Easter is here once again, and we as church leaders are inundated with egg hunts, special programming, boosted attendance, and hard-core community outreach. It is, after all, the day on which we commemorate the reason for Christianity: Christ’s death and resurrection. It is probably the most important day on the Church calendar. It’s a day of great celebration, and we are right to give it great emphasis in the life of our own local church. The impacts of Easter have eternal significance.
However, is there too much expectation? Is there too much hype? What does the day really mean to those who might step foot inside a church for the first time on Easter morning? Why is it worth all the effort to plan special events and invite thousands of people to celebrate with us? Can’t it just be like every other Sunday worship service?
The simple answer? No. It’s not like every other worship service. Easter is a special day full of special times of remembrance. It is also a day full of power on which people’s lives can be changed for eternity: both those beginning their walk with Christ, as well as those who’ve walked a lifetime by His side.
Why, then, is Easter so special?
1) Easter Brings Hope.
The world is facing difficult and challenging days. People are turning to (or returning to) the local church in their times of desperation and defeat. We see new faces sitting in our auditoriums week after week, knowing that these people carry with them pain, sorrow, confusion, and tribulation. They are searching for relief. They often don’t know how they will move forward in life. All their efforts at finding a reprieve in the darkness have fallen flat. But Easter morning, the resurrection of Christ, brings hope that there can be a positive future. Christ was victorious over evil when there seemed to be no hope for His Kingdom. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we, and those who are seeking, can be assured that there is hope for the days ahead. We may not know how God will conquer sin, death, and the evil of this world, but we know that He promises to do it. We as church leaders can point those who need hope for a better world to Jesus on Easter and be confident that they will see through His eyes afresh and anew.
2) Easter Breeds Acceptance.
Because this world is a hard place in which to live, human nature demands that we find support and love in others around us. Some people have a good family structure which provides this support. Others find the needed relief in their strong social circles. For others, their work is life and their colleagues are their family. However, there are a special few who have no network from which to find encouragement. They feel marginalized and outcast from all parts of society. They are lonely and isolated. They feel abandoned and alone. Easter Sunday and the message of an all-loving, all-accepting, living God can be the place where the lonely find companionship. It can be the day on which they find the unconditional acceptance for which they’ve been looking for a lifetime. In Jesus there is no rejection. In the Spirit there is never a time of desertion. As church leaders, we can point people who are lonely and feel like outsiders to a God who loves them as they are and who seeks a relationship with them despite their flaws. The rejection they have faced from humankind can be erased and replaced with Jesus’ embracing of every part of who they are. Easter brings the opportunity to shout out about the resurrection of our Lord, the same man who ate with sinners, befriended tax collectors, and showed compassion to the Samaritan woman. Once and for all, Easter can bring the longed-for sense of acceptance after which the world is seeking today.
3) Easter Begets Certainty.
We live in a world where making decisions is harder than ever, and a whole generation of young people are looking for direction amid their chronic uncertainty. Celebrating Easter can draw people’s attention to the One who brings assurance and eternal confidence for the way ahead. Christ’s death on the cross not only created the possibility of personal relationship with God, but also it guarantees the inevitable victory of good over evil, of light over darkness, of love over hate. When we as humans remember that God’s way is clear and is the best way forward for all of us in His Kingdom, we can be confident that He will guide our decision making and show us His will in His time. The people in our congregations need to be reminded of this, and Easter is the perfect time.
It may not be enough, however, just to know these essential things about Easter. Our church and its members must be the conduit of these things on Easter and all year. Those visiting our church for the first time on Easter should be overwhelmed by the love and acceptance of our congregation. We as church leaders should train and disciple our members to embrace visitors in such a way that there can be no mistake that God loves everyone and uses His Church to show that love to others. Let us as church leaders be encouraged to keep running the race, even during the hectic Easter season. All the work, all the effort, all the expense is absolutely worth it when we see the hope, acceptance, and certainty that Easter can brin into the hearts of those we welcome with open arms on that holy day.