For my first six years in ministry, I served as an Associate Pastor. Because the Senior Pastor was expected to deliver the Easter Sunday message, I did not have the opportunity to do that until my 7th year in ministry. I was so nervous! It really wasn’t because there were more people than usual. (Although that can make me nervous, too!) It was primarily because there was an urgency in my soul about that day. There still is, even now in this 4th year that I have the privilege of offering God’s message on Easter Sunday.
Even though I feel an urgency for preaching the message effectively every week, there is something especially so about Easter Sunday – to me THE MOST important day of the church year. It is sometimes our one chance to plant the seeds of Jesus’ transformational love, grace, hope and peace in the soil of the hearts of visitors and some-timers. It feels URGENT!
There are a few things I know:
1. There is not much wiggle room: by the time Easter Sunday rolls around, there are no second chances to invite all those people you’ve been meaning to invite; few second chances to make up for a sermon that falls flat or an unwelcoming attitude.
2. Seed planting does not depend entirely on the sermon. One of the things that strongly asserts itself in a pastor’s prayer time is for the existing congregation to receive visitors and some-timers as beloved and valued children of God, no matter what they look like, how they’re dressed, or whose pew they sit in. If faith in the existing congregation is authentic and welcoming, many vital seeds get planted.
3. Not everyone’s hearts are ready to receive the seed. I am not even certain that 25% of the seed will take root and grow if we don’t pray long and hard for the work of the Holy Spirit to be present in each attender’s life. I’m not just speaking of visitors and some-timers here.
4. We don’t plant many seeds when our focus is on sheer numbers of behinds in the pews and dollars in the plate. If that is what Easter is about to us, then we are doing something very wrong! Spotlight on – Jesus in the center – and ask God to take care of the behinds and the dollars so we don’t have to.
I might know a few more things than are listed here, but right now, I’m caught up in the urgency of Easter and I need to get back to those preparations! May you all be blessed this Easter season!