As a pastor, the time I get most excited for the mission for our church is Easter weekend. While the local church should always be on mission, for Easter we unapologetically go all out in trying to reach as many people as possible in our community. We gather at the basketball arena for the local university basketball team in town and place a significant amount of time and resources into this Resurrection Sunday gathering for our church.
We do this because there are a large amount of cultural or nominal Christians in our city, and for them, skipping church on Easter Sunday morning is the equivalent of not seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July, or forgetting to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. For cultural Christians, going to church on Easter morning is a tradition that sadly doesn’t have much to do with Jesus. It is simply part of the observance of what is now a celebration of Spring, pastel colored clothes, white shoes, and being with family.
The amazing thing is that despite the lack of religious significance surrounding Easter for cultural Christians, they still show up for church. As the religious significance of Easter Sunday lessens, the opportunity for the church still lies right in front of us every year, because they show up out of tradition or perhaps family obligation and walk right into a sermon and songs about the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Easter Sunday is a massive outreach opportunity to reach people who claim to be Christians, but are tragically mistaken, are not anything more than theists who try to be nice people. This is not a saving faith, since it is one based on one’s culture, morals, and family heritage, rather than conviction about the work of Christ. What’s incredible is despite all of the confusion about what is actually faith in Jesus Christ, they still show up to church buildings on Easter Sunday.
Except this year
Except this year. If you haven’t heard, there is a global pandemic called COVID-19, and now we won’t have our Easter service. Just like that, it was over. We truly grieved as a church family, as one of our most special times together and largest open-door outreach opportunities was gone, and there was nothing we could do about that reality. We aren’t meeting on Easter Sunday.
While still saddened, we realized that we can’t let this be a pity party for our church leadership, as our “first world” church problems of not having our biggest service of the year do not change the fact that Easter Sunday is still coming, and people will still be celebrating, or at the very least culturally observing this day.
Due to the blessing of the internet and the capability to bring the hope of Christ to people’s phones or living room screens, the church must see that the Easter celebration of 2020 will certainly be the most different we’ve ever had, but it could be as significant for the church in terms of capitalizing on a missional moment that we have never experienced before.
Yes, Jesus is still risen and alive today, regardless if churches gather or not, but that doesn’t change the need for the church to act on two primary mission steps for this important, faith-defining holiday for Christianity.
1. Encourage the church.
Everything believers know about Easter Sunday are the very truths that we rightly cling to during these unknown and scary times of a global pandemic. Because of Easter, “we will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
The primary place the church needs to be pointed to is hope. This need for hope is more than mere emotion or seeing life from a positive outlook, as that is the world’s definition and largely superstitious. Christian hope is a certain hope, as our hope is grounded in a person, Jesus Christ, and what He has accomplished through life, death, and resurrection.
While as Christians we certainly believe that the resurrection should be celebrated every day, historically Easter is the day in which churches around the world unite in devoting the entire attention of our gatherings to the world-changing, life-altering resurrection of Christ. We are resurrection people, and church members spending Sunday morning at home this Easter must be reminded of this truth by their local church.
2. Reach the lost.
Every year on Easter Sunday morning, there are families in your community who wake up to Easter baskets full of candy and venture out in the yard to do the annual egg hunt. They will enjoy a breakfast casserole and take a family picture outside in their Easter outfits bought specifically for this day.
These people aren’t atheists, agnostics, or of a major world religion such as Islam or Buddhism; they are professing religious Christians who don’t actually know Jesus (Matthew 7:21-23). Each year heading to church on Easter Sunday is similar to the favorite Christmas movie a family watches every December—it is tradition and part of the observance of the season.
While this year the church service is canceled, their observance of the holiday tradition aspects of Easter will remain. They know all about church on Easter, but they don’t know Christ. Because it is Easter morning and there is no church, I assure you they are likely to watch online. The gospel must be brought to them.
In the same way church members will normally invite friends to church for Easter, the missionary urgency is needed to push people to online services. This is a reality for us now, and there is an opportunity for every church member to take part in making sure their local church’s Easter online broadcast shows up on the screens of their family and friends.
A month ago we never thought this would be our new approach to Easter. While different and unconventional, and even not ideal, we minister to the world as it is, not as we want it to be. May your 2020 Easter be as missional as ever.