I enjoyed a wonderful Holy Week this year, culminating in a fantastic Easter service filled with worship, a creative drama, the proclamation of Truth and Christian fellowship. There were many new faces littering the chairs yesterday. There were some old faces that I haven’t seen since….well…….Christmas Eve.
A little bit ago I was talking with a friend who became passionately irate when the subject of “Creasters” (those who attend church on Christmas and Easter only) came up. He said something along these lines: “When those lukewarm hypocrites come piling into service on Easter the Pastor ought to point out the cold, harsh reality that most of them will not darken the door of a church until the next major holiday. Somebody needs to call them out and let them know that they are just playing a game and that God doesn’t care whether you come to church on Easter or not. They are living carnal lives, the most loving thing we could do would be to point out on their non-committed lifestyles.”
I believe that there are many exasperated pastors out there who secretly fantasize about “going off” on all of the people who pack into the church Easter Sunday yet leave the place barren the following week. They probably have their scathing speech scribbled out in very angry handwriting, or typed out completely in capital letters. They may have it tucked away somewhere safe in the event that they seek to get fired from that particular ministry and go sell insurance for the rest of their lives.
There are a few issues with this logic.
One: yelling at a bunch of people who show up on a Sunday voluntarily because they don’t show up more often is not going to coerce them into voluntarily showing up more regularly; that is not how people work. They are just going to get mad and show up even less (there goes Christmas Eve!)
Two: getting them to come to church more regularly is not going to guarantee them salvation and guilting them into attendance will just encourage them into a type of “attendance legalism” that will convince them that they are saved by sterile participation in a program and not by the saving, transforming work of Jesus Christ in their lives. Your tirade could (and probably will) backfire on you.
The Easter boom and the Sunday after drop off is sad; not because we don’t have as many people in church, but because those absent are potentially missing out on something monumentally important.
If you claim Christ, if you believe that the Word of God is true, then the doctrine of the Church ought to be important to you. I have two preliminary answers for every major problem that comes across my desk as a pastor: Jesus and Authentic Christian Community. When people turn their backs on community they are missing out. Failing to attend church isn’t damning, it’s tragically sad.
It is sad that they are missing out on a loving community of likeminded, spirit-filled people who strive to lift them up when they are hurting, who care enough to hold them accountable to a biblical standard, to give them a venue to use their God-given gifts, to worship in a corporate setting, to do more for the Kingdom as a group than we could ever do alone, to have a place to laugh, to cry and to grow. This community will miss you when you die; allowing you a legacy of kindness to leave in your wake. There is a warmth and hope that can only be found in the faces of those who truly love Jesus.
Granted your church needs to be a place of Authentic Christian Community, not one of attendance legalism. It needs to be a place where people are missed not because the numbers are down but because they are part of something greater than themselves. Plus we’d all miss an arm if we were to lose one.
We need to show people what they are missing out on when they skip out; fill their schedules or sleep in.
Jesus loves His Bride. She has much to offer.