By 2pm yesterday, I was home, laying on the couch, exhausted…and I didn’t even preach. But I had a lot of things to get ready, after a long week of preparing for Maundy Thursday/Good Friday services, and doing all of the regular things a pastor does. The Oregonian ran an article last Saturday entitled “Oregon churches prepare for rush of worshippers who surface only on Christmas and Easter.” The first paragraph of the article stated the following:
“Today, on what is arguably the most important day in the Christian year, pastors will rise and deliver the central message of their faith to a host of unfamiliar faces. Easter, like Christmas Eve, has the power to pull people through church doors they may not grace again for six months or a year.”
Having visitors and guests isn’t a problem – churches love filling the pews. And I can say that it was a joy to see our sanctuary filled up much more than usual yesterday – there was lots of energy, lots of kids and lots more people on Easter Sunday morning.
But what I want to know is…was it worth it? Was all the work and energy and planning and rehearsing and preparing worth it yesterday? Churches generally feel the need to put on a big show for special services like Easter and Christmas. But…are we doing ourselves a disservice by doing that?
We might put a lot of work into preaching a special way, or bringing in some amazing musicians, or doing some über-creative worship things, or, hey, let’s get the kids up front! And guests and visitors come, and if we’re lucky, they’re blown away by the awesomeness of everything we’ve put together for that special Easter Sunday morning…and they come back, and…? Well, it’s not the same. They see us as we are the rest of the year…are we setting high expectations for ourselves that we can’t live up to?
Now – I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever have joyful celebrations in worship. And perhaps the flip side to this is that we should strive harder to make every worship service engaging and special and a time that people would get excited about. But I think the temptation for many churches is just to make Easter or Christmas or Pentecost these amazing church services because we think maybe we’ll have visitors…but we aren’t really letting them see who we are the rest of the year. In a sense, we’re hiding our true selves, or putting a different mask on, hoping they’ll like us and come back.
Are we being authentic as worshipping communities when our Easter & Christmas services don’t look much like our services throughout the rest of the year?