I heard a respected church consultant say that every church could potentially have in weekly worship the number of people who attend on Easter Sunday. He was consulting with a church of about 1,100 people who attend on Easter; on a “normal” week, they have about 500 in worship.
It was intriguing to consider what this church would be doing differently, what the staffing would look like, what systems would need to be in place to effectively disciple that number of people on a weekly basis. An even more provocative idea was setting the intentional goal of being an Easter church, and how they could embody that day in and day out.
Of course, the irony is that this is what sets the Christian church apart. We are an Easter church. The Christian Sabbath is Sunday because that was the day of the resurrection. Even in Lent, as we are reflecting on the journey to the cross and the crucifixion, Sundays are not considered a part of the forty days of Lent because every Sunday is a mini-resurrection.
In this Easter season, reflect upon Easter services you have attended. What set them apart? In many of our churches, children, youth, and adults are in worship together. The music is joyful and celebrative and there is lots of it. The worship space is filled with flowers and other visuals to make it colorful and alive. Often there are special components such as skits, movie clips, and multi-sensory experiences to help people experience the power of the resurrection.
Easter worship shouts that something significant happened and it has changed everything. Those who plan that worship hope that everyone present will feel and know that so they can have the promise of new life.
Celebrate the resurrection year-round
What if every week we were as intentional and creative about worship as we are on Easter? What if we asked ourselves how we can embody the resurrection in our congregational life in all that we do?
If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is risen, then the body of Christ should be a community where people experience God as alive and well and present in our midst. And what if we believed and acted like an Easter church 52 weeks a year? Yes, that requires energy and resources. But it might just be what people are looking for in a church: that we believe our own story enough that we act like it is true!
I believe the world needs the hope of a God who can heal, make whole—and yes, bring life out of death and new beginnings out of dead ends. When we go back to “business as usual,” we send the message that Easter is only a day and not a way of life; not a real possibility for life after all. What would it take for us to be the Easter church that the world needs?
Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church