For Christians worldwide, Easter Sunday was about the hope brought through the resurrection of Jesus. For church leaders, I hope it was the same.
It had been five years since I preached on Easter Sunday. Since moving to Nashville, I’ve been an attendee on Easter and not the preacher. To say I was excited to once again be on the platform at The Fellowship to proclaim “He is risen!” would be an understatement. Alongside of that, to say that I was not nervous to do so would also be an understatement. Leading the congregation on any Sunday is a huge responsibility. Knowing the congregation would be larger, visitors would be present, and everyone is expecting a better-than-normal service – it is a mixture of emotions. Spiritually, we prepare and are excited. But it is a bit unnerving to think that we are called to such a lofty task. So, we preach, we lead, we sing, we teach, and we invite people to surrender to Jesus. And then… it’s over. So how do you look back at Easter Sunday to process what happened? Here’s a few bits of advice.
1. Take a personal inventory.
As the preacher for the day, I must ask myself a simple question: Did I try to personally impress everyone? I think it is an important question for everyone leading on any Sunday. It does not matter if you are a musician, nursery volunteer, Bible study teacher, worship leader, or the pastor – you need to assess your personal motivations. It comes through looking for places where we pointed to self rather than Christ. It is in those little comments that make us seem clever, funny, intelligent – the self-serving moments must be ferreted out and dealt with.
2. Assess your ministry readiness plan.
When a couple decides to marry, an unfortunate mistake often happens. They spend months planning a wedding event and very little time preparing for a lifetime of marriage. It is fun to plan a wedding. It is a celebration of true love… and there’s cake! Preparing for marriage is work. So is preparing for ministry. Take time to debrief with your church leaders about how well everyone did on getting ready for guests and involving them into the life of the church. If you only did the first and not the second, then get hustling right now to remedy that problem. Ministry must include Easter but not stop at Easter.
3. If you were on the platform, then listen to or watch to the service.
You need to personally evaluate how you communicated during worship. Whether you were the preacher, the worship leader, or making the announcements, go back and listen to how you communicated. (If you don’t have the resources to watch or listen to a recording of the service, then ask a trusted friend in attendance about the following issues.)
I will admit: it is sometimes painful to listen to ourselves. We hear all of the flaws in our message, off-key notes in our singing, and flubbed transitions. But those are not the primary things to look for in your evaluation. You must ask: Did I help the congregation engage in worship? It is what matters and it is sometimes difficult. It is okay to assess your skill and discern your level of surrender to the Lord and commit to something deeper. Take note of how you lead people toward Jesus and learn to avoid the behavior that is more for show.
4. Do not base the entire year of ministry on it.
Yes, it was probably your high-attendance day of the year. Yes, many will try to set it as the mark to eclipse for next Easter. Yes, it is important to have engaged as many people as possible with the gospel on Resurrection Sunday. NO, do not base everything on what happened on Easter.
I say this because there is more emotion involved on Easter because it is a holiday. People are immature (including those of us who are church leaders) and we get hyped-up for Christmas and Easter. Base your ministry on the gospel and not on a holiday. Easter Sunday worship services are times of celebration and remembrance. Then again, so are Monday mornings and Thursday nights. Each day should hold the promise of the gospel in it. Teach this to yourself and your church.
5. Listen to what you said.
On days that we expect a larger than normal crowd, we are tempted to adjust what we speak about. Specifically, we are tempted to talk more about ourselves than we talk about Jesus. There is nothing wrong with talking about our church and its ministries. But it should never overshadow the Head of the church and the reason for her ministries.
It feels a bit of a razor’s edge that I’m using with this point. But it is a critical lesson for each of us who serve in the church. We do not serve for our self-propagation or self-preservation. Any mention of the work of the church should still have Christ at the heart of the what and why.
6. Take it easy on yourself and your team.
Chances are… something went wrong. It did for us. At our Mt. Juliet campus, the computer controlling the on-screen song lyrics for the congregation locked up on the first song. It had to be rebooted so the screen went black. Our worship leader, Hunter Sparkman, sang on. He fed the words to the crowd one line at a time. The tech crew rebooted the computer and had it ready for the second song. Stuff goes wrong.
Children fall in the nursery and bump their heads. Ushers taking the offering miss a pew. (Tragedy!) Pianists’ fingers miss the proper key. Pastors tell silly jokes which result in awkward pauses while no one laughs. (Guilty.)
But were you really banking all of your hopes on personal skill, dexterity, and computer technology. No, you were not. You were hoping for the message of Jesus to be delivered through the Word of God and for the Spirit of God to move in all of our hearts.
So, big and small details did not go perfectly. Welcome to reality. Give it to Jesus and let Him sort it out. Meet with your team and thank them profusely for their love of God and people.
Easter is a beautiful day. Allow its rich meaning to take root in your heart and it will do so even more in the hearts of those you lead.