Why Christians focus on the wrong people at EasterLatest News Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
By Ed Galisewski
It’s the eve of another Easter season, and as usual churches are gearing their worship services toward the un-churched. It’s a time we Christians set our sights on non-believing friends and cook up ways to invite them to a glorious Sunday service. This troubles me as a Christian.
In the church world, Easter is our second-best chance to get non-believers “into the building.” It’s the one time of the year we’re urged to unleash our inner Evangelist and go for it! Truth be told, Easter and Christmas are statistically times when people are more willing to say ‘yes’ to faith. (So, brother, sister, don’t give yourself too much credit — it’s the event that’s helping you seal the deal.)
It’s an in-joke among Evangelicals that performing the ‘Easter invite’ is a pressurized formality. And for the sensitive Evangelists among us, that pressure resurges with every approaching Sunday. Hear me clearly; I am not saying that inviting people to Church is a bad thing to do. I am simply suggesting that It would behoove us to take a moment to think about what we are doing and consider our motives.
In all this inviting, it is time Christians rethink their target audience. Our focus shouldn’t be on which holiday is best to invite people to faith conversations — but whom to invite. The people we should be targeting at Easter aren’t the un-churched as much as the de-churched.
Exactly who are these de-churched people, you might ask? They are those who have been so disaffected and disillusioned by church that they have walked away for good. If you live in America, chances are you’ve tasted faith in some shape or form. There are far more de-churched people in our culture than those who are un-churched.
Many of us were introduced to a faith community in our childhood. How that experience affected us probably determined whether we stayed in church, rejected it outright, or took a break from it indefinitely.
In an impossibly fractured body of believers, shouldn’t we reach out to those most wounded by the religious machinery we’ve made of Christianity? Shouldn’t we try to right some wrongs done in the name of God, and bring wounded believers back into a caring, healing fellowship?
If we do, we’ll move much closer to the real meaning of Easter. It’s not just an Evangelistic holiday. It’s a Holy Day best honored when we act in the likeness of our Savior — that is, to humble ourselves and serve sacrificially for the sake of others.
As a lay minister, I’ve spent hundreds of hours in conversation with “non-attending” Christians. I’ve had to conclude this group is growing fast for all the wrong reasons. Not surprisingly, the church is the main culprit.
If we’re gathering at Easter truly to celebrate Jesus’ life and sacrifice, how can we possibly do it with such disrespect for each other? How can a willfully divided body be an advertisement for a Savior’s healing, unifying sacrifice? How can our deepest bond — found at the cross — be neglected day after day in favor of petty denominational divisions?
Here is the real dirty secret; churches have become “brands.” There’s a level of competition among denominations — and even churches within denominations — that communicates the message, “We do it better than they do.” I can’t fault any believer for ditching church when that’s the driving mentality.
Sunrise services at Easter are actually the one time when interdenominational gatherings are most visible. Why set apart just one day to put aside our secondary differences? The problem for us is every other day of the year.
I say let’s relieve all the pressure of Easter. I hereby declare Tuesdays as “Christian Outreach Day.” Why not? Evangelizing (literally, “telling good news”) isn’t about inviting someone to a church ceremony. It’s about reaching out personally and even sacrificially so a relationship can start. Only then should we Christians think about proclamation — the notion of relating to someone the beauty of a Savior.
Instead, we evangelicals mostly have it backwards. We ask people to commit to a place (church) and a concept (Salvation) before we even know them. So, why not Tuesdays? And why not lunch or coffee to personally connect with those baffled by the idea of church?
Or, what about Wednesdays? I hereby declare each Wednesday “Connection Day,” for a Christian to meet with a fellow believer from a different doctrinal stripe. Maybe then our senseless rifts will dissolve and translate into Jesus’ prayer for us: “May they be brought into complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:23, New International Version).
In my own life, all Christian divisiveness ends here and now. I wrote the book, A Simpler Faith, to address our infighting and to urge all believers to gather humbly at the foot of our Savior’s cross. There we can acknowledge the three core elements of Christian faith: the Creator of life (the Father), the Savior who gives eternal life (the Son), and our Guide through life (the Holy Spirit). The unity of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is a fitting paradigm for the unity to be celebrated in a diverse body of believers.
At the Easter cross we are made one in Him. And we demonstrate that oneness by reaching out in love to a hurting world and to each other. Our faith really should make it that simple.
For more information and to order a copy of the book and the accompanying leader’s guide go to the website, www.asimplerfaith.com.