Let me be honest. Easter is a bittersweet holiday for me as a pastor because I shake hands with hundreds of people who I know I won’t see again until Christmas. I grew up going to church every week, so it’s hard to put myself in the head of someone who comes just for the holidays. Not judging, just sharing where I’m coming from. I was going to write a list of things we need to do as the church to get people to come back the week after Easter, but honestly I don’t know the answer. So I decided instead to invite honest dialogue with any of my readers who are or have been twice-a-year Christians, hoping that you might consider and answer this question: What can we do to get you back the week after Easter?
I’m not saying this from a place of judgment. I’m not interested in guilt-tripping. Guilt is a terrible reason to come to church. I know that some of you have very specific personal journeys that have made church a hard place to come right now. Others of you have been spiritually abused by churches in the past. Others of you may be nervous about becoming too Christian because the most flamboyant Christians in our society don’t seem like very nice people.
Perhaps you think that from my perspective, this is all a question of money. The more people who come, the better we pay the bills as a church and the more secure my job is. I’ll admit that sometimes when we have a $25K Sunday that isn’t a holiday, I do a fist pump when I read the offering report. And I do get nervous wondering whether Methodist churches over the next decades are going to disappear like a game of musical chairs until I don’t have a place to go. But that really isn’t why I want you to come further in the door.
The reason I want you to go all in with your Christianity and make your orbit more like Mercury and less like Haley’s Comet is because I want you to live in the kingdom of God and not just fly over it twice a year. I have an amazing life because of what I get to do and what I get to see. The deeper into the kingdom that I journey, the more beautiful common, everyday experiences are and the less I’m a slave to the frazzled anxieties that a fast-paced capitalist society imposes on all of us. What I live to do is to draw others into the kingdom so you can share in its riches.
Living in the kingdom to me is synonymous with having an imagination. There are all sorts of socially scripted ways to “be original” that our entertainment and fashion industries use in their marketing but they are so thoroughly unimaginative. It is when we surrender to the Holy Spirit that we learn how to dream.
I know that churches are not always very good at living into our mission to build God’s kingdom. Lesser agendas and personalities and rigid committee structures often get in the way. So I’m very interested in figuring out what we need to do or stop doing so that nothing will be in the way of your experiencing the fullness of God’s kingdom. To that end, I’m asking a serious, honest question. I will be deeply honored if you’re willing to respond so I can learn from you. So how do we get you back next week?