Today's weekend Houston Chronicle has an advertising supplement listing Easter celebrations. Some are fine, but many seem to have forgotten that the purpose of the day is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and to proclaim that all who trust in him can likewise have eternal life.
The back cover is an ad for a six-location Baptist megachurch. Most of the page is a rectangle with the words, "Easter at [name of church]" and in smaller letters, "Even the Bunny Knows..." Then in still smaller letters, "Join the [name of church] Family for Easter."
Inside, one megachurch advertises "18 powerful services! 6 Easter egg hunts!" They assure us that everyone is invited. Everyone is welcome. "We invite you to start living with no regrets this Easter!" Fine print mentions that the pastor and his wife are the authors of a New York Times best-selling book about living without regrets.
A Lutheran church advertises its Easter Fest 08, with worship at 9 and 10:30 AM and "25,000 eggs! Find the golden egg. Hunts for ages 0 - 12 years. FREE food! Games, Easter bunny! And More!"
Another church will have an Easter egg hunt, games, moonwalks and activities on Saturday morning, then on Easter will have worship services and a pancake breakfast.
Other churches advertise their music; whether a brass quintet or a gospel recording artist or a band. Episcopalians (Anglicans, for those of you outside the US) will have a liturgical extravaganza for the entire family.
One group of Methodists will have a candlelight labyrinth on Saturday night. Another will have a petting zoo on Saturday morning.
What's wrong with all of these ads? At worst, they are forgetting the message of new life in Jesus. At best, they are thinking that fleshly means will work for getting people into God's kingdom. They are thinking they can change lives by being more popular than the world. The apostle Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation, first to the Jew and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) Paul's message was that we are sinners, without hope unless we obey God's command to repent and to believe in Jesus, but that if we trust Jesus, we'll be new creatures in him.
How about your church? Do you believe in the power of God through the gospel? Or do you think you have a better idea? What do you offer a dying world? New life in Jesus? Or Easter eggs, self-help and excellent music?