Why I Dislike Easter (and Good Friday and Christmas)

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.

Even in a post-Christian culture like Canada, most people know that Jesus lived, died and that we celebrate his resurrection.  And even the most hardened atheist realizes Christmas has something to do with Jesus coming to earth. But they 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?

20 Comments

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  11. Chris on April 25, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I dislike Easter because if we don’t sing enough of the right hymns I get gentle passive aggressive conversations in the foyer 🙂

    Yesterday we preached from Mark 16 and did something a little different. We acknowledged that every person in the story does not believe the resurrection until they have a direct, personal encounter with the risen Christ. Because of that, we openly acknowledged in our service that there were many in the room who did not believe or only believed in the surface of the story.

    We used that as the starting point for our creative elements, our songs, our intro, etc and the message worked its way to a place where we called for a response from those who didn’t believe and from those who do. It was a very special morning.

    • Carey on April 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

      You make me smile Chris. My eyes used to roll back at the all the music comments.

      I love your approach! Here’s a question: what if we made at assumption every Sunday? I think it could/would transform our churches. I think a surprising number of people disbelieve what we say on Sundays. To engage that becomes first step toward belief.

  12. Joel Gordon on April 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Great Insights!

    My wife and I enjoyed reading your post together.

    I’ve had a similar frustration with the non-transformative nature of many church services and observing people walking out of church seemingly “unchanged” made me deeply into why this was happening. This frustration seems to be compounded on holidays and special events.

    About one year ago, the Holy Spirit lead me to look inside at my own heart and had me realize that I too needed to be transformed by the power of our risen, living Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I took close notice of the way that God was moving my wife’s life and witnessed her zeal for worship. It’s incredible how just a spark can light a wild fire of love and passion for the Gospel and how powerful that love can be in changing our hearts, souls and minds.

    We need to find fresh ways of communicating the Gospel message to a people and culture who have been desensitized by the wonders of our God who lived as man, died, rose and lives today.

    Some of the most powerful change agents in the church are people who allow the Holy Spirit to shine through them, others who take time to see the Holy Spirit blazing and ask God to set a forest fire in their hearts, and others who enjoy sharing their sparks.

    Since I met you for the Lovemovement film interview, God has been shocking and amazing Ben Porter and I as we seek to connect with youth and communicate why the message of the Gospel matters. We’re using a matrix of approaches and speaking a language they understand that is relevant to them.

    I look forward to visiting Connexus in the near future.

    By the way, your blog post really speaks to me. I found it through twitter. Thanks for delivering a message like the weather!

    • Carey on April 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Great points Joel and David…thank you. It is Christ for sure. I just hope we can get out of the way.

  13. David Willard Jr on April 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Carey,
    Great blog…I have to agree that we are not doing enough. The problem I see is too many people put too much emphasis on the saying that only God can change the heart, and while that has SOME truth, the fact remains that a heart that is not open to hear God’s call will have a hard time changing. So we have to do our best to prepare them and disciple them. The best way to do that is to teach them the WHY so their hearts will begin to hear God’s calling.

  14. rob duncan on April 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Good point, Carey. I think the fact that we’ll be celebrating Communion on Good Friday (I typo-ed “Good” with “God” Friday, then changed it back, but liked it, then changed it back again, oh well, you know what I mean, eh?) might get some people asking what it’s all about too. We celebrate it monthly in our group, but I look forward to celebrating it en masse with Church Connexus Universal. Maybe we could do it more often? Thanks,
    see you all Good Friday!
    Rob.

  15. AJ on April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I think that’s the reason I like Good Friday services so much. It’s not your typical Sunday service. The Service Programmers work hard to make it an out-of-the-Sunday-box service.

    On a typical Sunday you can pretty much predict what happens. 3 songs, announcements, offering, video bumper and a live person speaking.

    Good Friday isn’t like that.

    Sometimes it will be a video that makes you look at Good Friday from a different angle, other times it will be a special musical number with an accompanying video element, they might even bring an electric chair to church!

    Good Friday is when the service programming department gets creative, has a little more freedom and aims to create moments that move people and create memories.

    Carey, you may dislike Good Friday… but I love what you do with it.

    • Carey on April 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! Totally appreciate what you are saying AJ. I think what makes Easter, Good Friday and Christmas different from most Sundays is that most Sundays, they don’t know the message. So we don’t have to work as creatively to tell it in a way that sounds surprising. We try to be creative but because the message itself is novel, people hear it better. On the big holidays…they know the script. Does that make sense?

  16. Will on April 21, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Carey;

    Great to see you a couple of weeks ago — and I sent you a note earlier this week, but didn’t hear anything. Oh well.

    Just wanted you to know that the image of the traffic vs. weather radio announcements is pretty good. If it’s Ok, I may even use it one of these days.

    Don’t get too discouraged about whether or not people walk out changed or not. Ultimately, that’s not up to us.

    Have a meaningful Maundy Thursday, a bad Good Friday, and a great Easter.

    Will

  17. Marilyn Muller on April 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Wow Carey… you knocked this out of the ballpark today! Thanks… I just came back from a physio appt, and overheard mixtures of conversations of Easter bunnies, passover, mass, deep-fried Cadbury eggs, church services in the background of the clinic, and felt so disheartened that we as Christ’s disciples have done a lousy job of communicating the “why” vs. the “what”… and then I see your blog… thanks… I hope your service will be on your site because I will watch it and encourage everyone in my circle to watch it as well! Thanks for the reminder once again… may this Easter weekend renew us all to make the main thing, the main thing – Jesus Christ, Saviour, Lord, Passover Lamb, Messiah! He is Risen Indeed!

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