I'm a raving fan of the Church and a proud card-carrying member of the Easter people. Seeing the creative and intentional expressions of local churches in this season of celebration is awesome. Countless people who are far from God will darken the doors of a church at Easter. This is an opportunity we should not miss.
With all of this being true, let me offer a few words of caution and hopefully encouragement to my co-laborers.
1. Wide doors and bright lights will never attract as well as door holders and personal invitations.
There is no shame in creating compelling experiences and easy onramps for the masses. Marketing should not be a dirty word in the church. But even in the marketplace there is a metric that is the paramount measure of effectiveness: Net Promoter Score. This is the evaluation of how likely it is for a participant to encourage someone else to try a product or service. That is because the assumed reality is, even in the world of massive budgets and digital marketing ninjas, the apex impact continues to be the personal invitation.
The danger in large gatherings is anonymity. Somehow, we hope that people will discover Christ and then find community. Sure, this can happen, but there is a better way: when people who are already in community are invited to consider Christ. When a neighbor brings a neighbor. When a coworker invites a co-worker. When a soccer parent invites a soccer parent.
If we are going to have guests in the house we definitely should clean up, remove that weird painting, take out the trash, and get some trendy donuts. But the Maple Bacon Cruller, or candy-packed eggs, or laser show is not moving the needle.
2. Jesus is the main attraction.
This might be the most obvious thing that has ever been said on the internet. I want to encourage us all to tone down the pressure. Pastors: Easter is not your Super Bowl. This is our victory parade. Yes, put in the time, consider your words and how the Scripture is speaking. Don't fool yourself though and think if you don't hit it out of the park with the best crafted 27.5 minutes in the history of pulpits that you are messing it all up. The same for worship leaders and creatives. The fact is people are excited at Easter and will sing out as long as you lead them well with a shepherd’s heart.
About ten years ago our church was in a pastoral transition. I was given an opportunity you rarely get as the young youth pastor: to preach on Easter. Let me tell you, my sermon is not being studied at seminaries as a case study on exegetical excellence. I nervously and joyfully preached the Gospel. We ended by trying something stretching for our church: we invited anyone who had made a profession of faith in Christ to come and be baptized that morning. In their Easter finest more than a dozen people took that step of faith. Our creative strategy was not stolen from a cool church in the Bible-belt. It is amazing what will happen when we take our cues from Acts 2.
3. Love People. Use Systems. Not the other way around.
There is a massive difference between shepherding and equipping people to advance a collective mission and using people like disposable goods on the war path to saving the world. When I hear about church staff burning out after 6 straight 90-hour weeks, I can't reconcile that with the church I see in the New Testament. When I see leaders saying we will do everything short of sin to reach the world, I hope they include compassion and grace for the team of volunteers they already have on the team.
Church work is, and should be, hard work. It will often require long hours. Sacrificial investment of time, talent, and treasure are essential for the faith family, not a burden. Don't lower the bar, but also don't let evangelistic urgency blind us to sustainability. We can't red line until we die. Living sacrifices should still be living. We need to fuel our faith with the Holy Spirit, not Iced Dunkins with a triple shot of Red Bull.
Here's a practical heart check for my ministry leader peers: look at your text messages to your staff and key volunteers. How much of your conversation is asking people to give more and do more and how much is relational concern for the mind, body, and soul of your co-laborers in this glorious mission.
If the Easter hype machine at your church burns out your staff and steamrolls your volunteers you are doing it wrong. I’m all for hard work but the biggest circus is now out of business. The Jesus Movement however is alive and well.