I recently talked to a lady whose husband hasn’t been to church in fifteen years. The last time he came was on an Easter Sunday, and that Sunday the preacher decided to ridicule those who only showed up for Christmas and Easter. It reinforced his negative stereotypes of church, and he hasn’t been back since.
This Sunday is going to be a big Sunday. Friends and family are going to come. Folks that only attend once a year are going to attend. Even the guy that’s not supposed to show up at church will show up at church this Sunday. It’s just the thing to do on Easter Sunday.
Your pastor is going to love this Sunday. He’s going to look at the crowds and soar on the inside. All of his dreams and visions are going to dance in his head as he takes the pulpit. Everyone will look nice and be cordial. But here’s the danger of Easter Sunday: that church will reinforce all the negative stereotypes that have driven the unchurched (or dechurched) away. All the guests, all the outsiders, are going to feel just like that: outsiders. Your church has one shot to overcome the reasons why they got burned by church in the first place. If your host team goes out of their way to welcome them (even in the parking lot), if your childcare facilities are professional and clean, if your services are excellent yet engaging, you’ll have a shot at winning over your guests.
But if the members keep to themselves, choosing to compare Easter outfits rather than engaging the newcomers, if the only time people shake their hands is when they’re forced to during the “turn and greet,” if the songs sung don’t resonate with the outsider as well as the insider, and if the pastor’s sermon is chocked full of religious lingo and insider language, then it will simply reinforce to your guests why they haven’t been to church in the past year.
This Sunday, your church has one shot to overcome the negative stereotypes and experiences that have kept your guests away for so long. If not, the week after Easter your church will be back to “normal,” your pastor’s hopes and dreams will be dashed, and you’ll have to wait another year to see so many guests at one time. Make the most of Easter Sunday!