6 Ways to Manage Easter Expectations
- Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Basketball has March Madness.
Football has Superbowl Sunday.
Baseball has the World Series.
The Church has…Easter.
Christmas may be an eventful season for churches and ministry leaders. But the busyness and ministry stress of Christmas is often surpassed by the church version of Superbowl Sunday: Easter.
Easter weekend – when every service must meet the high expectations of the congregation. The pastor and worship team have to strike the right note in each scheduled service. The solemnity of Maundy Thursday. The somberness of Good Friday. The silence of Saturday as everyone holds their breath for the big game: Easter Sunday.
The day when unsaved husbands finally accompany their wives to church. When unbelieving grandparents endure a church service to watch grandchildren dressed in Easter finery sing a sweet song about Jesus. When people you haven’t seen since Christmas - and won’t see again till next Christmas – show up to prove that of course they’re Christians.
To please the faithful and the not-so-faithful, pastors and ministry leaders end up walking a tightrope. Don’t talk about money. Don’t talk about hell. Well, maybe a little mention of hell is okay since that’s what the resurrection saves us from. Don’t overdo the old hymns, and don’t play the praise choruses too loud. Everything has to be perfect.
But this is not a game. Not a sport. Not a show. And perfection? Not a chance.
So before Easter arrives, now is the time to manage expectations.
Things will go wrong.
Not might. Not could. Things will go wrong. The microphone will cut out in the middle of a solo. The lights won’t be centered properly on the worship dance. Greeters and parking lot volunteers will call in sick at the last minute. It happens. And Murphy’s Law says it will happen at the absolute worst time.
If your church is advancing the kingdom of God, the enemy will not be happy. And he will make his unhappiness known. Expect it. Roll with it. Maybe even laugh at the certainty that something will go wrong. Then, by the grace of God and his enabling, move forward in the knowledge that whatever the hitch, it cannot take away from the victory we are celebrating.
There will always be someone who is not happy.
Uncle Joe, Husband Bob, and Grandma Marie will all have strong opinions as to what should or should not have been done to make the service better. Was the music too slow? Too loud? Was the church too crowded? Not crowded enough? Did the pastor speak too long? Maybe he failed to greet Aunt Julia’s husband by name (after all, the last time he came was for the Christmas Eve service).
The phrase, “an audience of One” may be overused, but it still rings true. Our Easter services are for the praise and honor of the One who rose victorious from the grave. If he is pleased with what happens on Sunday morning, we’ve had a successful Easter celebration.
Performance is not the same as praise.
It’s not about the color of the robes or the color-coordinated outfits of the choir. It’s not the end of the world if someone on the praise team begins singing on the upbeat instead of the downbeat. The focus is not on the singers, it’s on the One we’re singing about.
When it comes to praise, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Worship leaders are not meant to be performers. One pastor begins each Sunday morning by asking his worship team, “Are you ready to sing?” When they say yes, he corrects them. They aren’t there to sing. They are there to lead worship. Being intentional about applying this truth is especially important during church services such as Easter, when many visitors in the congregation don’t know the difference.
Comparison is the death knell of joy.
The measure of true success is not equal to the number of scheduled services or the size of the sanctuary. There’s always someone with bigger and better plans. Your church may have arranged for one Easter service, while the megachurch down the street is offering five. Or maybe you’ve scheduled six services, but the celebrity pastor in town rented the local football stadium.
Too often, Easter services deteriorate into a “come-to-my-church-we-do-it-better” competition. Well-meaning or not, instead of reaching the unchurched, we reach into other churches to fill our pews. Or we attend our own pity party if we’re on the receiving end of the one-upmanship.
Purpose now to set aside comparisons, whether negative or positive. If your church’s Easter service is the best worship you can give God, motivated by hearts filled with gratitude for his indescribable gift, that’s enough.
Let the main thing be the main thing.
Christians have been fighting the culture war for so long, we may not recognize when the enemy is us. It’s not the Easter Bunny’s birthday, yet we sponsor Easter egg hunts on the church grounds to draw young families. We know the importance of sharing the gospel, yet the sermon might be a feel-good message designed to not offend the many visitors attending for the first time.
What is the main thing? Jesus’ resurrection proved his victory over sin, death, and the devil. God’s wrath against sin was fully satisfied. Because God became man for a season, men – by grace through faith - may be with God for eternity. Let nothing obscure the message. What the attendees do with it is between them and the Holy Spirit.
This celebration is as much for the pastor as it is for the congregation.
Where did we get the idea that pastors owe their congregations a spectacular Easter service? That because they get paid to shepherd the sheep, the sheep can sit back and enjoy the show?
We may not say that, but actions speak louder than words. Pastors and their families are made to feel as if they must defer their Easter joy until everyone else is satisfied. After the final person leaves and the last door is locked, pastors do feel emotion, but it’s more likely relief than joy. Determine now that joy will motivate what you do – the same joy you desire for your ministry attendees.
Easter is a time of victory for every Christian, whether pastor, staff, or church member. Let’s be intentional – pastor and church member alike – to ensure that ministry leaders have the same opportunity to experience the joy of that victory. They’ll need it to sustain them at least until next Christmas!
Ava Pennington teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class. She is also the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur.
Publication date: April 9, 2014
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