CEO (Christmas/Easter Only) Christians

This Easter will likely be the highest attended day this year for churches across America. Such has been the norm for a few decades. Indeed many churches will go all out to attract people to attend their churches on Easter Sunday. It is understandable that church leaders put much effort to bring people to church on a day where they are most receptive to coming.

A church in Toledo, Ohio, recently announced that they would be giving away a house to a family. The requirement for being considered for the big giveaway is to attend one of the worship services on Easter weekend. I have to say, in all of my church growth and church health experiences, this giveaway exceeds anything I’ve seen.

The Motive

Though few churches will make such elaborate and expensive moves as giving away a house, many churches will invest much time and money to get people to attend their churches on Easter weekend. The motive stated is typically noble: get them in a worship service to hear the gospel.

There is also the expectation that many of the people attending on Easter are among those who typically attend twice a year, Christmas and Easter. Since they attend so infrequently, it is presumed that many, if not most, of the CEO Christians are not actually Christians at all. They thus present good opportunities to present the gospel.

The Reality

But, according to our research in earlier years, that may not be the case. We actually found that most who attend on Easter are fairly regular attendees. They just happened all to come together on the same day. On Easter, those who attend one, two, or three Sundays a month join those who attend nearly every Sunday. In reality then, the CEO Christian is likely more myth than reality.

In fact, if there is a given day where more unchurched non-Christians are likely to attend church, it would be on Christmas eve. Some churches do make special efforts to reach people with the gospel on that day; still most churches have no strategic plans to do so.

The Need

The obvious need is for a higher commitment among the members of our congregations. In most of our churches, we accept as normative that members attend infrequently. We usually don’t think twice about that member whose commitment is limited to attending only twice a month.

Most of the congregations in America have become low expectation churches. They expect little of their members, so they get little commitment. Even matters as basic as worship attendance become optional in the minds of many members. The church has dumbed down what it means to be a part of the local expression of the body of Christ.

So, in reality, we really don’t have CEO Christians. Easter is primarily a reunion of the COO (Comes Only Occasionally) Christians. It is the one day that most of the low commitment members believe they should attend. But the need is for churches to start expecting more of their members. The need is for membership to really have meaning and purpose.

The need is for congregations across America to take seriously what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Posted on April 20, 2011

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • henry a cross says on

    I know a CEO Catholic. I’m an Atheist and have read the Bible , attended more Church services
    than a converted Catholic.

    His reason for not reading the Bible, “it was written by men”.

    My reason for being an Atheist, God would have created himself, to create himself…….plus many more reasons

  • Linda Poage says on

    I guess you show us that we still need to evangelize CEO’s. If we help anyone accept and fall in love with Jesus, it’s worth the effort!
    Generally falling in love with Jesus is something we all want to share and hope our friends and family can find what we have,

  • Thank you for this post.
    We have built a whole tradition around the evangelism of a lost world that seemingly walks into our churches on Easter. When in reality, it is simply all of our own people showing up at the same time.
    You hit the nail on the head with this comment, “Most of the congregations in America have become low expectation churches. They expect little of their members, so they get little commitment.”
    I am afraid we have asked far less than scripture demands of those who are already of our fold. May we seek to turn the tide on this issue instead. Imagine what a deeply committed, highly functioning body could do for the kingdom!

  • I completely understand your perspective, Christy, because I have been there as well. But I have found churches, including the one I’m in now, who are focusing on the needs of folks, both their physical and spiritual. No church will do everything right because it is full of imperfect folks, but I have been encouraged by the fact that I have found the “real deal” in multiple churches with various styles and methods (all conveying the same Gospel message). Certainly, there are churches who are off message and off ministry, but there are plenty doing things right.
    What it took for me was to recognize my own faults and lack of participation, then I was more patient with others and their faults. I also had to learn that it is o.k. to ask for help (financial or otherwise). Often my pride prevents me from doing just that. It’s hard, but being part of a local body of believers really helps us grow in ways we cannot on our own. In fact, working through some of the strife can be some of the most life changing times, for us and others. Just a thought. I am praying you can find that where you live, maybe even this Sunday.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Scott –
    I loved my ministry at Azalea. Thanks for stopping by.

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