Jesus, huh? Well, See You Later!

April 13, 2009

I hope everyone had a great Easter: big church celebrations, Easter egg hunts, dinner with family, visitors at church.

I made up a new postcard to send to church visitors who show up on Easter. You can borrow it if you like…

What? We do hope they’ll come back for Christmas, right?

How about that ridiculously tiny church, huh? It’s real. Some crazy Dutch guy built it a hundred years ago. Now it sits in someone’s pasture and people get married in it.

Ever since there has been Easter, there have been Easter ‘squatters,’ those people who, for one reason or another, see fit to get their butts to church on Easter, and maybe on Christmas if they’re in town and at no other time of year. Random people showing up for the big show is a tradition that dates back all the way to the first Resurrection Sunday…

“When [the women] came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to Steve.” Luke 24:9

All right, it doesn’t exactly say that, but it does say this…

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and the others.” Luke 24:9

Whenever I need a random guy for a story, I turn to Steve. He’s always at the ready to drop into a perfectly good story for no reason. So you see, Luke records conclusive proof in a vaguely defined pronoun that the disciples had random people show up for that first Easter.

Christians have an interesting relationship with these folks. Easter is when churches really roll out the red carpet for visitors. The minister gives his best sermon. The musicians play the best songs. The church serves the best food. The church spends lots of cash on egg hunts and petting zoos and moon walks and all kinds of fun ‘Easter’ junk, which won’t be there the next week. And the regulars smile and greet the visitors and try to believe that some of these people will come back, before Christmas.

That’s a pretty nice racket these guys have going on. They show up only on the best Sunday of the year! Then they skip out on all the mediocre Sundays – the youth Sundays, the student preacher Sundays, the after Christmas when no one shows up to church Sundays.

But, changing a life habit is hard. It’s a real interruption to your routine to cut your Sunday sleep short. (Although I contend that 10:30 is plenty late to still allow sleeping in.) It’s tough to get the kids dressed and out the door an extra day. It’s tough to tell Little League Coach that no, we won’t be playing a game on Sunday morning. It’s tough to not take those hours to do housework or eat pancakes.

Sometimes, I wish I lived in a small town. Small towns have nothing to do except go to church! A city has everything to do besides go to church.

Some of us have been going to church so long, it’s hard to understand how hard it must be to give up that time. And some of us actually get paid to be at church, so that makes it super easy to be there!

Okay, I’m done defending them…

We got a little burned last year. We went all out for Easter. We sent out a month-long campaign of mailers to a few thousand people. We rented a space at the community center. We showed up the week before to rehearse. We spent all of our money. A few families showed up. A few families makes a big difference in a tiny church. We couldn’t be anything big and fancy, but we played our best music, gave them our best preaching. We visited with them. We fed them brunch. We followed up with them that afternoon. We brought them cookies. They all said they’d be back.

Yeah right. Thanks for getting our hopes up.

And this year, we got rained out. We were going to be in the park. Sometimes I think I’m cursed.

It’s not like we only give you cookies the first time you visit. We have food every week! What do you want?!

I know we’re all good Christians and we’re all going to say that we’re so glad to see these visitors hear the good news, they need all the exposure they’re willing to get, etc. We would all gladly give up our seats for these people. We are gracious about their kids not knowing how to act in church. But how do you really feel about it? How do you feel about getting lip-service from a visitor who acts all excited about your church, and then they vanish forever?

I’m not mad. But I can’t help being disappointed, both for my people, myself and for the visitors, because I know what they’re missing. I can’t help but feel our ‘Easter squatters’ reflect on me as a vessel of God. Surely if I was someone great, they’d come back! They’d make time, they’d write a big fat check, right? I honestly don’t know what we could have done better to get them to come back, other than be a humongous church with an amusement park. Maybe I could have whitened my teeth…

Are these people deliberately just renewing their ‘fire insurance’ policy for the next six months, or are they just not aware of what they’re doing?

Is Easter the biggest opportunity for evangelism, or do we just spend all our cash thinking it is?

Hey, no amount of Easter squatters can take away my Easter, no matter what. I hope that’s the same for you.