Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Post-Easter Challenge

OK, I'm going to come right out and say this. A lot of the Easter services held last weekend did very little to let people know about the significance of the holiday.

Yes, many extra, larger services, sometimes held in offsite locations to accommodate the holiday crowds were held, but my question is: did the people attending your church come away knowing that Jesus rose from the dead and that without that gift, there is no hope? Or did they hear/see something else, like:
  • This church is cool. I guess church doesn't have to be boring.

  • This is where all the mover and shakers from our community show up.

  • Wow, there are lots of people here, so it must be an OK church.

  • Great video/graphic/special effects.

  • The band rocked.

  • I feel good about myself.

  • Free Starbucks/food at church? Cool.

  • I didn't realize I could go to church without it really interfering with the rest of my life. I think I'll go here.

If the message was any of the bulleted items above, you lost an opportunity to reach people in a way that will impact their lives for the kingdom. In some cases, that could mean the difference between whether a person will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

I also cringe at how many really bad singers and actors performed (and believe me, there are a lot of them). If you presented some sort of drama or musical numbers and the people who planned them, wrote and performed them have not received any professional training for how to do that or how to effectively use these skills to reach the unchurched, you probably fall into this category. Really.

These things might be hard to hear. Most of us have good intentions, but you know what they say about that . . .

My motivation in bringing this up is a growing concern every post-Easter season when I hear Christians and pastors sharing excitement over the Sunday services. They post pictures or videos that show amateur presentations, while they share how great everything was and how close to Broadway it all seemed. My thought is that they don't see a lot of Broadway; a non-Christian thinks "what a bunch of deluded people."

I hear statements like:
  • The band rocked.
  • So exciting to see so many in attendance.
  • Added drama this year because everyone else seems to have success with it.

It doesn't really matter how great the band sounded, how glitzy your presentation was, how many thousands of people attended or what new things the church did if no one attending got the meaning of Easter. In this week's post-Easter meetings when you evaluate how things went and start the planbook for next year, keep this question and the worship of Jesus central.

When planning any service, especially Easter, when you have a chance to impact folks who only set foot in the door once or twice a year, always ask the question "why?" There's nothing wrong with a band that rocks, or using drama and dance, or with having thousands attend. When you ask why you want these things to be part of your service, though, you'll find your motivation. When I have challenged teams to do this, they find their truthful answers might sound like this:
  • I want to be able to compete with the attendance numbers other pastors report at conferences.

  • We need money.

  • "So and so" always has done it and will be angry if we don't let her.

  • We want to be the most popular church in the area.

  • We don't want to offend anyone.

  • We want to attract younger people.

  • Didn't think it mattered whether anything was done professionally because we're just a church.

Next, ask "how?" Your answer should be "with excellence." Train your people. Invest in them and in your church's ability to minister by sending them to conferences or bringing professionals in for workshops so they can write sketches and songs and perform them well. People who only attend church on major holidays spend the rest of the year listening to and watching PROFESSIONAL musicians and actors.

Without training, your artists look incredibly amateur. It's hard, but that's the truth. While people are gripping their seats cringing when a singer gets just under a note, or misses it all together, or while they are stifling laughter at a badly executed sketch, or thinking how much they like rock music, their minds are occupied with thoughts that have nothing to do with worshiping God.

Masterwork Productions offers training. that can make the difference. You can contact us at masterworkproductions@yahoo.com for more information, or check out our workshops at http://masterworkproductions.homestead.com/workshops.html . There also are a lot of other very qualified Christian individuals and organizations who can equip you to do your best. We all serve him. Why? To make him known. How? With excellence.

--Lauren Yarger

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The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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