Saturday, March 08, 2008

Church Publicity

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.

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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?

3 comments:

CHARLAX said...

easter
easter

in this Hollywood environment when everyone is concentrating on the death of Jesus on the bloody wooden thing the CROSS…this season please try to think a different way the same old way of Christians under Nero and the Caesars who repeated that they saw HIM risen
They nailed fishes to the doors of meeting halls and fed the brothers and the sisters everyone
The empty tomb should be the focus of us all the STONE was rolled away after having been so guarded by the soldiers of the fortunes of the war
Eye believe an ANGEL placed his foot against the STONE and set the stone to roll
The Lord Came Forth
This is my happy Easter Sunday
He is raised now from the Dead
He will come back soon to earth from sky of HEAVEN to complete the by and by. To claim the world he made.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

This year is one of those years when the Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha (Easter) FIVE weeks later than the rest of Christendom. Why? Well, some of us follow the unreformed Julian (Julius Caesar commissioned) calendar, which is now 13 days later than the reformed Gregorian (Pope Gregory commissioned) calendar, AND we still follow the rule laid down in the early Church councils that Jewish Pesach (Passover) must be observed BEFORE Christian Pascha (Easter). This year Pesach runs from April 20 to 26, for seven days. Therefore, our Pascha has to fall on the first Sunday AFTER that, and it too lasts for seven days. In fact, this year Pascha starts on April 27, and the "liturgical day" lasts a full 7 days, a period called "Bright Week", during which the normal weekdays are suspended and every day is "Sunday" until the sunset of the following Saturday, when the second Sunday of Pascha begins (Sunday of Thomas).

So, as you can see, brother, we Orthodox are spared having to see the atrocious way that the resurrection of Jesus sometimes gets advertised in mainstream Christianity, at least in those years when our celebration of Pascha does not coincide with Western “Easter”. Yet, even holy apostle Paul writes, "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." (Philippians 1:18 NIV) I suppose this can also be applied to those who try to draw in a crowd with such things as Easter Egg hunts, and mega-worship spectacles. After all, it’s still the Father who is drawing people to Christ, whoever the fisherman are, and whatever their nets look like.

The important thing, then, is not that the resurrection of Jesus is believed as a formal idea and celebrated on a particular day with festivities and entertainment, but that the resurrection of Christ has become the reality in which we live, every day, and every moment. If this is true for us, then whatever else the Church happens to do with "Easter", nothing else matters.

Jim Swindle said...

Thank you, Romanos, for the enlightening comment. Excellent thoughts. I'm very glad if someone finds life in Jesus, by whatever means.
And, of course, the important thing is not whether we celebrate on one day or another, but whether we trust the risen Lord Jesus and have life through him.