God’s richest blessings in your Easter preparations!
March 29, 2023, 9:00 AM

How do you celebrate Easter? Do you attend a sunrise (or Son-Rise) service or the later morning service? Does your church hold an Easter Vigil? Is the children’s Easter egg hunt on Easter or Palm Sunday? Do you help hide all the eggs? Do you make an Easter ham or roast a leg of lamb? Do you go over to someone else’s or do you host the meal? In all your preparations I kindly ask to not forget the most important one: invite someone to come with you to church this Easter.

Easter was THE holy day of the early church. The festival of the Resurrection of our Lord was what the entire church was geared around. It is why we have church services on the first day of the week and not the last – because every Sunday is a mini-Easter. Jesus Christ triumphing over the grave is the central message of Christianity. Be a local evangelist today and invite someone to hear that good news with you on Easter Sunday.

Effective Outreach Provides Multiple Points of Entry into Word-and-Sacrament Ministry

We know that God works through means – in other words, He uses things to convey His forgiveness. Baptism is water and God’s word and gives us the forgiveness of sins while bringing us into the church. Confession and Absolution is congregants speaking with their pastor, confessing their sins, and hearing from the pastor, “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The Sacrament of the Altar is bread and wine combined with Christ’s words to become also body and blood “given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.” But, how do we get that forgiveness to people, or people to that forgiveness?

When considering ways in which nonchurched people can enter into the Word-and-Sacrament ministry of our congregation, we need to take into account the perspective of the nonchurched people, the strength of the relationships that they have with members of our congregation, and which Word-and-Sacrament ministries are appropriate for them. It helps to put ourselves in the place of the nonchurched people we are inviting into the Means of Grace.

It’s easy for us to project our perspective of our congregation onto other people. We know our congregation to be filled with people who are loving and caring. We find it to be a safe place filled with grace and centered in God’s forgiveness. It is our place refuge, comfort, and peace. But that isn’t how many nonchurched people view churches. For some, a church is a foreign place far outside their frame of reference or experience. Others have had bad experiences in a church earlier in their lives. Many have a negative view of churches based on what they’ve learned through mass media or popular culture.

Given the unfavorable ways in which many nonchurched people view churches, we need to think through how they will perceive our invitations into the Word-and-Sacrament ministry of our congregation. We should recognize that people may be reluctant to come to a worship service or traditional Bible study because those activities are too unfamiliar and they feel uncomfortable coming to something they don’t understand. So if the only ways that we offer the Means of Grace are through the Divine Service and Sunday morning Bible study, our outreach efforts are going to fall short of bringing people into the Word-and-Sacrament ministry through which the Holy Spirit makes disciples. That’s not to say that all nonchurched people will respond unfavorably to an invitation to return to things that they miss and recognize as important to their lives.

What are some other entry points into the Word-and-Sacrament ministry of our congregation that we can offer to nonchurched people? They can either be things that we are already going done in a new way or they can be new ministries or activities. Some examples of this include providing online access to worship services, making video or audio recordings of sermons and Bible studies available, holding an introductory Bible study in a nontraditional setting, editing Bible-study recordings to fit a podcast format, or conducting the adult instruction class or confirmation through online learning.[1]

We Lutheran Christians love people. We want them to have the same good gifts that we do. We want them to know how they are fearfully and wonderfully made by an amazing Creator. We want them to know that they are loved, even in their darkest moments. We want them to know that there is an answer to all that is wrong in the world and that all evil will eventually be overcome. We want people to know and believe in the same hope that we have in Jesus Christ. And, we want that because of how much we love people and how much God loves us.

This is why it is important that when we invite people to church things we are upfront as to what will happen. “Effective outreach calls for us to make invitations that are specific, appropriate, and appealing from the nonchurched person’s point of view.”[2] This means not doing a bait and switch. Imagine being invited to a dinner at a new neighbor’s house the evening of March 20. In the middle of enjoying a nice meal and pleasant conversation the wife says, “We’re so glad you came. The real reason we invited you over was to celebrate the Spring equinox with us!” Then the husband lights a sage bundle and starts walking around the room lighting candles and pulling out crystals. The wife then starts talking about the “Mother Goddess” and how all need to know about her. Are you uncomfortable yet? This is how many nonchurched people feel when invited to seemingly social things and then getting a lecture about our faith.

When we make outreach relationships (see earlier articles) we need to be cognizant of where people might be. If they are not ready to attend a service or Bible study, it might be better to invited them to Sunday dinner (or Easter dinner!). If you invite a young family to the Easter Egg hunt, you need to be specific on what to expect if they attend so they are not surprised by something. “We should never resort to bait and switch tactics and never try to force a person to accept our invitation by making her feel obligated in some way. Instead, we should make good invitations, be encouraging, and trust the Holy Spirit.”[3]

And remember, poorly conducted outreach is better than perfect knowledge with no outreach. So, invite someone to church this Easter.

-Pastor Daniel Ross


[1] Mark A. Wood, Meaningful Outreach: An Essential Guide for Churches (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2022), 36-37.

[2] Ibid. 39.

[3] Ibid. 39.