March Madness did not happen this year. As a lifelong University of Kentucky fan, I confess that I am actually grieving this turn of events. I never imagined that this could happen. The arenas are silent.
In just a couple of weeks, churches all over North America are faced with the unimaginable reality of empty churches on Easter. In this time of enormous religious freedoms, the silence in churches on April 12, 2020 could be deafening.
The reason is not due to the loss of religious freedom or some political move to close churches. The reason is a tiny, microscopic virus that brought the most powerful and wealthiest nation in history to a standstill. COVID-19.
For the past few weeks pastors and church leaders have been scrambling to figure out how to shepherd their flock when gatherings of more than 10 people were basically illegal. Bringing people together could serve to spread the virus and endanger the lives of the weakest of our congregants. And so we all were forced to become experts in technology, social media, and live-streaming.
But Easter is almost here, the highest of Christian celebrations. We have always had a huge Easter service. Whether contemporary services with loud bands and cool, hip pastors preaching in jeans or traditional services with the awe-inspiring organs and pageantry, Easter was our “Superbowl,” our “Final Four.” Things just got real.
Can we postpone Easter?
In 2 Chronicles 30, King Hezekiah does the unthinkable - he postpones Passover. Because the previous king had led the people of Israel into idolatry, no one would be ceremonially or spiritually ready to celebrate the Passover. So King Hezekiah bumped it back a month.
I am not trying to lay out a Biblical argument for postponing Easter, but I am challenged to reconsider how to best fulfill the purpose of Easter this year. At Easter we celebrate a risen savior, a conquered grave and message of forgiveness and hope for a fallen world. This year we are going to have to get creative about how we celebrate this as a church. No pageantry. No bands or orchestras on stage in front of a packed house. No sunrise services followed by pancake breakfasts in the fellowship hall.
Every church will find a way to celebrate this most important event in history. Most will do something that involves streaming a service online. Many will offer guides for families to celebrate in their home. Some will offer “drive-in worship services” in their parking lots. But in all likelihood, church buildings will be closed on Easter 2020.
But that doesn’t change the truth of the Gospel or impact of the empty tomb! Let those empty buildings be a reminder that the tomb is empty and the Lord is risen. Let the Church declare not just from every church building but from every house that Jesus is alive! Empty church buildings do not mean the Church is dead, it means that Church is out caring for and serving those who can’t get to a building. It means we have a bigger job than putting on a service, we have a message of hope and peace to share to a very scared and anxious world.
And then, when we are able to gather again in sanctuaries and auditoriums across the nation to worship together, that day, no matter what month it is, will be Easter 2020! That day we will sing and lift up our hands and maybe even hug each other again. Just as King Hezekiah postponed the celebration of Passover so everyone could participate, we will postpone our Easter celebration until everyone can join in. And what a celebration it will be!
And maybe, after the dust settles, we will embrace a new normal. Everything will be different from now on. Just as air travel was never the same after 9/11, gathering for worship will never be the same. And maybe that is a good thing.
But I still miss March Madness.
Converge MidAtlantic Easter Week Events
Wednesday Night Passover Meal, April 8 Converge MidAtlantic is blessed to have Dennis Karp as one of our congregational leaders. Dennis is inviting everyone to his family’s Passover dinner online. He will explain the symbolism of the Seder meal and how it points to Jesus. You can join on Wednesday, April 8, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm through the Son of David website. You are also encouraged to eat a traditional Passover meal either before or after the simulcast. Chosen People Ministry offers great Passover recipes and other ways to prepare.
Good Friday, April 10 Converge is calling its people to a movement-wide day of prayer and fasting from sunrise to sundown. In addition, our national office will provide live, online prayer times at 9 a.m. in each time zone. Anyone can join us for 45-50 minutes of seeking God, aligning our hearts with His and praying on behalf of our world, as well as for our nation, state and community leaders. Register here to join.
Holy Saturday Devotional, April 11 Saturday before Easter commemorates the day that Jesus lay in the tomb. Sometimes called Holy Saturday, Easter Eve, or Black Saturday, it is traditionally a solemn day of waiting and preparing for the celebration of Easter. Executive Minister Brian Weber will post a video devotional on the Converge MidAtlantic Facebook page to start your day remembering Jesus.
15 EASTER IDEAS FROM THE CONVERGE MIDATLANTIC TEAM
Whatever you do this Easter, preach the Good News!
Easter will be celebrated AGAIN on the first weekend we gather in-person, regardless of the date.
Ask people to send photos holding a “cardboard testimony” (homemade sign) or 30-second-or-less video explaining how Jesus changed their life. Create a video using the clips. Your people miss seeing each other.
Record one or more “table talk” scenes at a family’s home as they discuss the pandemic crisis and how Christ has given them faith, hope, and victory.
Put together a direct mail piece to send to the homes in your community to encourage your neighbors and invite them to watch your online services (USPS Every Door Direct Mail, limit 200 to 5000 pieces).
Produce Church-in-a-Box. In a small box or bag, you can put together interactive elements for families to have a worship time at home. The activities can even correspond with your online service. Families can pick up boxes from the front porch of the church during the week, depending on the Stay-at-Home guidelines in your state.
It might be thought-provoking to do the opposite of what typically takes place on Easter. Instead of a single large production, you can do multiple simple interactions with a devotional, song, and prayer each day of Holy Week.
Contact your local TV and radio stations to see if you could broadcast your service. One Converge church will be on 5 local stations at different times for 60 minutes uninterrupted for only $1000! Perhaps prices are lower because many businesses are buying time right now.
Have an Easter egg contest. Families can submit their best photos of decorated eggs to social media.
Show off your Sunday best. Your congregation can submit family photos in their Easter outfits to social media. Again, your people miss seeing each other.
Deliver Easter crafts or candy to neighbors’ doorsteps with a note inviting them to online church, being careful to follow the Stay-at-Home guidelines in your state.
Provide a phone number for people to respond to your online service for prayer or to receive Christ as Savior. Have staff members and volunteers ready to receive the calls.
Change the road sign in front of your church to invite people to join online or other important information.
Encouraging Easter giving by designating a percentage of the offering to an effort that serves the community during the pandemic.
Send out instructions to families on how to have a Christ-centered, Passover meal on Wednesday or Thursday evening. Visit www.chosenpeople.com/passover or join the Converge MidAtlantic simulcast online.
Looking for more? Church Marketing University produced The Ultimate Easter Ideas List with over 700 creatives ideas for you to consider. Click Here.
Jason Allison, Church Strengthening Director
Jason is the pastor of Spiritual Formation at a new church plant, Press Church in Powell, Ohio. Originally conceived and operating as Terra Nova Community Church, Pastor Jason led this community for over a decade at various locations throughout Delaware County. Also, he serves as the Director of Church Strengthening for Converge MidAtlantic.