Next Sunday won’t be the same

Next Sunday won’t be as crowded as church on Easter Sunday. The pews will seem much roomier, you won’t have to trip over 20 sets of feet to get out of the row or smile quite so much. There won’t be a “loading” time for communion. And the worst part is? Many people in your church, and maybe even you, are relieved.

We don’t expect every Sunday to be Easter Sunday. We don’t expect most of those people dressed yesterday in their pastel finest to come back until Poinsettia and Pine deck the halls. We have written them off, already.

Are we just too realistic for our own good? We know 80% (or whatever) of visitors on Easter Sunday won’t be back next week, or in the weeks thereafter, so, we create the once-a-year-for-a-lifetime sermon experience and wave au revoir to the bi-annual pew-tourists.

We don’t spend much time thinking about them, either. Postcard. Welcome call. But we figure, they could show up, if they wanted to. Do we make it seem like there’s more to church than the Resurrection Day message?

Do we seem like the people with whom they’d want to hang out? Casting our sideways glances at them in OUR row, using the hymnal donated in memory of OUR grandmother, not knowing which way to exit for communion or that the bulletin has a misprint and they don’t have to say that line twice. We judge them from the minute they step onto the property and label them “The Easter Crowd.”

Sure, some are family visiting from out-of-town. We can be nice to them. Some are children home from college, and we look forward to seeing them, of course. We like to stereotype the others, though, don’t we?

They’re just there for the Easter egg hunt, the candy, their half-hearted obligation to the God Who Takes Attendance.

What would it be like if we stopped EXPECTING the gaggle of pink and salmon and purple and green-swathed people to sleep in next Sunday? What if we didn’t go for maximum shock value on Easter to attract the pulp-action-fans of the 21st century? What if we told the story of Jesus as if everyone were meant to be a part of it?

Or, what if we designed every Sunday around the Resurrection? What if we talked TOO much about the victorious King we serve? What if we created an environment that fosters year-round growth, not a one-time glut?

I love my Church, and I loved seeing it so packed this morning. I love that we’re promoting our after-Easter series based on Crazy Love. But I still think, in the back of my mind that next Sunday won’t be the same.

Encourage me. Tell me what you and your church are doing to make every week as much a victory as Easter Sunday.

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38 responses to “Next Sunday won’t be the same

  1. I’ll tell you this much, sister: I’m glad I found a God Who’s around more than twice a year, Who’s cool with church services that don’t put me to sleep, and most importantly Who’s invested in changing my life!

    I’ll never forget this quote from E. Stanley Jones. He had just finished preaching to a Hindu congregation in India, when the leader stood up and said, “If what this man has just said isn’t true, then none of it matters; but if what he said is true, then nothing else matters.” That’s the Gospel. If Jesus isn’t the answer to all of our issues in life, then the Bible is just a book of suggested living practices. But, if He is who He says He is, if He really can set me free, if He really can change my life, then I can throw everything else in the world out, and I’ll cling to Him and Him alone.

    Amen?

  2. JulietsButterfly

    Well, I know that at my church (Catholic) we continue to celebrate Easter until Pentacost. 40 days of Lent, but 50 days of Easter. Maybe we don’t always celebrate the empty tomb, but the element of the risen Lord is in every Mass with the Eucharist.

    It is odd though for me to see community and friends from outside church who happen to show up on Easter weekend, yet when I continue to look for them the rest of the year, we never see them. I wonder too what my church would have to do to accommodate the extra people who come on Easter. We usually have a Mass at 8am, 10am and during the school year at 5pm for the college students. Yesterday we added an 11.30 Mass and the 10am was overflowing and I expect the 11.30 one was too. I think it would be a blessed gift to need an extra service every week to accommodate the extras, but you’re right…they won’t come back until Christmas.

    • I love that Easter isn’t just one day in the liturgical year. I like to draw it out and put legs on it.

      We didn’t add any new worship times, but we will be adding new worship times (permanently) soon, so I hear. It’s a great problem to have, accomodating more worshipers, who (I pray) are going out and being disciples armed with the Good Word they heard on Sunday.

  3. I have an office at the church but I don’t use it. I go places where people are to do my work. Wi-fi and conversations. Just the other day I had the opportunity to pray for a young guy battling drug addictions in the middle of McDonald’s during a busy time. You could have heard a pin drop.
    We are planning our first Free Yard Sale on May 21. We are going to set everything up and give it all away.
    Hope this helps.

    • Dude, this is rad (did I just say rad). It’s always about other people. I love the idea of you going to public places.

    • Michael,

      Dude. Would it be completely inappropriate if I told you that you continue to earn my respect and my brotherly love? Call me inappropriate then. πŸ™‚

    • Every September our church holds a free clothing drive. During the year we collect used clothing (clean and still good), shoes, etc. and they take about a week to set up several tables in the church gym, sort the clothes and put them so that everything is in some type of order (like all kids tops in one place, all shoes in another, etc.). Then on one Saturday morning, the church is opened and people are invited in. This is something we advertise and there is always a huge line waiting for the doors to open. Our church is located downtown so there are a number of less fortunate people in this particular area, and that is who we are targeting, though anyone is welcome. It’s always a huge success and a great ministry. There is also someone there who will hand out New Testaments to people and be on hand to pray or help, etc.

    • great idea. I love that you’re out of the office and abiding by the idea that when you’re a pastor (or follower of Christ of any or no title), your office is where people are.

  4. Since I help out with students, I’ll share a story about high schoolers. A group of them just came back from the Dominican Rep. a couple weeks back (spring break missions trip). They are (as a diverse group-age, grades, genders) organizing outreach events at their schools. The cool thing about it is that they are doing it themselves–yeah, they’re asking us leaders for input and such, but they are taking the initiative. They want the students in our area to become passionate for Jesus… and not have it be a week-long thing (or a once a year Easter thing).

  5. Every year around this time…my Pastor says the same thing, “That we don’t celebrate the resurrection only on Easter, But every time we step into church. And ever day of our lives. We as a church understand that with out this resurrection, there is no forgivness of sins and no eternal life….

    I remember hearing a quote from Martin Luther from somewhere. Its said that he Pastored a small church and every time they got together for church, he always preached the Gospel. Every Sunday. The Gospel. One of his members came up to him and asked. Pastor, don’t you think we can move past the Gospel. Maybe we can talk about the Trinity, or something else. How long do we have to talk about the Gospel?….Martin’s reply, “Untill you all start walking in here looking like a people who know the Gospel.”

    • the purpose of our church is to Grow in God’s Word, Show Christ’s Love and Go in Service, led by the Holy Spirit. Until church people ages 5-105 can articulate and LIVE that purpose statement, we’re not talking about it enough.

      thanks for sharing the ML info!

  6. I think the mistake we make is we want people to come to us (Church). We have to go out there and “get” the people. Christ didn’t say, “if you build it they will come”. that was Kevin Costner. He said, “Go and make…. ” That’s an action word and demands a “going”. If we do that, I like to believe that they will follow us back to our pews.

  7. I can’t tell if you want the people to come back next week or not. But it’s ok to take their money, right?

  8. Preach the gospel every week, all week. Proclaim it when people rally together and send people out from there. Jesus had a mission of proclaiming the gospel where ever he went (Mark 1:38). There is victory in that.

  9. Every day for me is indeed Christmas and Easter. How could they not be? Without either, my Jesus is just another liar and my faith is worthless and good for nothing.

    Invite folks into your lives, not into your churches. The New Covenant is generational and relational, and did we learn nothing by the curtain being torn in two? We are the only temples that can house the fullness of my God and Father. We are the only Bibles some folks will ever read. We are the only prayers some folks will ever feel safe enough to mention.

    Oh yeah.

    • If there is no resurrection of the dead, our preaching and your faith is in vain. I serve a risen savior, who did not die for nothing.

    • Donald, you say “invite people into your lives, not into your churches” so freakin much. All the time. Every comment.

      I love it… and I am constantly spewing the same, but not so much in my words but in the actions Kim and I take towards our neighbors, and our students.

  10. I’m not sure if you knew this but my church meets in what we call Home Fellowship groups 3 Sundays a month. We have 11 groups around the county. We do have a building and we come together for our First Sunday service as family on the first Sunday of the month.

    Every week in our home fellowships we partake of communion. Every week we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior. In actuality, we don’t make much of a big deal of the Easter weekend. I remember last year we talked about it some, but my pastor’s message wasn’t even about the resurrection at all. He figures that we talk about it every single week. We don’t have to make a big fuss about it only one time a year.

    I love that. Not that I have a problem with big plays, productions and making sure that His victory is celebrated…but I also love the fact that we celebrate it constantly. It’s in the forefront of our mind so we don’t have to drum up all these thoughts of what He’s done for us on this one blowout weekend.

  11. Our church has been growing steadily over the last five or six years and we have several programs that cater to new believers. We’re one of those lucky churches who gets to celebrate baptisms on a regular basis. So when I looked out over the immense crowd yesterday surveying the unfamiliar faces, I couldn’t help but wonder which of these first timers are about to become good friends. It was a cool feeling. Very exciting.

    • I hope you make a ton of new friends, and your church continues to grow. 12 disciples turned into millions world-wide — it’s all about reaching the lost with the story of love.

  12. We collect extra bread every week from Avalon Bread Company and give it away go people in the projects. We invite them to church, pray with them, play with their kids. And it helps that our church is pretty much waking distance from there.

    Now…Kristen, given all the cool ideas you’ve solicited, what are you doing to do next?

    • KristIn, if course πŸ™‚

    • good question. I am going to start by making sure our outreach ministry chair and pastor see these…

      you know what I love about your comment? that you’re inviting people without deep pockets into your church home. some only think to minister and invite in the people who can prop the church up financially, but, true story, Jesus came for the rich AND the poor.

  13. I found myself more annoyed about the “Chreasters” this year. Trying to figure out which service would be the least crowded, how much extra driving time I’d need, cynically thinking “they won’t be back next week.” And then the marketing ploys! Someone left an invitation to their Easter service on my doorknob- while I was home. They didn’t knock and personally invite me, they just left it there, which says they wanted someone to fill the pew for this one service but not for the rest of the year.

    I knew my attitude wasn’t right, that I should hope that some of the people would come back for additional services. And this post confirms that. What I appreciated about my church’s service is that it wasn’t about pomp and circumstance. The scripture read wasn’t about His resurrection, but rather about Levi the tax collector and Christ’s statement that He came to heal the sick. The message had everything to do with Easter and I loved it! There was no great emotional Easter high but I was ministered to, as was the rest of the congregation. The emphasis here was all about relationship and consistency. Visitors had a great glimpse of what my church is all about.

    • I get annoyed with the ploys, outright bribery and other junk that churches do to pack the pews on Easter and Christmas. It’s as if saying that the Gospel isn’t good enough, and needs to be spiced up.

      I like the sound of your church very much – that every week is a message worth hearing, receiving and sharing.

  14. Focusing on Jesus week after week is one way we do this–and we require our members to always wear pastels πŸ™‚

  15. What I love about my church is the intention and purpose with which we serve the visitors, particularly on special occasions. We actually had a special prayer service last week for those who were coming. That God would prepare their hearts, speak to them through whatever means necessary. That our sanctuary would be a place where they would feel welcome and feel His presence. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about a heart change.

    Honestly, I love my church, but I don’t see it as my main avenue for ministry. I take it upon myself to create “ministry” opportunities wherever I am. Maybe that’s just in the grocery store aisle, or maybe it’s the homeless woman who asked me for money the other day. But, it’s also with people in my extended family. Easy to forget about them and only seek out the “needy”. God keeps telling me the needy are all around me, and actually already have relationships with them. When will I take the time to share His love with those whom I have a blood relation?

    • There is hurt and pain in my family that keeps members from loving and knowing God. You’re right about praying in advance and showing Christ to everyone we know. Great points, Keri.

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