Easter Sunday brings special joy in many ways. It’s wonderful to see so many gather in worship to rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and remember his redeeming sacrifice for us.
Most churches see a boost in attendance on Easter, which brings a special joy to church leaders and members. For many congregations, it’s the one Sunday when the pews are full. It’s an exhilarating sight.
But in the following days, as the wilting flowers are collected, church leaders wonder–aloud or silently–how many of those “Easter Christians” will return and become regular attendees. They fear that most won’t. And in the succeeding weeks, as attendance indeed tapers off again, some leaders and members feel an uneasy sense of dissipation, of rejection, of failure.
But I think that’s the devil whispering. That kind of thinking seeps from a faulty concept of the true mission of the church. You see, many church people measure success primarily upon the number of attendees/spectators in the weekly gathering. So, Easter success is ultimately measured by the number of Easter visitors who return and become regular attendees.
Though regularly gathering with fellow believers is certainly a good and biblical practice, it’s not the ultimate mission for the Body of Christ. It was not the central focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In fact, as far as we can tell, most of Jesus’ contacts with people were one-time encounters. He did not base his ultimate success on how many people he could convince to physically gather at a particular location for umpteen weekends in a row.
Jesus showed us–and calls us–to share his love, and make disciples. Sometimes that will happen through repeat interactions and ongoing relationships. And sometimes it will happen through one-time encounters–when God places us in just the right spot, at just the right moment, to plant a little seed of faith that will later grow. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”
Was Easter Sunday a success this year? If you had a hand in lovingly planting a seed of faith, you succeeded beautifully. Even if you never see the growth that follows. That’s God’s part.