Friends, is Jesus Lord of your holidays? For many of you, the answer is yes!
Jesus says the two great commands are to love God and to love your neighbour. So I see people making Jesus Lord of their holidays, when they continue to read the Bible and say their daily prayers while out of regular routine in relaxed mode. Or when they take the chance to read and reflect on a solid Christian book they’d not normally get to.
I also see Jesus as Lord of their holidays when instead of only ‘doing their own thing’, they go out of their way to visit someone who needs encouragement… When they include others in their relaxing activities… Or simply if they do what other family or friends are interested in, even if it doesn’t quite ‘start their motor’ or they’d just like to ‘veg out’.
And I see it when Christians still go to church elsewhere, when they are travelling and away from their regular church family, even though it’s not always quite like home.
I see it when Christians give up days and even weeks of their holidays to promote the gospel of Jesus. They serve on beach mission, or Christian camps or Summer School, or Kids Club. And it’s not just Christian uni students on their long breaks. That’s impressive enough, given they generally pay a wad of cash to go and serve! But it’s also workers giving up scarce annual leave, and even parents serving in their precious holidays.
But have you thought about staying home at certain key times of year, so as to be ‘missional’ with your local church? Right now I am reflecting on Easter.
Let me be frank in expressing a very deep ambivalence at the large number of people who leave our church, and many others, to attend Christian conventions and festivals at this time of year. In Australia, we’re privileged by an extra long weekend with the public holidays. And getting away for excellent teaching, excellent music, the fellowship, the atmosphere, in a big crowd of God’s people across the denominations really has something going for it.
I and my family members have been very happy to attend at least one local convention weekend at other times of year, every year for the last two decades! But I struggle deeply with the impact such activities have on our church at Easter.
Every year, dozens of our most committed Christians are absent at one of the two best times of year (the other being Christmas) for welcoming numerous visitors who arrive voluntarily at our churches at Easter.
This year attendance was almost halved at our two evening congregations, even though we had visitors there (and far more in the morning). It should be (and was) a day of resurrection-filled joy.
But at night, the whole ‘vibe’ just struggled, as people couldn’t but see big gaps in the pews. At one congregation, for the first time ever, we could not offer refreshments afterwards, because we could just not find volunteers to staff that ministry of hospitality. At all congregations, we struggled to fill rosters because of absences.
There were some great encouragements: some students from English classes attended, some from Iran and Iraq at a Christian church for the very first time. And one member was surprised – pleasantly – to see a neighbour accept her invitation to come to church at Easter.
Could it be that for Jesus to be Lord of our holidays, we need to ask how Paul’s command needs to be applied to what we do on the Easter long weekend? He says,
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5)
What follows are some ideas to help ‘make the most’ of the Easter opportunity, that I hope still respect people’s freedom to enjoy Christian activities elsewhere if they wish. Tell me what you think.
- We are considering combining our two Easter Sunday evening services into one, perhaps at the special time of 6pm, to suit a special weekend. This faces honestly the reality that people from these congregations will travel away for all sorts of reasons at Easter (e.g. some of our members are uni students away from home). It helps with halving roster needs for that night. Already there’s been considerable interest in this option from initial discussions.
- I’m hoping Christians para-church movements will continue to consider how they can serve bet the local churches at all time of year, especially in being missional. Therefore I hope they will reconsider carefully even their strong traditions at Easter and whether they ought to schedule activities in competition with church activities that can hinder opportunities in local outreach. (There are other long weekends available.)
- I’m encouraging those going on holidays, especially to Christian festivals or conventions, to consider also how to be missional locally at Easter. For example,
- Prepare and leave at church in advance food suitable to store for use at post-service refreshments. Or donate hot-cross buns for use.
- Ensure you volunteer for prior awareness-raising efforts like letter-box dropping.
- Attend our Maundy Thursday night service, and leave extra early Friday despite the inconvenience, to ensure connection with your local church family before going.
- Consider staying home every second or third Easter, to take advantage of one of best, but very rare natural chances that remain in our culture to invite guests to church, and to be on hand to serve and connect with other visitors.
- Make extra effort to stay and volunteer on other school holiday weekends near Easter, which are also hard to fill. Otherwise you leave those who stay worn out by extra demands to fill spots on all three weekends while so many are absent.
I am aware of one young man, who traditionally gathers with his much-loved, but dispersed family elsewhere at Easter, delayed his departure till after Good Friday services. Why? Because one of his friends from his university college indicated he might come to church on Good Friday, and he wanted to be there to encourage him if he came. I salute that.
These ideas ask sacrifice from congregation members, as we consider possible ways to make Jesus Lord of our holidays. But Easter is such a strategic missional opportunity for seeing Christ honoured. So these tough questions deserve consideration from us all.