Lifeway Research released the results of a recent survey – “Do you plan to attend a worship service on Easter?” In the course of describing the survey results, Russ Rankin offers a couple of takeaways given by Scott McConnell. First, Christians should not take for granted that their nominally interested friends will be attending worship on Easter. Second, Christians may want to take the occasion to invite their friends who are yet undecided to share worship on Easter.
Tuesday I sent in my weekly article for our local newspaper. My contribution to the Tuttle Times, titled Easter Is a Big Deal Every Week Day, turned on the energy and money spent for an annual event with daily implications. When I received the Lifeway release I began thinking about the intersection between the two articles.
Let me note up front, inviting people to Christian worship with you is not a bad idea. Ed Stetzer provides more statistical motivation for offering an invitation to share worship, in particular he writes about Easter Sunday. When Christians believe human beings discover the dream of God for them in Jesus, then we would be hard pressed not to offer an invitation to live in the dream of God.
Hopefully you caught the difference. One is an invitation to an event. The other is an invitation to a way of living.
And, here is where I begin thinking about the way we gear up for Easter and what suspicions may be created when we do. Since The Purpose-Driven Church and the marketing of Outreach Magazine, the money spent to gain high attendance on Easter Sunday, or Easter Weekend, shows up in slick postcards announcing service times and themes. Someone should research the amount of money spent on these and other means of advertisement. These fund the reference to the current religious climate as a buyer’s market. The best slick wins.
I remember the first time one of these showed up in my mailbox. Every other church had boring sermons, dour music, and awful childcare. Not that the creators of those postcards had actually verified the claims, a fact that did not matter. It does not matter that there could be places where the emotional ebb rarely flows in any direction. The claims were universal, ubiquitous causes for a lack of attendance.
We do not receive these invitations in anticipation of Low Sunday. That there is, and has been historically, a Low Sunday should have been a warning signal, like the Siren’s Call, to participation in High Sunday. Has anyone ever stopped to consider what happens to those exciting worship services, relevant preaching, and stellar childcare the Sunday just after Easter?
What troubles is that following the rising tides of holiday Easter seems to cast suspicions on our regular claims that we celebrate Easter every week, that is we celebrate the Resurrection, in our Christian worship services. The situation is further scandalized when in fact we do celebrate the Resurrection in our worship services and feel contented only then to survey the impact of 2 billion Christians in the world and find the Resurrection may not be celebrated everyday in the lives of those who profess just such an object/subject of their faith.
Differing theological systems work out an answer to this dilemma from the possibility of apostasy to the suggestion of insincere confessions. Each of these answers shifts the subject to the person often leaving us to feel smug about our theologies. We are content so long as our truth claims have not been assaulted even if they are regularly undermined by the lack of lived lives. When will we reconsider our theologies, or at least our systems?
Paul Burleson beat me to the punch in one nuance of my musings. I do agree that for the Christian who participates in a gathered church, Every Sunday is Easter. And, while his conclusion is not what struck me most, my friend The Ex-Reverend also wonders when we Christians will call into question our systems that leave many of us, and the world in which at least one-third of the population is Christian, little changed. One would expect Christians might have a different impact on the world’s greatest needs – human suffering – with such a group Christian soldiers. And please, do not comment about his use of a four-letter word. If you stopped reading there, that would just further signal our malaise.
My friend Marty suspects that amidst the frivolity that surrounds holiday Easter, we might consider a more reflective posture during this Holy Week. Beginning today those of us who claim to be Christian might meditate on the implications of the Last Supper. And while Marty rightly points to the new command given Jesus in John 13, maybe we should also consider the way this is materialized by Jesus himself in that same chapter. One would give us the substance of our reflections – love one another – and the other would give us the material expression – washing others’ feet.
Were we to venture life lived with that combination, we may well be prepared to gear up for Easter, every day.