Good Friday and Easter
Pastor Brent Whitefield was recently at a one-day conference in Portland for Life Explored, the video series from the creators of Christianity Explored. One of the takeaways of that experience was a challenge to embrace an updated philosophy of evangelism, more specifically, to recognize that non-Christians need to be persuaded to consider Christ rather than simply invited to do so.
And this fits beautifully with the overall biblical witness. Recounting the efforts of the earliest evangelists and apostles, the book of Acts uses a stunning variety of words to describe the church’s ministry of extension, e.g., urge (13:43), reason (17:2), explain (17:3), convince (17:4), debate (15:2), describe in detail (15:3), proclaim (16:17), persuade (18:13), testify (23:11), appeal (15:32), and warn (20:31).
In this so-called post-everything world, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism. We must indeed be “shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
So, as you consider who you might persuade to join you on Easter Sunday, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, I want to provide a schedule, so you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Thursday (4.6): All-Church Prayer Gathering
On the week before Easter (please note: not the week of Easter) we will gather in Heritage Hall for one hour (7:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.) and appeal to God to bring salvation to some who will join us over the holiday weekend. The new birth is God’s work, but he instructs us to pray for people everywhere and of every background and status (1 Timothy 2:1-4). We may water the ground and cast the seed, as it were, but God is the one who grants life to the spiritually dead. And he has promised to do so through our prayers. Like the all-church prayer gatherings we’ve held before, the tone will be one of anticipation, as God’s children from junior high on up call out to the God who hears.
Friday (4.14): Good Friday Services
On Good Friday, we will have two identical services in the Auditorium (6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.), wherein we’ll worship, participate in communion, read the Scriptures, and linger on the death of God’s perfect Son. The tone will be somber, but not hopeless. Dark but not defeated. Geoff Grant and I met this week to review the service and I know that it is going to be edifying and faith-strengthening. The music alone will be stirring. We’ll even have a harpist from our own church who will help to establish a mood of longing. The brief message for the evening will focus on the benefits we (undeservedly) gain from Jesus’ cross-work. The apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question in Romans 7: “Who will deliver us from this body of death?” His answer in the very next verse: Jesus Christ our Lord!
Sunday (4.16): Easter Services
There is a reason that history is divided into B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, “In the Year of Our Lord”). That’s because no one else has left a mark on the world like Jesus Christ. Jesus did what no one else has ever done: he really died—every single organ completely shut down and his dead body hung on a tree—he was buried, but then he came back from the dead. He rose again. He conquered death, hell, and the grave so we would no longer have to fear any of the three (or anything else, for that matter). On Easter Sunday, we will look at the resurrection from the apostle Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15, and we will explore this theme: What Only God Can Do. All three services (7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 10:45 a.m.) will be triumphant, joyful, and exuberant, as fitting a celebration of the One who scoffed at death and put an end to our guilt and shame.
As you can see, you will not want to miss out on anything we have planned. We’re going to exalt Jesus Christ, and revel in the new life he came to provide. Please join me next Thursday at 7:00 p.m., for our prayer gathering. And meanwhile, please be thinking about who you will persuade to join you on Easter weekend.