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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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Easter: The Resurrection Begins With You?




by Dean Waterman



There are two occasions on the calendar that bridge people from all walks of life together in spiritual celebration: Christmas and Easter. One celebrates Christ’s birth, the other His death and resurrection. Of the two, Easter seems to provide the best opportunity for sharing your faith with someone who doesn’t regularly attend church.

In a 2010 survey of Christians by the Barna Group, individuals were asked their personal view of Easter as an opportunity to share their faith. Of those interviewed, 31 percent said they would actually invite someone to attend an Easter service, while a majority of those polled said it was a good idea, but they were not likely to do it. So why is Easter a wasted opportunity for the majority of Christians in the United States? And for those of the Adventist faith, why is there a disconnect between them and Easter?

My suspicion is that two thirds of Christians are unlikely to invite friends and family to an Easter service simply because they have failed to invite them during other times of the year; why start now? Some other reasons might be the lack of a quality Easter program being presented, a church they don’t believe would be safe to invite others to, and for some, a weak faith of their own that prevents them from sharing the Easter story with others.

As Adventists we have been conditioned for years to avoid celebrating Easter in a significant manner as we risk glorifying Sunday worship, rather than the simple fact that it’s the day Christ rose. For that reason, many Adventist churches today still do not have an Easter program worth inviting visitors to, leaving other Christian churches to be available for powerful Easter services on Sunday morning that could become a life-changing event in a life that needs a resurrection of its own.

Considering how powerful Easter is, here are some ideas to consider for your church, and yourself, as the annual event draws closer.

Embrace Easter!


Really, don’t run from it, embrace it. The Christian world celebrates it, so Adventist churches should, too. Plan a special service on Sabbath, and consider a sunrise service on Sunday, the day that other faiths rightfully celebrate the Resurrection. The sunrise service could be outside (if weather permits) and in a part of the city where the public is allowed to gather. Quality music, a short talk, and an invitation to accept Christ can make a difference in the lives of those who attend the service(s).

Capitol church, outside Washington, D.C., celebrates a sunrise service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. For more than 30 years hundreds have gathered at 6:30 a.m. to watch the sun rise over the Capitol and celebrate the risen Savior. During this service an appeal is made for those who have never accepted Christ to consider doing so, and for those looking for a church home to attend services at church the following week. The response is overwhelming, and the evangelistic impact significant.

Easter as part of an evangelism process

If inviting people once a year (or twice if you do something significant at Christmas) for your Easter event is all you have for evangelism, then don’t expect much of a dividend. If, however, Easter is a high event in an ongoing process of evangelism, it could be your best tool to reach people and expose them to other programs of interest in your church. Consider having other programs and events planned for the future that allow first time or infrequent visitors an opportunity to enjoy other areas of ministry your church has to offer. These programs should be relevant and easy to participate in. Several small groups could begin the following week with an eight-week study to help Easter visitors engage and check out your church without committing to a long-term relationship. And remember, it doesn’t have to be all about study; consider fun events in which you have, well, FUN. They can be just as impactful in building relationships as ones in which you study and discuss.

Welcome-home party!

Many fringe members, and former members, find Easter a compelling reason to come back to church—even if for a day. Children who haven’t been to church in 51 weeks will show up to please their parents and recall the memories that church provided for them in their youth. Others who have not attended church for a time still believe in God and have a faith that needs to be nurtured. The proper welcome, without guilting them for being gone so long, can be just the impetus they need to make church a part of their lives once again. Let the service focus on how Christ’s resurrection opened the door for all people to be welcomed into the kingdom, and visiting “prodigals” may have an emotional response that leads them back to God in a stronger way, and returns them to the church they once called home.

Be who you are on Easter and 51 other weeks, too

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to individuals inviting others to church for Easter, and churches actually having a special program worth inviting them to, is this: living and being one thing on one weekend out of the year, and something totally different for the rest of the year. A church can’t throw out the welcome mat on Easter weekend while pushing the hurt and lost away for the next 51 Sabbaths. Likewise, you may feel intimidated inviting people to an event that could change their life, when you haven’t been living a life that indicates you have already been changed by the same Jesus you want them to experience on Easter. However, don’t despair. The Resurrection is about Jesus coming out of the grave, and Easter can also be a new start for you and your church, too.

Easter can be a transformational celebration for you and your church. Isn’t it time to celebrate what the Resurrection can do in and through you?

Dean Waterman writes from South Riding, Virginia. Check out his blog, the2020church.com.

 





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