I listened to Andy Stanley's Easter message yesterday and it was way better than mine (surprise, surprise!). Thankfully, the same Holy Spirit was at work in both our gatherings! Stanley described the moments and days following Jesus' crucifixion. Hope was lost. None of Jesus' followers... not Peter, not John... none of them were sitting outside the tomb on Sunday counting down the moments till Jesus would walk out alive. Instead they were mourning. Instead of remembering Jesus' teachings, his promise to rise again, they were broken and afraid. They believed the crucifixion was the end. Oh how wrong they were!
You know the rest of the story. On the third day, Easter Sunday, the women went to the tomb and found nothing but grave clothes and an angel. Jesus was not dead. Jesus was and is ALIVE! And because Jesus rose from the dead, Easter was not the end, it was just the beginning. The same is true for us today. So many of us pastors, especially us church planters, view Easter as the pinnacle. If we can just put on a great show... If we can just send out the perfect mailer... If we can just come up with a catchy sermon title. We put so much effort into this one day.
Well, for good reason I think. Easter celebrates the day that changed everything! Easter celebrates and commemorates the day Jesus rose from the dead. That's a big deal. And if we can leverage that day and it's popularity in culture to maximize the number of souls that will hear the gospel, I'd say that's well worth it. But remember the lesson the disciples learned. Easter is not the end. While our mission starts with the gospel, our call is only completed when disciples are making disciples.
And that's the challenge I'm personally facing. I'm trying to remind myself as hard as we've worked, as much as we've poured out, this past Sunday was NOT the end. It was only the starting point for making disciples who make disciples.
As we gathered together on Easter Sunday morning it was amazing to see as many folks gathered for our pre-service prayer time as we had attending our gathering just a month or so ago. There was a buzz of excitement. We were in our new location (praise God for that), our volunteers had their new shirts on, it was resurrection Sunday! Then I took the greeters around to show them their spots and go over their jobs and people began showing up. We saw some old faces, but we saw so many new faces. People had invited friends and family to come and hear the story of the resurrection. Connections that began at our Community Dinners and continued at our Community Game nights were coming to fruition as people walked through the doors. God was answering our prayers.
To be perfectly honest, there was nothing extraordinary about the worship gathering on Sunday. We sang, we taught the Scriptures, we fellowshipped. But the Holy Spirit was not only there, he had been present and working for some time. He had been preparing hearts, challenging mind-sets, working to bring the unchurched into the body of Christ. It was amazing. We had a record attendance on Sunday and don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly excited about that! But what I'm more excited about is the fruit that has come from Sunday... because remember, Easter is not the end!
During the response time on Sunday a teenage boy came and told me he wanted to give his life to Jesus. A first time guest cam and told me he had always heard a message of "works" taught. This was the first time he had heard a pastor preach on "grace." The Holy Spirit was moving on resurrection Sunday but that was not the start. The Holy Spirit has been at work for some time and is continuing to work in ways we see as well as ways we don't see. And the fruit is coming.
Tonight we re-launched our Intentional Community. We had been gathering all of our IC's together the last 3 weeks and tonight was the first time we met separately again. If Easter was not the end, what would God do through our IC? Would people really respond to the call to be the church instead of simply attending church? Well, when I got home about 15 minutes before go time there were already multiple people at the house. By the time it was all said and done we had at least 15 adults and at least 10 children gathered in the name of Jesus, fellowshipping, praying and talking about the life changing power that comes from the resurrection.
Easter is NOT the end. Our call is to make disciples. As we continue saturating Tacoma with the gospel and striving to live effectively as Intentional Communities, we are clinging to the belief that the Holy Spirit of God has gone before us, is with us and will continue to move and work long after we're gone. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for our city.