This is the time of year when we pause our calendars to make space to celebrate Holy Week—rehearsing the gospel events leading up to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For centuries, Christians have followed a church calendar to mark seasons and special days honoring Jesus and the gospel: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time (which marks the time periods in between Lent and Advent). And while most non-denominational churches are familiar with these in theory, they tend to only participate in one or two throughout the year.

We might hand out palm leaves on Palm Sunday or meet for evening worship on Good Friday—and we almost always celebrate Resurrection Sunday with far more pomp and circumstance than our usual services. Later, in December, we might do something special for each of the Sundays leading up to Christmas. But some of these other historic church events, like Ash Wednesday or Pentecost Sunday, for instance, are most often observed in more liturgical traditions and denominations.

Expecially for “low-church” Christians, the idea of following the church calendar generates mixed reactions. As inheritors of both the Protestant Reformation and evangelical revivalism, many non-denominational believers pride themselves on not adhering to tradition—which is sometimes viewed as manmade and unbiblical, meant only for Catholics, and even a stumbling block to authentic faith and worship. It’s not uncommon to hear, “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship,” and for such events to be likened to the “religious festivals” seemingly downplayed in Col. 2:16.

And so, on the Monday after Easter weekend, most evangelical churches resume their regularly scheduled programming. Instead of continuing to order congregational gatherings, special events, and sermon series around the life and ministry of Jesus, we begin patterning them after other cultural events and holidays, like summer break, back-to-school, or even the Super Bowl. Our lives once again become centered around our work, school, extracurricular activities, hobbies, entertainment—and other priorities driven by our personal goals or professional aspirations.

But what if, this year, even the most liturgy-skeptical among us discovered how the church calendar can help us live out the truths we celebrate during Holy Week—long after it is over? As Mike Cosper explains, there’s a benefit in following the sacred traditions of the historic church:

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To many Protestants, the church calendar may seem like an arbitrary regulation, a testimony to authority and micromanagement from Rome, but for its authors, it was designed pastorally. The church calendar was designed to walk believers through the story of the gospel every year, from the incarnation to the ascension. If we allow historic prejudice to color our perspective too heavily, we lose sight of the brilliant, pastoral creativity that shaped some of the church’s inventions.

In the words of pastor Andrew Wilson, “Calendars are not neutral; they narrate a particular vision of the world.” The calendars we live by tell a story about what we value and how we view our identity and purpose. The way we plan our years, months, and days cultivates certain rhythms, habits, and fruit in our lives. And if we examine the spiritual fruit we are (or aren’t) producing, we might realize how our schedule impacts our ability to become more like Christ.

Spiritual formation is also not neutral—which means if our habits are not discipling us in the way of Jesus, they are, by default, shaping us into the ways of the world. And research shows that the world is shaping believers in many, often negative, ways.

Barna released a recent study finding that many believers today are becoming busier and more distracted than ever. Nearly 50 percent of Christians struggle to find time for community with fellow believers because they say they are too busy. This dynamic is present at a time when 30 percent of US adults report feeling lonely daily and 20 percent of Christians say the same.

According to Lifeway, even if a person spends an hour every day in Bible reading and prayer, they are likely spending more than twice that amount of time on social media. Some say our increased habits of overconsumption are causing a growing mental illness epidemic among teenage girls—not to mention increasing polarization and political and racial division. The past few years alone have shown us that our social media usage is impacting us, and not for good.

Rather than equipping us to embody the gospel story daily, the way we order our lives can lead us to forget it altogether.

Gospel forgetfulness is not a new problem. Whether it was the nation of Israel during the time of the judges or Galatian believers in the days of Paul, God’s people have always struggled to remember their embeddedness in God’s world. Which is why, as we see in the Old Testament, God orders Israel’s life around specific festivals and feasts. This is also why, in the New Testament, Jesus commands his followers to observe sacraments like Communion and baptism.

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Such spiritual habits are meant to remind us of our covenant relationship with God and our responsibility to each other as the body of Christ. And the church calendar—which orders our year around the Bible—is an important way Christians can practice these spiritual habits and resist the formational current of our culture.

Sadly, the story told by the calendars of many Christians today align far more with the world than with the gospel. The story of the world is centered around radical individualism and self-redemption. As the main characters of this story, we are on a journey to find freedom, authenticity, and happiness. This pursuit of flourishing is often materialized through the desire to find and maximize our true selves, which leads us to prioritize selfishness and self-sovereignty. This narrative, in turn, can ultimately lead us to embrace our sin and reject God.

The story of the gospel is drastically different. God is the main character, not us—and on our journey, we realize that as his creation, our desire for flourishing can only be met through our relationship with him. But this relationship requires we surrender our desires, submitting the entirety of our lives to his authority. Ultimately, this act of faith connects us with our true selves as divine image-bearers, and our story ends in receiving abundant and eternal life with God.

Each year, as we recount the details of Jesus’ life on earth, this remembrance is not merely intellectual but a fully embodied exercise that changes the way we live. Through Christ, we are God’s covenant people, and this reality shapes our perspective of the past, present, and future.

While there is a diversity of views about the church calendar, I have found Robert Webber’s framework helpful, as he separates the Christian year into two main sections: what he calls “the cycle of light” and “the cycle of life.”

The cycle of light highlights the incarnation of Jesus and encompasses the experiences of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, while the cycle of life is commemorated through the seasons of Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. The first cycle celebrates the coming of Jesus and the second speaks to the purpose for which he came—his self-giving sacrifice to free the world from Satan, sin, and death, and to secure forgiveness, healing, and life for all its peoples.

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To quote Webber, the use of this cycle framework helps illustrate how “the church is called to proclaim continually and act out this central mystery of God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ as it journeys through time from year to year, month to month, day to day, and hour to hour.” By remembering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus year-round, we in turn are led to respond by living in light of our own baptism in Christ.

Rather than revolving our lives around entertainment, personal aspirations, or our children’s school activities, we can stay in sync with the rhythms of dying to sin and being raised to new life in Christ. Whether this reflection happens daily or weekly on Sunday, it will confront us with the eternal and overflowing love and grace of God and simultaneously force us to wrestle with the ways in which we have become too comfortable with the sin Christ died to save us from.

Moreover, regularly rehearsing the biblical story of redemption and restoration shines a light on how we use our resources and care for our neighbors. This light leaves no shadowy corners for complacency or passivity in how we use our time and money or respond to the mistreatment of other image-bearers. Instead, it produces a flourishing spirituality that’s rooted in God.

This cyclical rehearsal of the gospel message also provides a counternarrative to the story of the world. Far too often, we Christians are drawn in by its allure and tempted to live by our own power, seeing the end goal of our faith as our personal happiness. But celebrating holy days in our church can equip us to resist the tempting pull of our culture.

For instance, Pentecost Sunday—which will be celebrated soon in May—reminds us how it is only through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we have been empowered to live in God’s world and experience the abundant life Christ came to give us. This power is made manifest through his work of sanctification and through the spiritual gifts he gives. So rather than seeking human omnipotence, we are led to embrace a weakness that highlights the power of God.

This special day also refocuses us on the corporate nature of our faith. We have not only been saved into an individual relationship with God but also into a global church community that includes the entire body of Christ from ages past. God established the church as an essential and non-negotiable part of his plan for redemption. Pentecost helps us reaffirm our commitment to it and realign our life goals to the proclamation of the gospel and the restoration of the world—all to the glory of God.

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This year, on the Monday after Easter, I encourage you to continue integrating the ancient Christian calendar into your personal life and the life of your church. Find tangible ways to keep aligning yourselves to the life of Jesus—whether that be through prayers, songs, or Bible readings.

Even though certain aspects of tradition can hinder our relationship with God, the church calendar is a long-standing Christian tradition that’s worth embracing all year round.

Elizabeth Woodson is a writer, Bible teacher, host of the Starting Place podcast, and founder of The Woodson Institute. She is the author of Embrace Your Life and From Beginning to Forever: A Study of the Grand Narrative of Scripture.