Churches, You Become What You Celebrate. Here’s How

“The service was good and the baptism was quick, but what I experienced at the party changed me.”

Shirley was in her 70s, and I’ll never forget her words. She came to Christ because her grandson invited her to his baptism.

Shirley talked about how the entire church celebrated with her grandson after the service. “It was when they brought out the birthday cake to signify his new birth that I began to cry. The church began to sing. I had never experienced such joy, and I knew that I wanted to have this joy.”

You become what you celebrate. Whatever a church celebrates regularly will inevitably become rooted in the culture of the congregation.

Celebrate the right things. A church can celebrate any number of milestones, people, or anniversaries. Recognizing these things is not necessarily wrong. Churches that celebrate the fruits of evangelism, however, tend to have a culture that produces more passion for reaching others. Celebrate inwardly, and your church will have an inward culture. Celebrate outwardly, and your church will have more of an outward focus. 

Celebrate with the community. One of the best ways to demonstrate Christian joy is to show unbelievers and the unchurched how a fellowship of Christ-followers celebrates. First, don’t party behind closed doors. When your church has a large celebration, let the community know and invite them to join in. Second, find ways to celebrate with the community. Some people will never come to a church, free food or not. The church, however, can go to community celebrations. Learn about community-wide events, such as festivals, shows, and fairs. Be a presence there. Work with event organizers and ask them about the biggest needs. Offer to serve them. 

Celebrate the right way. Don’t just throw a big party without some measure of planning and organization. Always assume that unchurched people will be present at church celebrations. Clearly explain the purpose of the celebration and why the event is significant. Use this time to share the gospel. Have a team in place to help follow-up with anyone who expresses an interest to know more about Jesus or the church. 

Celebrate with excellence. Few people enjoy a celebration that is done halfway. Unbelievers and the unchurched are less likely to see the joy of Christ in a ho-hum church event. The only way to multiply a culture of evangelistic celebration is to celebrate with excellence. Live a life that exemplifies Christ and throw a memorable party that celebrates this life.

Celebrations—by design—focus on the moment at hand or on a past event. However, they are also leading indicators of where a church is going. Examine what an individual congregation celebrates, and you will likely uncover the future culture of that church.

Posted on January 6, 2021

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5 Comments

  • (Roy) DeWayne Wyatt says on

    This morning, I started looking for documentation for helping churches in developing and promoting a culture of evangelism. I hit the jackpot with three articles (I am certain there are many more on Church Answers): “Church Leaders, Let’s Talk About and Do More Intentional Evangelism,” by Sam Rainer; “Ten Realities for Regathering Churches,” by Thom S. Rainer; and, now, this one, “Churches, You Become What You Celebrate. Here’s How” by Sam Rainer. There are great ideas in the four ways to celebrate: 1) the right things; 2) with the community; 3) the right way; and 4) with excellence. Thank you for these four articles.

  • Please do not see any celebration as less time for the sermon. I have seen preachers who were going to have a baptism at the beginning of the service be obviously upset because it was cutting in to the sermon time. In evangelical churches where they do not have confirmation or reaffirmation, that is likely the only time in life that mere mortals will ever be in front of the congregation.

  • Great post. Thanks

  • OK – here is a question. We are just 5 years away from being 100 years old as a congregation. We want to celebrate. I am concerned that in celebrated this milestone, we will be celebrating our past. It is a glorious past, but the present realities are very different from “the good old days.” How can we honor and celebrate the past without venerating it? Would like to hear some thoughts on this.

    • Hi Dan – I am a denominational leader, following over 20 years as a pastor. This is a real tension in celebrating anniversaries. I encourage churches to find the “threads” in their church’s history and identity that have been consistent, so that what is celebrated in the past can be connected to the present and future. For example, if your church is active in community ministry, what did that look like 100 years ago, and what does it look like now? If your church is committed to children and youth, what is the “then and now.” Hope this helps…