There is the usual anticipation and excitement with church leaders as we begin Holy Week and lead toward Easter Sunday. I have noticed at Church Answers and social media an unusually high number of questions about preparation for Easter Sunday. Of course, by this point, most of the plans are complete; it would be difficult to make major adjustments right now.
But you can address seven critical issues before the weekend arrives. Allow me to address each individually.
- No activities are more important than prayer. Church leaders sometimes get so busy with activities that they are too busy to pray. Don’t let that happen to you. Get alone with God and pray for this weekend. Gather with others and pray. Don’t get so caught up in the human preparation that you neglect focusing on the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
- When the weekend comes, make certain you are celebrating the resurrection yourself. These words from a pastor last Easter were sad but powerful: “I was so caught up in the plans and activities and crowd that I didn’t worship God and celebrate the resurrection myself. I feel empty today [Monday after Easter].” Don’t let this happen to you.
- Lead your leaders and members toward worship more than activities. They too may be caught up the activities and the crowd. As you focus more on worship, you should lead them to do so as well. Perhaps you can send them an email reminder to that effect.
- Remember who usually shows up on Easter Sunday. Contrary to popular opinion, Easter is not usually the day many unchurched show up. That reality has become more pervasive in recent years. Christmas Eve is now the greatest opportunity to reach the unchurched. Easter is typically a “family reunion.” The members who regularly attend one or two times a month (or year) show up on Easter along with the more active members.
- Have a simple way for people to sign a guest or connect card. The more information you request, the fewer cards you will receive. Ask for their name and email and tell them you will follow up with a brief thank you email. Consider making a donation to a local ministry (like $5) for every card returned.
- Follow up. You will be tired after the services. Still, you need a plan to follow up with guests quickly. The easiest way is to send a brief email. Thank them for coming. And ask them if you can do anything to serve them.
- Take time to pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in the lives of those who attended. God could very well be working in convicting ways in the lives of those who attended. Pray for a great work by Him. Ask some members you know to be faithful prayer warriors to pray as well. Did I mention how important prayer is?
Easter is coming, church leaders. I am praying for you. I am praying for your churches. I am praying for God to work with conviction for those who attend.
Thank you for serving on the front lines of ministry in the local church.
You are my heroes.
Posted on March 26, 2018
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.
More from Thom
The problem with the Church of Christ denomination is they don’t focus enough on Paul. If they did they wouldn’t believe baptism is necessary for salvation and they wouldn’t believe you can lose your salvation.
50 out of 52 Sunday morning sermons focused on Paul. I believe that is more than enough.
Then they aren’t of the church of christ denomination because if they were preaching and teaching from the Pauline epistles they wouldn’t believe in baptism as a requirement for salvation and they wouldn’t believe you could lose your salvation.
You need Holy Week and Good Friday first. I know it is deemed “Catholic” meaning evangelicals must be opposed to it. However, when you hear the gospel account on the Sunday before (Palm Sunday) and the way the same people went from shouts of Hosanna to “crucify him” you realize how fast opinion can change and what a mob mentality can cause. Also, on Friday, there is no mention of a resurrection because the people in Jerusalem that Friday did not know what would happen, if anything. You need Holy Saturday (the Sabbath) when Jesus was dead but ministered to the spirits in prison, (Sheol/Hades) although creed uses descended into hell. Then after all that has occurred, you get the resurrection. It is then that I learned what the faith was about.
Hopefully the cross and the resurrection is being preached and taught more than once a year.
One denomination that claims not to be so rarely mentions anything from the gospels that some of their members may have never heard anything about it.
Okay Mark, you got my attention; what denomination are you talking about? I’m guessing if they don’t celebrate it they have their reasons and aren’t afraid to let the world know.
churches of Christ who focus far more on St. Paul
Good Friday is an invention of the Catholic church. Try following the sequence of Passover week and not Holy Week as defined by the Catholic church.
Sunday: 10th day of Nisan, the Passover lambs are set aside, and Jesus, the Lamb of God, enters Jerusalem.
Thursday: 14the day of Nisan, the Passover lambs are traditionally slaughtered “between the evenings” or later in the afternoon. Jesus is crucified and dies on the cross at about 3pm. Jesus and His disciples celebrated their Passover meal the previous night, but it was still the 14th because Jewish days started at 6pm.
Friday: 15th day of Nisan, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread and the “high Sabbath day” mentioned in John 19:31
Saturday: 16th of Nisan, the regular weekly Sabbath.
Sunday: 17th of Nisan, first day of the week following Passover, feast of first fruits, Jesus rises from the grave.
This chronology not only fits Passover week, but it fits Jesus’ prophecy of “3 days and 3 nights” in Matthew 12:40.
Just something to think about.
In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul tells us the Lord’s supper is done in remembrance of our Lord’s death on the cross. Other than that there is no guidance or instructions to the church to set aside a particular day to celebrate His resurrection or for that matter to commemorate His birth. In the church age we don’t have feast days or holy days or any other special day like the Jews did under the Law. On the other hand I guess each church has liberty as to whether they choose to celebrate these events. I mention this because it seems so many unnecessarily get stressed out over Christmas and Easter.
But when you don’t get to celebrate anything dealing with Christianity, it makes for a miserable experience. I grew up with it.
Who says you don’t get to celebrate anything? Under grace we can set aside a special day of the year to celebrate the resurrection, we can celebrate it every Sunday or we can celebrate it every day! The same thing with Christmas. Religion says you are obligated to celebrate Christmas and Easter. Grace says you can partake of the Christmas and Easter celebrations, but you don’t have to and you are no more or less spiritual whether you do or don’t! Religion will put you in bondage, but grace sets you free.
Some churches don’t have any mention of resurrection on Easter or Resurrection Sunday.
Jesus did not rise from the grave on Easter Sunday. He rose from the grave on the first day of the week following Passover. The formula for determining Easter Sunday was implemented in order to disassociate the resurrection from the Jewish feast of Passover, even though Passover is all about Jesus (Lamb of God). Furthermore, “Easter” is derived from the name of a pagan goddess.
I’m sure many of you will scoff, but this is factual information.
I’m currently reading a book about spiritual warfare by Jerry Rankin and it really has me thinking about Satan’s subtle attacks. Why do we use the name of a pagan goddess to describe the resurrection of Jesus? I don’t think that idea came from God! Why do we engage in activities, such as Easter egg hunts, that have literally nothing to do with Jesus?
I’m not saying don’t take advantage of the high attendance, but can’t we do something as simple as calling it Resurrection Day without invoking the name of a pagan goddess or engaging in fertility cult activities?
Tom Nash wrote (March 7, 2017): Full Question
My daughter-in-law says the name of the pagan goddess “Ishtar” translates to “Easter” in English. How can she make this statement?
Your daughter-in-law is mistaken.
In Jeremiah 44:15-17, the people of Judah reject the prophet Jeremiah’s message in preference to their idolatrous worship of an entity called “the queen of heaven”—apparently the pagan deity Ishtar. Commentators seem to be in general agreement that Jeremiah’s “queen of heaven” is “Astaroth” or “Ashtaroth”—“Astarte” in the Septuagint, which is the Greek Old Testament. Literally, “Astaroth” means “the moon.” The moon was a Sidonian idol worshipped by the Phoenicians and worshipped as Ishtar by the Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians. In nature worship, the sun and the moon were considered the king and queen, respectively, of the celestial heavens.
Some people have inferred that “Easter” is the English derivation of the Greek “Astarte,” but there is no linguistic or historical basis for this. In addition, the English word Easter is said to have derived from an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess named Eostre. This theory was based on an incorrect conclusion by St. Bede the Venerable about the etymological origins of the English month that coincides with spring and the celebration of Easter, “Eosturmonath.” But, as Anthony McRoy, a fellow of the British Society for Middle East Studies, notes, there is no historical basis for this derivation. He notes that St. Bede himself said that his conclusion was based on his interpretation rather than a generally held position or proven fact.
Also, there is no doubt that the focus of Easter for St. Bede and English Christians in general, was and is Jesus, the Passover Lamb who died on our behalf and rose from the dead.
Indeed, in most European countries, the name for Easter derives from the Greek word Pascha, which itself is derived from the Hebrew Pesach, i.e., the word “Passover.” Thus, the term “paschal sacrifice” refers to Jesus’ one aacrifice, and “paschal candle” is another name for the Easter candle.
So where did the word English get their word for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection? McRoy notes there are two main theories, both of which are plausible: “One theory for the origin of the name is that the Latin phrase in albis (‘in white’), which Christians used in reference to Easter week, found its way into Old High German as eostarum, or ‘dawn.'” The other is that “Eosturmonath simply meant ‘the month of opening,’ which is comparable to the meaning of ‘April’ in Latin. The names of both the Saxon and Latin months (which are calendrically similar) were related to spring, the season when the buds open.”
In either case, the claim that the English celebration is rooted in pagan goddess worship simply has no historical basis, even if some anti-Catholic polemicists have gotten a good deal of mileage out of it.”
This has nothing to do with being anti-Catholic, I’m simply pointing out origins.
Easter derives from the English goddess of the dawn, Eoster (pronounced the same way). This traces back to German paganism and the German word for east or dawn, as you pointed out. Jacob Grimm supported Bede:
“We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ostarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart [c. 800] ([contemporary of Charlemagne]). The great christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of [Old High German] remains the name ôstarâ; it is mostly found in the plural, because two days (ôstartagâ, aostortagâ, Diut. 1, 266) were kept at Easter. This Ostrâ, like the [Anglo Saxon] Eâstre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. All the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical “pascha;” even Ulphilas writes paska, not austro, though he must have known the word; the Norse tongue also has imported its paskir, Swed[ish] pask, Dan[ish] paaske. The [Old High German] adv. ôstar expresses movement toward the rising sun (Gramm. 3, 205), likewise the [Old Norse] austr, and probably an [Anglo Saxon] eástor and Goth[ic] áustr.4 (Italics in original)”
The direct connection between “Easter” and “Pascha” was not made until Tyndale and Luther began translating the Bible. It’s fairly easy to see how they would draw from the linguistic traditions of their respective countries.
Some will argue that words change meaning over time but that does not explain the continued presence of pagan symbolism during “Easter.”
If modern day “Easter” has nothing to do with paganism, then why is it scheduled in relation to the spring solstice, which pagans worship? Why is it associated with special bunnies and eggs, both symbols of fertility? If “Easter is just another word for “Passover” then why don’t we celebrate it during Passover?
Or, here’s a thought, avoid all the confusion and just say, “Resurrection Day!”
I totally agree with Christopher. Yes! For Christians it is Resurrection Day! It should take some courageous Christians to advocate name change, Easter to Resurrection Day.
Very helpful thoughts, these, though you really can’t prepare for Easter Day without truly celebrating Good Friday. Very simply, there is no Easter without Good Friday. The best preparation for the empty tomb is Jesus being lifted up on the cross and there, in His death, destroying the power of sin and the devil.
I particularly appreciated your reminder to pray and to worship – so easy to get trapped in the planning – during these days leading up to this all-important weekend (Good Friday to Easter Day) and in the weekend’s times of worship.
Again, thank you.
Great point, Keith. Thank you.
God started revealing some great declarations to me this morning…..while in the shower! I couldn’t write fast enough after I dried off……..I’m serious. “Wanted: JESUS….DEAD AND ALIVE” based on Romans 5: 12-19.
On Good Friday….the devil said…”Oh, Yes!”
On Easter Sunday…the devil said, “Oh, NO!”
On Good Friday….Jesus said…”It Is Finished.”
On Easter Sunday….the Father said….”We’ve only just begun!” etc. etc. etc.
This is a joke, right?
Another thing to add is to make sure to update your Facebook page and Church website with information easily findable for visitors to know when your service starts and what to expect when coming to your Church on Easter Sunday.
Thank you Thom. Happy Easter!
To you as well, Bobby.
Very much needed reminder! Thank you!
Thanks so much, Dwight.
Your thoughts and comments are right on. It shows your heart. I appreciate this post very much, especially since this will be my last Holy Week and Easter with the congregation I am serving. I will be retiring in June. Blessings on you! May you and your family have a blessed Holy Week and Easter!
Thank you, Hal. May this next phase of your life and ministry be incredibly blessed.
Thom, Thanks for your heart, wisdom and a timely post! It really means alot to this pastor! I truly feel like you are in the trench with me…
I am honored to serve those in the trenches like you, Michael.