Can you remember this time last year? We were in the middle of Lent and just hearing rumbles about a virus from China. You were probably making normal preparations for Easter Sunday. Then, all of a sudden, everything shutdown! We were not worshiping in person at all, quickly having to figure out how to worship virtually, wrestling with the idea of not having in-person Easter services for the first time in our lifetime, and hearing about something called spiritual communion.
Now, a year later with Easter fast approaching again, we’re having to prepare again in new ways. Doing Easter “the way we’ve always done it” is not an option this year.
As you make final preparations for this glorious day of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, let me encourage you to have “intentional worship,” a principle we teach in our church revitalization seminar, Revive. Having intentional worship is simply being purposeful in how you show care and relate to your visitors before, during, and after worship. It is worshipping the Lord as your church normally does but in a way that first-time visitors feel they belong, can participate well, and are followed up.
With this goal in mind, here are a couple of ideas to help you have more “intentional worship” this first post-2020 Easter.
1. Have Hybrid Hospitality
Just like any other Easter Sunday, expect visitors. In fact, there may be more visitors this Easter. More people may be searching for hope. However, this year we will be having both in-person and virtual worship options for the first time. Having both options is commonly called “hybrid worship” as you no doubt already know. It is important to intentionally welcome these visitors, engage them in the worship, and follow up with them both in person AND virtually. In other words, make sure you show hybrid hospitality to your visitors.
With all that goes into planning a big Sunday including last-minute details, it’s easy to forget hospitality to visitors who show up in person let alone online folks! Yet, it’s important to be hospitable to all these visitors because it may be the only time they choose to check out church. It’s cliché, but you do only have one chance to make a good first impression. Your efforts will be worth it if even one lost soul is saved as a result of being warmly welcomed, included, and followed up (Luke 15).
Here are some questions to consider as you prepare:
What is your plan to greet and make welcome your Easter guests both in person and online? What is your plan for both to be included in our participatory Anglican worship? It’s important not to assume a guest knows how we worship. Even if they are a long-time Anglican, your church has unique ways of doing the liturgy. Finally, what is your plan to collect your guests’ contact information to hopefully assimilate them into your church family? Just hoping they come back is not a plan. Well, not a plan that will work anyway!
2. Declare Death is Defeated – Boldly!
Too many people have lived with too much fear of death this past year.
For non-Christians, fear of death is expected. In our evangelism training video series, Rediscovering Evangelism, I tell the story of praying with my friend Marty to be saved. He was having heart surgery the next day, and the doctors said he had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery. When I asked him how he felt about that, he replied, “I’m scared.” Then I asked him if he didn’t survive if he knew where he was going to go. He said, “No, that’s why I’m scared!” Uncertainty about where you go when you die is certainly something to be fearful of.
For Christians though, fear of death should not be an issue. The clear message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that death has been defeated! Speaking about Jesus the author of Hebrews writes, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV). Believers in Jesus no longer have to be a slave to the fear of death!
We know with certainty that in Christ we rise to new life and live forever with him. We’re told in Romans 6:3-5 (NIV), “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
I contend that Anglicans should have even less fear of death. As sacramental Christians, we celebrate the defeat of death every time we partake of Holy Communion! The liturgy we participate in every week couldn’t be clearer:
“Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and when we had sinned against you and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent your only Son Jesus Christ into the world for our salvation. By the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary he became flesh and dwelt among us. In obedience to your will, he stretched out his arms upon the Cross and offered himself once for all, that by his suffering and death we might be saved. By his resurrection he broke the bonds of death, trampling Hell and Satan under his feet. As our great high priest, he ascended to your right hand in glory, that we might come with confidence before the throne of grace.” (BCP 2019 pg. 132-133 emphasis added)
If you’re an Anglican believer in Jesus, and you are living in fear of death, you’ve not been paying attention!
So, this first post-2020 Easter Sunday, boldly declare death is defeated to all who worship with you. I guarantee there will be people worshiping in person and virtually who desperately need to hear or be reminded that, by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins, they no longer need to be slaves to the fear of death! And if you’re the preacher, don’t be afraid to proclaim it and give an invitation for people to believe, “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:13-15 (NIV)