This coming Sunday is Easter Sunday, a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Church buildings will likely be more full than all other Sundays of the year. Songs of resurrection will ring out. Congregations will gather in their finest clothes to worship, often followed by a special Sunday lunch.
And yet, for some pastors Easter Sunday is a difficult day. I know, because I’ve been there. Here’s why this day can be a struggle – and why pastors need our prayers this weekend:
1. The day is often overwhelmingly busy. From early morning preparation to events throughout the day, pastors are on the go throughout the day. Some churches add services for this special day. For some pastors, the day is so full that they have little time to focus on their own personal worship.
2. The pressure to “do well” is increased. The crowd is bigger, but many are giving the church only this one opportunity to grab their attention. No church leader wants to mess up on Easter Sunday. Consequently, every small issue – each off note, every stumbled-over word, every unintended delay – gets magnified.
3. Finding a unique approach to the Easter story is not easy. The story itself is enough, of course, but some pastors sense a need to present the story in a fresh and enlightening way. The task of finding that “new approach” when everyone else is preaching on the same topic can be stressful.
4. Pastors see members they haven’t seen since last Easter. On one hand, that’s good news. Pastors are typically glad to see members return, hoping they will recommit themselves to faithfulness this year. On the other hand, pastors often end the day wondering why they can’t reach those same folks the rest of the year.
5. Pastors see “lostness” come in the door . . . and leave unchanged. Yes, pastors trust the Word of God will do its work. Yes, they know that planting a seed is a first step toward others being converted. It’s still agonizing, though, when they see non-believers walk in the door and out the door on Easter with no obvious response to the gospel.
6. Pastors get a glimpse of what the church could be . . . but typically isn’t. Parking lot attendants are ready, and they even arrive early. Greeters are well dressed and easily identified. The best musicians and singers are enlisted. The sermon is well rehearsed. The church gives its best for this one day – but then returns to mediocrity the following week. That’s frustrating.
7. Pastors often judge their own sermons more critically on Easter. Many of us review our sermons after each worship service. We think through how we might have re-worded that point, changed that illustration, or clarified that application. That critique is sometimes more intense on Easter Sunday, as no pastor wants to have missed the opportunity to proclaim the gospel clearly and boldly.
8. Pastors brag about Easter attendance. It happens – pastors excited about Easter attendance often make sure others know about their successes during the weeks following the holiday. Unhealthy, even ungodly, competition develops. Nobody wants to play the game, but few people want to lose the game, either.
9. Attendance expectations may not be met. To be honest, I always had an Easter Sunday attendance goal in my mind when I served as a pastor. Even when I fought hard to stop worrying about numbers, my mind still went there. Too often I became discouraged because the actual attendance did not meet my goals.
10. Monday morning letdown can follow Easter. For weeks, a pastor’s energy is devoted to preparing for Easter Sunday. Teams get ready so the church operates as a well-oiled machine on this one Sunday. Everyone is focused, committed – and a bit relieved when it’s all over. Monday morning means a return to the routine.
11. Some pastors have no resurrection joy themselves. For some, ministry is hard. They serve one church while seeking the next one. Their marriages may be struggling, or their children are wayward. They must proclaim the hope of resurrection when their own hope is dying. Easter Sunday then becomes a chore to endure rather than a day to celebrate.
If you are a pastor, direct your members to this post and ask them to pray for you. As a layperson, invite other church members to join you in prayer. Pray that Easter will be powerful for your pastor this year.
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on April 2, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.