Easter 2007. Our first production.
With some encouragement and inspiration from some pastor friends of ours, we arranged to have our Easter service at Mount Vernon this year, George Washington’s estate just outside of DC. The event was called Easter at Mount Vernon, and we had it in a nice-size auditorium in the visitor center, complete with powerpoint, speakers, microphones, bulletins, decorations, and a detailed schedule. We even had brunch at the Inn at Mount Vernon following our service. We made reservations for 50 people, and the Lord filled those seats!
So much went into pulling off this event. Our fellowship mustered together all its resources for weeks in advance to do this. Everyone was involved, and it was a huge success! A couple people responded to the invitation to accept or re-dedicate their lives to the Lord!!! And many seeds were planted and relationships formed. Simply awesome and simply unbelievable!
But this was our first production. Don’t get me wrong, every Sunday is a “production” — the house is cleaned, breakfast and lunch are prepped and served, coffee is made, worship songs are selected and printed off, the message is delivered and recorded, activities are planned, children’s church is held, and there’s clean-up. But our usual Sunday looks a lot different than our Easter service did. And takes a lot less effort — I spent a good 10-20 hours/week for weeks in advance getting ready for Easter.
When our fellowship was talking through the details of Easter the week before, we were a bit stressed and a bit perplexed — there were a lot of details like strategic ushering, planning the deliverance of communion, preoccupying kids, deciding what announcements to make, scripting out transitions, and figuring out who and what goes where when. In the middle of all this, a woman in our fellowship exhorted us, “Don’t worry! Churches do this every Sunday!”
Then it hit me. She’s exactly right. Churches do this EVERY Sunday. I couldn’t even imagine. I noticed the toll that planning Easter had taken on me — I was not able to spend as much time during the week with people in our fellowship; I was distracted from praying for people in our fellowship as much as I normally do; and I had to put on pause things like strategizing ways to best meet the spiritual needs of people in our fellowship and surrounding community. How do churches do productions every Sunday and still prioritize prayer, individual spiritual development, discipling, relationship building, and outreach?
It seems to me that many churches don’t. Many churches focus on the production at the expense of the more critical activities. It’s an easy trap to fall into — I noticed our fellowship had to actively resist falling into that trap while we prepared for Easter. We started to get really stressed about speakers not working; doors being locked; lights and projectors fritzing out; instruments not cooperating; etc. And then we would just stop and re-focus ourselves by praying as a group.
This Easter service taught me several things (which I’ll blog more on later). I’m not anti-production, but I am anti show. Our Sundays are not a show. They’re real. It’s not about what we look like, it’s about why we’re there. The speakers might not work, an instrument might be out of tune, a kid might disrupt us. But we don’t need speakers, perfect instruments, or tight-lipped kids to love God and love people. There is a benefit to having organized services, but not at the expense of relationships, discipling, and prayer, or joyful hearts and quiet spirits.