7 FAQ’s About Visiting Church Easter Sunday

Immanuel

Visiting a church for the first time, or after not having been for a while, can be intimidating at times. You often don’t know what to expect. You’d love to ask, but you’re not sure who to ask or even if your question sounds silly. It’s not. Probably others have the same question as you.

I was asked a question recently about what someone should wear Easter Sunday if they visited Immanuel. It was such a great question, because it made me think. What if someone didn’t come, because they didn’t know the answer? I get that. It would almost be easier not to visit than to wear the wrong thing. Less complicated. The safe choice.

This person asked. And, so I was able to answer.

It made me think some other questions people may have about visiting a church the first time. I thought of some of the more common. This post actually originated in one of our lead staff meetings. Someone suggested, “Why don’t you compile a list of of the top questions people may be wondering, but haven’t asked, and write about it?” Okay, here you go.

Keep in mind, this is written for Immanuel, but I suspect most will be true for many churches you’d visit Easter Sunday. And, I’m nearly positive about this — most pastors would prefer you ask rather than wonder and not visit at all. So, if you don’t know, ask. Please.

Here are 7 frequently asked questions about visiting Easter Sunday:

What should I wear?

I posted this answer on my Facebook recently. At Immanuel Baptist Church, you’ll see all styles of dress. Some will wear suit and tie and dresses and hats for women. Some will wear jeans and t-shirts. We may even see shorts if the weather is warm enough. To answer your question, choose an outfit you already own, one you feel comfortable in, and join us. (No speedos please, but that’s just a personal request, otherwise, you’ll be fine. :) )

What will we do? What can I expect?

We will have a fairly typical worship schedule. We will sing some songs, have a short greeting time, I’ll share a message (my intent will be to share hope), we will sing some more. We will attempt to have a blend of songs and music all ages can enjoy. And, yes, in full transparency, and in case you’re wondering, we will receive an offering. Our offerings support the full range of ministries we offer in the church, community, and around the world. You are not required, however, to participate during this time unless you choose to do so.

Will you embarrass me?

I certainly hope not. It will be a primary goal not to do that. I don’t personally like to be embarrassed when I visit somewhere new, even in a church — and I’m a pastor — so my goal is to create an environment that is comfortable for all. You WILL NOT be singled out as a visitor. We don’t make visitors stand, raise their hand, or even fill out a card if you choose not to do so. (You certainly won’t be asked to sing a solo, unless you sing really, really loud — and then you’re on your own. :) )

How long will the service last?

Slightly more than an hour. I’d love to say an hour, but sometimes the service ends up being an hour and 5 or 10 minutes frequently. At the most, you’ll be with us for an hour and 15 minutes. (Walking to and from the car time and all.)

What time should I arrive?

That’s a great question. And, I’m really trying to help when I suggest you get here a few minutes early. Maybe even as many as 10 or 15 minutes early. It takes a little while to make your way through our building, especially if you have children to check into our children’s areas or this is your first time. We especially want you to find a seat where you are most comfortable (some want up close — some want in the middle), and you’ll feel more acclimated to the room if you have a few minutes to adjust before the service begins. We have a special Easter bulletin you can be reading while you wait for the service to start.

Do you have something for children?

Absolutely. Birth through 5th grade have their own activities designed especially for them. They will enjoy a worship experience that will engage them at their level. Of course, we don’t keep you from bringing children with you in the worship service if that is more comfortable on a first visit, but our experience is that they truly do enjoy the service designed for them. Either way, we love when entire families join us Easter Sunday.

Can I only come one time? Really, for what am I signing up when I come Easter Sunday?

There’s no obligation beyond Easter Sunday. It’s a “free look”. Promise. Being honest, we do ask you to fill out a contact card and, if you do, we will follow up with you. And I hope you do. I love seeing who God brought to us as visitors. I love meeting visitors. But, even if you fill out a card, we allow you to tell us how you want to be contacted. Phone, email, social media, or visit — or none — you tell us. We won’t put any unfair pressure on you to ever come again. We hope you will, and we’d love if Easter triggered that desire in you, but that’s your call — not ours.

I hope that answers some questions of those who think about visiting our church. I’d be honored if you are our guest.

What other questions do you have? Seriously, I’d rather you asked. 

My Top 7 Goals to Accomplish on Easter Sunday

Easter-Graphic

Easter. It’s a time of year when churches have an opportunity second only to Christmas in attracting visitors. Hopefully all of God’s churches will be packed Easter Sunday. That’s my prayer.

We’ve had months of praying, planning and preparing. We’ve done all we can do, but God is ultimately in charge of all that happens in our church — and yours.

I’m often asked, however, what I hope to accomplish on Easter Sunday — such an important day in the life of any church. It could seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much in one day, so what do I, as a pastor, have at the top of my list of goals for Easter Sunday.

I shared a guest post with Lifeway’s pastor blog about 7 ways a church can prepare for Easter. In this post, I want to share what I actually hope we accomplish on Easter Sunday. Only 7 things. If we accomplish nothing else, and there are probably many other things we will accomplish Easter Sunday, I hope Immanuel Baptist does these 7 well.

Gospel is shared – Duh! But, after we’ve made all the preparations, it would be like inviting people to a turkey dinner with no turkey if we don’t share the Gospel. Once we’ve worked hard to gather people into a room, we must not neglect to share the simple truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again and by Him and through Him alone we can be saved. We must give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel — if for the first time or one of many other times. The Gospel is Good News for all people. All times. After all, that’s what we are celebrating Easter Sunday.

People feel welcome – I hope everyone who enters the doors of our church feels welcome. Regardless of what they are wearing, what side of town they came from, what they do for a living, their education status, whichever “side of the tracks” from which they arrived — let them feel the genuine love and kindness of God’s people. There will be those who don’t feel “worthy” to be in a church Easter Sunday (because they don’t yet understand than none of us are apart from grace). What better day to “love one another” than Easter Sunday!

Next is highlighted – I want people to leave knowing where the church is going next. For example, we will be studying some of the Psalms in our next series. People need to know that — in hopes that they’ll want to return.

The church is presented well – This is the Sunday, even more than others perhaps, where I hope our people are willing to sacrifice for visitors. I told our deacons Sunday night I hope they are the ones willing to move to the center of an aisle first, to make room on the ends of a row for visitors. I hope Immanuel people help visitors in the parking lot, even if they’ve never before worked in the parking lot. I hope people who seem to be looking for the bathrooms don’t have to look long before someone helps them. I hope the building is cleaner than ever. (That’s why we have a cleanup day scheduled Saturday.) Just as when visitors come to your home for the first time, this is the time to be ready to receive guests warmly. I also want to answer as many questions as people may have about the church, so we are printing a special bulletin designed to give insight to visitors about who we are, what programs we offer, and easy places where they could quickly become a part of Immanuel.

Our people are encouraged – I hope people who call Immanuel their home church — even if they’ve been there over 70 years (and some have been) or just arrived in the last few weeks (and there are lots of those), will leave encouraged by what they experience Easter Sunday. I hope there will be a God-honoring pride that we did all God would expect us to do to present an atmosphere conducive for people to ultimately hear the Gospel. I hope they’ll be challenged for the days ahead and willing to sacrifice and serve even more, directly as a result of what God allows to happen Easter Sunday.

Children are safe and have fun – If parents entrust their children to our care they should be assured their children are safe and well-protected. In addition, I hope children leave telling their parents how much they enjoyed being at Immanuel this Sunday. Children have a raw honesty about them. They don’t always know the words to say, but parents know whether or not this is a place their kids will be welcomed. Children are often a huge door to the families eventual active involvement in a church.

People leave with hope – Second only from hearing the Gospel, I hope people leave our Easter services with a sense of hope. Actually, that’s my goal every Sunday. The world can be a scary place. There will be lots of brokenness among us Easter Sunday. As followers of Christ, we believe we hold the answer to hope for the world. It’s in the Resurrected Savior — whom we are celebrating — the King of kings and Lord of lords. I hope people don’t leave more confused or feeling guilty about their life, but rather they live knowing their is A Way, there is an answer — there is HOPE — in Jesus Christ!

Easter Sunday is coming. I’m praying for my pastor friends, for the church of Christ, and for those who will enter our gathering places this Sunday, joining the Church in Easter worship.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

This is a guest post by Jason Clark. Jason is a singer/songwriter, author, speaker, and pastor. Jason’s passion is to know the love of God more each day. He lives to see a generation step into their identity as sons and daughters of the King and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Prone To Love is available now: www.jasonclarkis.com

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Jesus pressed his disciples asking, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus responded, “…You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.”

Can you imagine how excited Jesus was about Peter’s revelation? Everywhere Jesus went, every breath He ever took, every smile, every tear, every gesture, every word was meant to reveal the Father. He said, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well (John 14:7),” and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me… (John 14:11)” Jesus life was an expression of the Fathers perfect love. But the disciples, and everyone else for that matter, never seemed able to really get it.

Then Peter has a revelation. He see’s and describes Jesus and in so doing meets His Dad!

What Jesus says next is amazing!

“And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.”

Don’t miss this. Peter, in relationship with Jesus, meets the Father, and then is given his identity.

“You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

Can you imagine? Peter is given a perspective of how the Father saw him, what he was created for – his life’s purpose.
Jesus wasn’t finished.

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:15-19)

Not only is Peter given his identity, he is given his inheritance. “No barriers Peter, no measurable limits. You will live from the measureless revelation of heaven. You will have all the authority I have Peter.”

“Keys to open any and every door.” Or you could say it this way, “Love trumps any and every need.”

If we want to know who we are, if we want to know what we are called to, if we want to know what we have access to, all we have to do is say yes to Jesus – the perfection of our Fathers good love.

One revelation of the Father brings more clarity regarding call, promise, identity, destiny, power and authority than a lifetime of anything else including bible study and good messages – “You didn’t get this from a book or teachers… I’m not suggesting bible study and good messages aren’t valuable, I’m simply noting they should always lead to Jesus and reveal the Father.

“Who do you say that I am?” It’s an invitation to hear and know the Father and it’s an invitation to discover our identity and inheritance.

And Jesus is still asking today.

And Jesus is still revealing the Father today. He is still releasing the keys to “any and every door.” He is still empowering sons and daughters.

Jesus, may we know You, and in knowing You know our Father, and in knowing our Father become sure as sons and daughters.

What Is Your Jesus New Year Resolution?

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One of my closest friends and I hosted a Christian radio talk show for 17 years. He was out of town one morning for Christmas break and I had to do the show alone. As I was preparing that morning, I read Mark 5.

The story of the woman subject to bleeding has stuck with me for several weeks and let to a New Year’s resolution I have been mindful of ever since. It became my “Jesus resolution”.

To save you time looking up the story, I have pasted it here:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

(Mark 5:24-34 NIV)

The story prompted a thought that I shared that morning on the radio.

What am I going to do with Jesus in the New Year?

Here’s what came to me from this story.

Seek Jesus more passionately.

Once this woman heard of Jesus she began to track Him. She became a “Jesus groupie” of sorts. She knew Jesus was her only hope.

That’s the way I want to pursue Him in the New Year.

Cling to Jesus more tightly.

It did not matter to the woman that she was not supposed to be in the crowd. Her physical condition should have kept her away, but she was willing to risk everything to “touch His garment”. Cultural expectations couldn’t keep her from Jesus.

I want that kind of commitment to Christ in the New Year. Regardless of what is politically correct, just give me Jesus.

Claim Jesus more readily.

When Jesus turned to look for the person who had touched him, the woman came forward. She could have left. She had received what she wanted. She didn’t have to stick around for public attention, but she was willing to declare her faith publicly. In times of hardship or times of blessing, she followed Jesus to make Him known.

This next year, I don’t want to miss opportunities to tell others about the faith I have in Jesus Christ!

Experience Jesus more expectedly.

The woman was healed! Her faith was rewarded. She went from being an embarrassment to the crowd to the star of the day. Honoring Christ came with great rewards. He blesses those who place their complete faith in Him, to the point that we are still considering her experience with Christ today!

This year, I want to see Christ bigger than ever before. I expect to see Him magnified greatly, as I place my total trust and faith in Him and watch expectantly for His appearance in my life!

What are you going to do with Jesus in the New Year? What’s your Jesus resolution?

5 Suggestions for Finding More Christmas Joy

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. With the equivalence of hope, joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post come from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others - I see this so many times. You thought others would respond as we respond. We expected them to react to our gift differently. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We shouldn’t hold others to expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us.

Increase your investment in others - if we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, that we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with others. We are to give and extend grace, as it was given to us…this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us in the previous point.

Examine your life/Address known sin – You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you know. Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ.

Change your perspective – Choosing to be greatly joyful is not based on circumstances, but comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith. Joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. Choose joy. Choose again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize – If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of your faith. Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story. You can trust Him. Look again at the manger…Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God. I can’t find joy in that! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss

Christmas tree gifts

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health and Christmas is a just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

In a recent Christmas message, I shared some suggestions for dealing with the emotions of Christmas loss. I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and some of my own, I’m offering some practical ways to overcome that sense of Christmas loss.

Ideally, Christ is the answer (and in the message I make that clear). Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical things to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

Here are 10 ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss:

List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances…children moved out this year…whatever they are…write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain…write them down.

Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve…even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.

Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.

Take care of your physical body- Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us that loss is universal and that other people are struggling with you.

Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.

Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.

Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.

I shared one more suggestion, one I believe is the most powerful of all, in the Christmas message. It’s this: We have to learn to worship in tears. Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

You can find all my messages on my Vimeo page at vimeo.com/ronedmondson. This message is titled Obstacles to Christmas Joy: Loss.