Dear Five Oakers,
What a wonderful Easter weekend starting, at least for some of us, with the Lent service at 6:30am on Thursday, then continuing with the Good Friday service (incredible), the sunrise service in the commons and then our four Easter services (two of them with an overflow crowd).
Our worship teams went above and beyond, as did our volunteers in the whole church.
And the Easter experience in the gym was fantastic!
I also felt like we reached another milestone in the paradigm shift we began about five years ago. A big part of the milestone had to do with the different types of services and experiences we offered to deepen the experience of Easter, all of them bathed in Scripture and prayer, highly participatory, simple and creative. But part of it also had to do with what we did in our regular services.
About two or three years ago we decided to stop doing major productions on Easter and Christmas, choosing to do what we always do and inviting people to come back for more. Our church is about engagement, participation and bringing the story of God to life, so a big production, lots of spectators and inspiration are not enough. I think our service inspired, but it did so primarily with the truth of Easter, participatory worship and with biblical teaching and depth brought to life.
We are simply not interested in getting "decisions" but focused on making disciples (including brand new ones). So I ended my sermon this year with a bit of a different twist. It's what I said after the prayer and just before response time.
Before we respond in worship, I want to tell you why we exist as a church community. We are broken, messed up people like Mary Magdalene. We were clueless until we got the memo and responded by faith. And we’ve taken seriously what Jesus says to all his followers. He commissions us to make sure everyone gets the memo. But we’re not interested in simply getting the word out; we’re interested in helping others become followers of Jesus. So if today you put your faith in Christ for the first time, praying that prayer with me, come back and learn more. Join us in our journey.
Nothing groundbreaking, right? Nope. But when you come to the end of the sermon, you have people's attention for just a few more moments. You can't say everything you'd like to say, especially to people who are considering receiving Christ or have prayed a prayer to receive Christ. So, in past years, I focused on getting those decisions recorded. And there's nothing wrong with that. But this year I focused the journey of discipleship. It simply felt right for where we are as a church.
Dan texted me after the first service: "Been waiting to hear that, and I didn't even know it. Wow." Me too.
Blessings, Pastor Henry