Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Easter 2012 is in the rear view mirror.  Sunday was an incredible day in the state of New Hampshire.  The reports of places of worship being overflowing has caused all of us to be happy.  In our church, twice as many people attended and most of those people came as invited guests.  It was a grassroots explosion that can only be explained by God’s Spirit softening hearts and giving us all a passion for our friends and family.  I say all of this on the heals of the new Gallup poll that says we are among the least religious state in the country.

While it may be true that going to church on Sunday is not a normal activity here in the Northeast compared to the South or Midwest,  I’ve got to believe that something is changing in people’s hearts.  If this Easter is any indication, we are seeing something of an awakening take place.  Take, for instance, a church in Manchester, NH  that held their Easter service in the Verizon Arena.  Take, for instance, the many churches that added multiple services throughout the state.  And take our own situation where just one year ago we launched a new campus of Grace Capital Church in Laconia…and this Easter over 450 people attended.  In challenging people at our church that One Invite Can Change a Life, over 2200 people gathered in one of five different services.  This is not normal for NH.

But here’s the main thing…what happens to everyone now that Resurrection Sunday is over and it won’t come again for another 12 months?  This is the true test- the power of the gospel and the influence of our story upon others.   I’m hoping that no one will be like the two who walked with Jesus on the road and didn’t even recognize Him…that people won’t remain oblivious to Him working and calling and loving them.  Instead, like the two at the end of the story, their hearts will burn with His grace and they will respond. Because it’s not enough for Jesus to be alive…He wants to be alive inside of us.

God burns in hearts causing eyes to be open.  Everyday.

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I’m so used to being up early on Sunday that I don’t think anything of it.  Rain, snow, sunshine, daylight savings-time I’m up and out the door because I’m a pastor and that’s what we do.  Early Sundays are no-brainers for me…and so are long Sundays.  But perhaps I’m so desensitized to what I do every week that I forget that this is not “normal” in our culture, and certainly not here in New Hampshire.

Most people take advantage of Sunday as a day off to rest, sleep in a little extra, go to the kid’s soccer games, or take advantage of the nice weather and make a trip to the mountains or beach.  They may even wake up early just like me, but have different plans and no intention to sit in a building for a couple of hours.  Yet…that’s what we try very hard to get people to do.  And I think it’s a good thing to try.  But as we are trying, let’s also remember that this is cross grain to what non-churchgoers and even many pro-churchgoers are thinking.  A church service is not very high on the priority list for a great majority of people.

Once I heard about a guy who just didn’t want to wake up for church.  His kids came in the bedroom all dressed and ready to go, but he just covered his head with a pillow.  His wife kept yelling for him to get ready, but he acted like he didn’t hear her.  Finally, she came in and said, “you’ve got to wake up and get ready for church.  People are expecting you to be there.  After all, you are the pastor!”  Okay, maybe I’ve felt like that once or twice, but honestly I look forward to Sundays to be with the people who are a part of my life and my community.  I enjoy being part of the church and for me that includes leading as a pastor and waking up on Sunday morning and serving.

As Easter approaches, churches across the nation will see their numbers swell.  Some will make annual pilgrimages, others will be doing what they do religiously each week.  For me and for our church, I pray it will be a day to connect people to a God who never slumber or sleeps.  He’s the one who created the ocean, the mountains, and time itself…even Sunday mornings.

What do you do on Sunday mornings?  If you wake up and go to a church building, why do you do that?

-Peter

 

Okay…so we’re only 10 days away from what is considered one of the most important days on the Christian calendar- Easter.  It’s a day when restaurants have huge reservation lists for Sunday brunch and when kids get baskets full of candy and even the White House hosts an annual “easter egg” hunt.  But perhaps the most interesting thing is that lots of people go to church.  Many of these people go to church even if they aren’t “churchgoers”.  In fact, for some this is their once (or twice) a year pilgrimage.

I heard  a pastor once talk about how “American” it is to go to church on Easter; like apple pie and Chevrolet.  He used that as a way to invite a friend of his to attend the service.  I’m not sure if it’s really an American thing as much as it is a traditional thing, but I can see how there can be more of an open door of invitation around this time.

So, what’s the deal about Easter anyway?  Why do so many people find themselves in church that Sunday who ordinarily wouldn’t?  Here in New England it even happens.  Here in New Hampshire where the church attendance rate is a dismal 4-5%.

Maybe it has to do with the message of hope that Easter brings. Unlike just going to church when the preacher is delivering messages to the comfortable congregation throughout the year, Easter messages are geared specifically for those who aren’t usually there.  It’s as if we finally get it as pastors that the church does not just exist for those of us who are there…but for those yet to come.  And now, on Easter Sunday, as our attendance swells…there are so many people there who hopefully we’ve been praying for to come.

My Easter messages are really geared for to remind people of the promise and hope and future we have in a relationship with the Risen Christ.  This year, we are talking about how we are all People of The Second Chance.  You can see a tidbit of where we are going here: People of The Second Chance GCC The idea is that we all want another chance, that none of us are lost causes and that the thing we really long for is to be loved, accepted and forgiven regardless of where we are at.  And God is happy to oblige.  That’s what the cross and the resurrection and Easter are all about!  We just need to come to him as we are and then, as the author Max Lucado says, He loves us too much to leave us there.

If Easter is only about religion or tradition or going to church just to go to church I think that many will be disappointed and disillusioned.  To me, Easter is only the beginning…the actual beginning of walking with God who came for us and died for us and rose again.  One writer of Scripture said it like this; “if only in this life we have hope, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  So, if Easter is just a temporary good feeling that comes once a year and than wanes for another 12 months, what’s the point.

So, if you are reading this and considering going to church on Easter, go for it.  Go expecting hope that is much more than that one hour experience.  Or, if you are one who is a part of a church on a regular basis, use this season as an opportunity to bring hope to someone else.  Maybe even invite them and help them understand the deal about Easter!