Resurrecting church attendance after Easter

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

After Easter, some pack away their religion until Christmas or even the next resurrection celebration, but an annual dressed-up trek to church on Easter Sunday, without allowing this miracle to radically change our lives, misses the significance of the resurrection and is a far cry from what happened following the first Easter.

While church attendance patterns now show growth from Christmas to Easter, decline sets in following Easter break and continues steadily downward until summer vacations end.

The opposite was true in the first century church. Easter gave new hope to those who had been in the pits following the crucifixion. They now found their faith renewed because their Lord had risen from the grave.

The responsibility of evangelizing the world, given by the risen Lord to his followers in their post-resurrection meeting with him (Matthew 28:18-20), must have seemed impossible to achieve.

Nevertheless, 2,000 years later, millions meet in churches weekly to worship because these commissioned ones were faithful to their assignment.

Those early believers should be examples to us all. They had none of our present tools for outreach, and not one church growth expert among them, but they were far more effective in multiplying their number than we are today.

Without printing presses, radio and television ministries or even church buildings, they planted thriving churches over their world and by the end of the first century, had grown from 120 to approximately 10 million.

Churches exist in our time because that unlikely company was convinced death had lost the game and they set out to spread the good news.

We're indebted to them for their example of faith under fire even under the threat of martyrdom.

In some ways, the early church was powerless. The members were so strapped for funds, they had to sell their belongings and pool their resources to survive.

The first century church was also without political power.Neither the apostles nor their members could pull strings in high places in order to gain government favors and there is no evidence that they ever tried to do so.

The church did have evangelistic fervor however, that enabled them to overcome all other obstacles.That is the area where many churches are weak today.

Some church growth is now nothing more than trading sheep. Dissatisfied members go from one church to another and there are enough floaters ever on the move to keep the average attendance about the same.

If these unhappy travelers would give their energies to telling the good news of the resurrection instead of finding fault with each other they would forget their complaints and communities would benefit from their dedication to the real purpose of their existence.

A troubled church once sent its pastor to me for advice in helping them put away their differences and get on the grow.

He said he couldn't understand why he and his members couldn't solve their problems since they had been working on them for so long.

"Has God done anything good for you?' I asked.

Finally, he remembered a church teen had found a new life through faith in Christ.

Then I knew what to tell this perplexed pastor.

"Go home and focus on what has happened in the life of this teenager," I said.

Let's get back to the example set by those early Christians who were more interested in people than programs, a strategy that will resurrect any church any time ... even yours.

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich. He has written more than 20 books and has had articles published in most major Christian magazines. He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.

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