Well, it’s Easter time again. For most in Perth that simply signals that the longest weekend of the year is here: there are two extra days to do what I want! Bunnings will do a good trade for the home handymen out there, and all holiday places within a couple of hours’ drive from Perth will be full.
For Christians, however, we have some great opportunities on a few fronts.
Firstly, Easter is a wonderful time to slow down and reflect on Jesus. Most workplaces are shut for a few days. And most churches (including ours) have an extra church service somewhere, usually on Good Friday.
Now perhaps an extra church service doesn’t fill you with excitement, and you are planning to sleep in on Good Friday instead of having to pack the kids up and travel to the city. Before you make that decision, think about this. The core of our faith as believers is Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection for us, which is exactly what will be preached at church on Friday and Sunday. So coming to church will mean reflecting directly on the gospel. And the Spirit is pleased to use the Word of God, centred on Jesus, to encourage us. In the midst of our busy lives we need to reminded that this life is not all there is. We need to be told that death is not the end. And we need to know that the future, however uncertain it seems to us, is full of hope and joy because of what Jesus accomplished in our place. So coming to church will mean you are personally encouraged if you are a believer already.
And that’s before you think of other people. And I do hope when you consider coming to church you consider other people! Together, we are the body of Christ. These other people are people Christ died for. The church is full of opportunities for us to use our gifts to encourage others and to build them up. When you are at church you might pray with others, welcome them with a smile when they really need that welcome, have the conversation that they and you need to have. And simply being together when we cannot do that so often is a great thing in itself, a testimony to the grace of God as we see so many others who have been impacted by the work of Jesus.
Secondly, we have great opportunities for the gospel and evangelism. Despite most in our society not caring much for church or Jesus, they recognize that Easter is important to Christians. We still have public holidays for this festival, and many are open to coming to church when they usually would not be.
So the obvious opportunity is to invite people to church. Despite what your fearful mind might tell you, this is not as scary as you expect it will be. It is common to invite people to things that matter to you such as sporting events or plays or social gatherings, so why not church? Don’t assume they will say ‘no’. In the past few years a few people have come to church things when I have asked them and it has deepened our friendship and led to other opportunities to speak later. Make sure they know the time and place and where to park, and make sure you meet them and greet them.
Don’t underestimate the power of inviting someone to a regular church service. For most new believers I speak to, being invited to church by a friend started the process to faith, or continued it from the private witness their friend has with them up to that point. It allows those who are not yet believers to meet believers and to hear the gospel, two things they might not have the opportunity to do in many other places.
What if you have no-one to invite, or if the people you have invited have not come? Still come along and look for opportunities to speak to those at church. Some might have been invited by others, some might have just come through looking on the internet. A warm welcome by a stranger is a good testimony to the gospel.
And please pray! Pray for the speaker at church, that he might be clear and faithful to the gospel. And pray for the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of those listening who as yet do not believe. Anyone coming to faith is a miracle and we need God to do this for us.
This Easter, look for opportunities. There are opportunities to be encouraged yourself, to encourage other believers, and to introduce friends to Jesus. Let’s not waste them but actively pursue them together.