This coming Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter – perhaps better understood as "Resurrection Sunday." Some believers will celebrate with meals and family get-togethers. Some will gather with the largest church crowds they've seen all year; others will join small groups to rejoice quietly in places where gathering is life threatening.
I wonder, though, if we sometimes celebrate the resurrection one Sunday a year and really don't let its truth affect our lives. Here are six steps Christian leaders might take this week as we focus on Easter and live out its truths.
1. Spend one day in prayer meditating on what we do. I remember well the first time I watched a church member die. I sat by her bedside until her body relaxed after its final breath. I was just a 20-year-old pastor, and I wasn't sure what to do next. What I did understand, though, was that something significant had just happened. A believer had entered heaven – and I realized then that ministry deals with the eternal. Take time this week to read the narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection in the gospels. Meditate on them. Weep over them. Rejoice in the victory. Because of the resurrection, what we do really does matter.
2. Reach out to another church leader who has seemingly lost hope. They are all around us, frankly. Hurting. Alone. Wounded. Hiding . . . and hopeless. They are like the bewildered followers of Jesus post-crucifixion but pre-resurrection. Some will preach this coming Sunday about resurrection, but the story will mean little to them. Their present-tense pain overshadows any sense of future-tense hope. Find one of these leaders, and be a model of resurrection hope this week. Take somebody to lunch. Offer a prayer. Be a light to somebody wandering aimlessly in the darkness.
3. Give somebody a second chance. Most of us have a Simon in our life – someone who once loved us, but who hurt us deeply. Sometimes no repentance has taken place, and no reconciliation has occurred. At other times, though, our Simon has been broken over his/her wrong, but we remain angry and distant. Our own pain becomes an idol. If that's where you are, take a page from the resurrection story. Simon Peter denied Jesus, but Jesus never took His eye off the disciple (Luke 22:61). The angel at the open tomb made certain Peter heard the truth of the resurrection (Mark 16:7). The fallen fisherman, still one of the family, had a second chance. Give somebody that same chance this Easter season.
4. Serve with renewed vigor, even if you seem to be serving among the dead. Many of us have been there. Nobody seems to be listening to your teaching. Months, or even years, have passed since someone showed significant life change through your ministry. Sunday is more a chore than a day of worship and celebration. If you've lost your passion for the people you serve, let the truths of the resurrection sink in. God is not dead. The days seemingly in the tomb only make the day of resurrection that much brighter – and that day will come. Even if you think you're the only person in your congregation doing so this week, serve the Lord with resurrection steam. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response of your people.
5. Teach the Word clearly and concisely. This task might seem almost too simple, but here's the point: we have an opportunity this week to preach the gospel to many who haven't heard it in awhile (perhaps since last Easter) – so we simply must do it well. Our job is to communicate the Word, not impress with our knowledge or oratory skills. Just because we can preach an hour doesn't mean we always should. So, study hard this week, but present the Word in a way that the smallest child or the oldest adult understands it. Our responsibility is to point all people of all ages to the resurrected Lord, not to us.
6. Let God surprise you. Sure, the disciples heard Jesus talk about His death and resurrection. They knew what He had said, but still they were surprised – and ultimately filled with wonder – when the resurrected One stood before them. The resurrection reminds us that God operates outside of our boxes. He is hardly limited to our boundaries. Frankly, it wouldn't hurt most of us if God did something in our lives not already planned in our church bulletin.
Church leader, let the resurrected Lord surprise you with His glory this week. He is risen indeed!