

Report Abuse

Dawn Jerger

April 03, 2009  8:12am

I do agree with this view, and would actually take it one step further...the New Testament model of the "congregational" church is much different than the one that we have morphed into. These churches (as we would call them) met primarily to equip those who had repented and believed the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a place where those who were already Christians came to build one another up, to learn more about what Jesus taught. Then these equipped believers went out and lived those truths, and shared this gospel with others who then would become part of the "church". I am not saying that the unsaved" cannot be welcomed to the church, just that the church is meant to be a place to minister to disciples, not primarily to make them. And finally, the thing that I think some pastors, church boards, planners, etc, seem to forget or overlook is that the Bible tell us very clearly that God is ultimately responsible for the growth of HIS church...we don't "get people saved" by our programs, music, orchestrated "stirring of the Holy Spirit" at the crescendo of our man-made services...in Acts 2:47 the Bible says: "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved". We may be blessed enough to be His "seed-sowers", but He is the Lord of the harvest, and it would be good to remember that when we enter/plan/minister in our churches!

Report Abuse

Steve Grove

March 31, 2009  12:40pm

Good points. There is also a sense that we shouldn't be tied to tight to the "Christian" calendar, as every week we celebrate the incarnation and the Gospel that is represented in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I tend to preach to the crowds that are there. I am in a small church, so what people get week to week is quite similar, regardless of "special" days. I don't give a lot of credence to people beaking about lack of polish or program from one week to another. We have this in everyday life as we celebrate anniversaries and birthdays. It really isn't about the pyro-technics anyways, and most of us know that. It can be nice to put on a special party for Jesus, though.

Report Abuse

Doug Resler

March 31, 2009  12:26pm

"I'm just saying that if your strategy is to wait for someone to wander within range of your homiletical canon and then fire on them in hopes of scoring a hit, or worse yet, doing some cool things in the hopes that they might be lured within range, then I think there's a better way." A money quote if I have ever seen one! Thanks Bob for the reminder and the challenge to move into more authentic, communal expressions of evangelism and Kingdom-living!

Report Abuse