So we get ready to celebrate the greatest moment in human history (Easter), and I’m worked up about it. It’s not that I dislike Good Friday, Easter and Christmas themselves. I love what they’re about. But as a lead pastor, I find them to be the most difficult services of the year to plan for. That’s what’s got me worked up.
Here’s why: Most people know the story. And most don’t care.
It’s like this: I live an hour north of Toronto but listen to Toronto radio. I hear all the traffic reports, but I live far enough north of the city that they really don’t bother me. So instead of hearing the traffic report I hear ‘blah blah blah blah’. The weather? I tune in like a laser. Because we pretty much have the same weather patterns as Toronto. I’ve developed a relevance filter. I care about what impacts me…not just what happens. Not saying that’s good…I’m just saying that’s true.
I think every person who walks in our doors this weekend has a filter like that. Most of us will think we’ve done our job when we tell people what happened (Jesus died…Jesus is alive) and mourn or celebrate appropriately. Over the years I’ve watched thousands of unchurched people walk out of those services unchanged. It’s like there saying “Yep, I know. So what?” They wanted the weather report. The way we presented Easter feels to them like a traffic report for another city.
That’s why I get all worked up before Christmas and Easter. To simply tell them isn’t enough for most unchurched people. And you can go all spiritual on me and tell me that the word will not return empty (I get that and actually believe it), but the truth is 98% of them won’t be back…at least until the next major holiday or the next tragedy in their life or until someone invites them and helps explain why it’s relevant.
Here’s what I’m trying to focus on more and more as we head into major holidays. I think our job is tell them not only what happened, but why it matters. I think our goal is to tell them why they can’t just leave and not respond. When you answer why, you establish relevance. You help people bridge the gap between what they know about and what they care about.
We shot Easter Sunday’s message this year for Connexus in a graveyard and talked about how you can dismiss an idea, a fact or a concept, but it’s pretty hard to dismiss a dead man walking. When a dead man is walking and making claims about life and God and you, you can’t just sit there. You have the respond. You have to react. And we’re going to give people a chance to respond…we’re going to try to help people get to a decision point. Everything from the opener in the service, the worship leader’s bridges, to song choice to the message itself and the way we pray can help people understand why what we’re celebrating is relevant.
I don’t think we’ve cracked the code by any stretch of the imagination. But I think the church has to do better on major holidays.
What do you think? What’s helped you?