17 April, 2024

THROWBACK THURSDAY: ‘Easter Church Attendance’ (1949)

by | 28 March, 2024 | 0 comments

Easter Church Attendance (an Editorial) 

April 16, 1949; p. 10 
By Burris Butler (editor) 

This Lord’s Day will find nearly all the churches having the largest crowds of the year. It has become almost proverbial that many people attend church on Easter Sunday who never come at any other time. The tragedy is that this is true of many nominal church members as well as persons outside the church. Every serious-minded minister and church leader is concerned with the post-Easter slump seen in many congregations. 

There are two attitudes prevalent among churches of Christ regarding the observance of this and other “special” days, neither of which is entirely adequate in our opinion. The first is the more widespread, which is simply to fall into the pattern generally accepted by the majority of Protestant congregations, that is to make Easter primarily a day of pageantry and display. The church house is decorated with palms and floral displays. All available talent has been at work for weeks rehearsing the special choral cantatas and anthems. The “special services” actually amount to a religious show of greater or less degree of quality, but which can not possibly be duplicated on other ordinary days of worship. All this tends to give the casual observer the impression that Easter is the day as far as the church is concerned, and that other Lord’s Days are relatively unimportant. 

The opposite extreme is to ignore “special” days altogether. Because of its pagan origin, the argument goes, we should not plan special services or promote large attendance on Easter Sunday. 

Now, we grant that Easter is a dry-cleaned version of an ancient heathen festival, and that the significance given to it by the world actually applies to every first day of the week. 

But it is also true that there is a united emphasis on the basic gospel facts at this season that obtains at no other time of the year. The minds of men are better conditioned to receive and obey the gospel than at any other time. Any church is derelict in its duty, or at least clumsy in its tactics, if it is not prepared to take advantage of this situation. 

Boost for big attendance at Easter? By all means. Plan special music? Of course! But use the opportunity to lead men closer to the risen Christ than they have ever been before. Drive home to their hearts the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. Lay His claims upon them. Remind them that they will face Him, as Thomas did of old. Lead them to confess Him and obey Him. 

And don’t shoot all your ammunition in one day. Plan something “special” for next Sunday, and for every other Lord’s Day in the year. Let the people know you have it. Give the Easter crowd the impression (and make it a true one) that the message of salvation and hope you offer on that day is a regular feature of your church program, and they will return again and again, and you will be able to reach many of them for Christ. The post-Easter slump can be attributed to the depressing anti-climax produced by a depleted preacher and an exhausted congregation. Don’t let it happen to you. “Christ is risen,” just as truly next Sunday as on this Lord’s Day.  

(Some references to dates in this editorial have been updated.) 

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