April 9, 2007 at 7:56 pm (Church, Evangelicalism™)

This year was the first year in my entire life that I actually seriously considered doing Lent. Then it sort of snuck up on me in the midst of other things and I missed it. Since we don’t go to a church that advocates it (in fact, since we’re not really connected to “our” church at all) it’s hard to feel motivated to celebrate much of anything Christian in the way of holidays. It only accentuates that which I know to be true so deeply: without the body of Christ, my faith (and by my faith, I mean my religion) is only halfway complete. My starvation began a while ago just for true connection with other believers, fellowship, per say, and has grown into more. The coming and going of the Easter season has forced me into a contemplative mood of wishing I had a church to celebrate with. Even more – wishing I had a church that treated it as more than a one day event in the life of a Christian. Let me start at the beginning.

When I think of Easter and my childhood it conjures up memories of Easter baskets with chocolate bunnies, coloring hardboiled eggs, going out to buy a new Easter dress for Easter Sunday with my mother, singing Easter hymns, visiting grandma and company with ham and sweet potatoes, and getting palm branches the Sunday before. I’m sure that many can relate. Though I grew up in a Christian home, never in all my existence did anyone ever suggest to me that I might want to participate in Lent. That was that “Catholic” thing. Never did anyone ever suggest to me that the time leading up to Easter could be used as a prolonged period of worship in the church body and a time to meditate and grow closer to God myself in a different way. Never did anyone ever suggest to me that Easter might be about Christians worshiping Jesus, not evangelism.

We were alone this Easter, for the first time in our lives. We have always been with family, but this year it just didn’t work out. So we went to church. Like we’re supposed to. Like we do (most) every Sunday. I didn’t buy an Easter dress. I didn’t color Easter eggs. No chocolate. We had tacos for lunch, and ordered pizza for dinner.

My church was packed. My church is normally big, but yesterday my church had overflow seating set up, where the service was broadcast. A nice old lady greeted me with an extra big kindly smile at the door and instructed me to take a plastic cross with “He is Risen 2007!” scrawled in silver writing on it. A nice old man shook my hand ferociously with a big extra happy smile, boomed, “Happy Easter!” Understand, “my” church is far too big for anyone to know if I’m a visitor or regular attender or not. Another nice, younger lady greeted me at the sanctuary door and handed me a bulliten. Same routine. I’ve never had anyone be quite this vivaciously cheerful towards me at “my” church before.

We found our seats, and loud, contemporary, rocky music was playing. When the time ticked down, the worship leader, extra perky I felt, bounded onto stage and welcomed all of us there. We then opened with a french horn and trumpet Eastern hymn medley. We then sang some Easter hymns. I looked around. Normally we don’t sing hymns. That’s okay. I don’t mind hymns. I noticed lots more grey hairs than normal. In nice pretty Easter dresses. Then suddenly, as if we were now done placating those grey hairs who showed up just for today, we decided to say, “Now, this is what we really are!” And the music started rocking. The music was particularly loud yesterday. Contemporary “Jesus lives” praise songs bounced off the walls. I eyed the young couple standing next to me. They didn’t seem impressed. I eyed the grey haired couple in front of us. They definitely didn’t seem impressed. Hmm. They brought out a choir to sing to one of the songs, and they stayed throughout. I got all excited for a second! I thought they were gonna start dancing! At least something exciting would happen. But then I was deflated. Got a little bounce going, but just couldn’t quite get the shoulder action……Then the message. Not much to say there.

Last week was Palm Sunday. I gotta give them credit. They really tried. They did two monologue dramas, one of which was part of communion. They changed things around. Did the sermon in two parts. Stuff like that. I even felt that they were really trying to lead people in an attitude of worship. Trying to get them to contemplate Christ’s sacrifice in new way. I was even moved. This week was Easter Sunday. It was obvious what they did this week. The crowds are coming, let’s show them how cool they are. It smacked of insincerity and ingenuiness. Call me cynical, but after that service, my memories of Easter Sunday came flooding back to me in a whole new way.

Easter Sunday. The day when the heathen come flooding into church for their one day a year church spot. Unless they hit Christmas too. We’ve got them eating out of the palm of our hands, they’ve come to us, let’s get them NOW! And it turns into an evangelistic outreach, instead of a day for Christians to worship Jesus Christ, our Savior, the culmination of a great reflective, yet celebratory period of time in the Christian faith. That’s ’cause for a lot of denominations, it’s not a culmination of anything, just like I remember growing up. Heaven forbid that we evangelize by living our lives out around those same people throughout the rest of the year. Let’s just wait till they come Easter Sunday. Heaven forbid that if they should come Easter Sunday, they should see the church being the church, worshiping in spirit and in truth, instead of putting on a fake show for them so they see how “cool” we are. Even if we don’t give an altar call, if they came to our church this Sunday, they’ll be sure to know that we’re not the boring old stodgy churches down the street, no we rock Christianity! (And we can throw some hymns in for you old people too…)

I may be judging “my” church too harshly. I don’t want to judge the hearts of the people who put together the Easter Sunday worship service. I don’t want to suggest that they tried to be insincere, or that everyone even perceived it that way. Part of it is my own cynicism and my generational longings coming out for something different. But I do know that I’ve never actually been to a church that didn’t try to somehow turn Easter Sunday into an evangelistic thing (even if there was no “altar call” per say) because they knew a ton of people would be coming. I don’t know if that’s what “my” church was trying to do, because I’m no where near the leadership team, but that’s what it felt like compared to their normal services, especially compared to what they did last week.

Don’t change what you do because people might be watching. Do we want people to watch? Of course. But we want them to watch and like what they see. If you’re changing, are you afraid they won’t? Is not the message of the cross more powerful than a few loud songs? What message does that send?


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