Preaching the gospel is always, always a holy and sacred event. Within that special hour, the Creator empowers his messenger to boldly speak forth words that raise the spiritually dead to life new.
When it comes to Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday as many prefer, there is a sense in which little is actually different from the occasion than any other weekend of the year. We should always be putting the whole of our heads and hearts into the preparation and delivery, believing that God’s Spirit desires to use God’s word to awaken people with eternal truth.
But there is also a sense in which Easter Sunday is, indeed, special. As our culture continues to disconnect itself from the social influences of the Christian tradition, two weekends still stand apart in the minds of many non-churchgoers as moments when we ought to find ourselves in God’s house – Easter and Christmas.
The habit on the part of many self-proclaimed believers to show up only on those two Sundays arouses a sense of annoyance in plenty of pastors and church leaders. So let me challenge you to think about the preaching moment in connection with a word that changes everything.
I believe it’s essential that, every time we stand up to preach, we consider our stewardship of the sacred moment. And what do I mean by “stewardship of the moment?” I mean that we should never lose sight of the weight of responsibility we have.
And on Easter weekend, that weight may be even greater because the opportunity to present a risen Christ to people who don’t necessarily think about him much.
So here’s the question we face when it comes to preaching on Easter Sunday: How can I be the best possible steward of this sacred moment?
And here are three ways…
1. Leading UP to Easter Sunday, help the church do the work of evangelism.
I realize that many leaders feel evangelism ought to happen outside the walls of the church while Sundays are more about the edification of the body. Rather than engage in the either/or debate, let me just suggest a tweak in how we think about “church.”
Instead of arguing over whether the church should be attractional or missional. The problem with both lines of thinking is they still see the weekend worship service as an event. I believe we ought to see it as the gathering of a community, of a peculiar people.
And collectively, these people – the church – tend to do evangelism better than when we all try to go it alone. So regardless of what you feel is the purpose of a Sunday sermon – to evangelize or to edify – realize that worship is a witness and that you want people to bring other people with them, into the peculiar people of God to hear and experience the good news of Jesus.
Therefore, encourage people to be bringers. Provide them printed material to give away. Set up an Easter landing page on your church’s website. Put out a video or two on social media inviting people and ask people to share it.
2. ON Easter Sunday, preach Jesus!
Some churches have big productions and others don’t, and both can be effective. There isn’t anything wrong with having guest artists or dramatic displays, unless we forget what really matters – the truth that Jesus died and rose again to save people.
Even people unfamiliar with what church is really all about know enough to expect us to talk about Jesus. Don’t forget the essentials, as the apostle Paul laid them out for us,
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
– 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NLT
Easter Sunday’s message ought to be the most positive, victorious, and triumphant of the year. You get to proclaim,
- The Savior, Jesus died for you!
- The Lord Jesus rose for you!
- King Jesus is coming again for you!
3. AFTER Easter Sunday, love people into the family of God.
I believe strongly in having systems for outreach, for follow-up, for discipleship, etc. Good systems support a good vision and keep people from falling through the cracks.
Before Easter Sunday gets here, think through your follow-up. How will you collect information from guests on Easter Sunday? (Saddleback Church decided to remove all the “options” on their communication card and use it to help people make the single decision of following Christ. They saw over 4,000 people saved as a result.)
Think through who will follow up and how they will follow up. Have your next membership class on the calendar. Know how you are going to help people
And here’s the key… remember that you’re reaching people. Each and every one is a precious soul. Fight the urge to see people as mere numbers and remember that each one is wonderfully made and dearly loved.
Rick Warren often says, “You don’t win your enemies to Christ. You win your friends.” So be a friend. Even better, be family to people. Our culture desperately needs it.
You can do this! You’re a steward of the opportunity of Easter weekend, and you were chosen for the task!