Yesterday was Easter! If you are on staff at a church, there is a good chance you are taking it easy today. Enjoy the much-needed rest. But as you know, there is another service coming up in six days. The guests that made it out to your church this past weekend will likely be considering another visit this coming Sunday. I would like to offer some considerations for your sermon this weekend. Let’s get plugged into leadership before you get writing.
If you are like most churches, you had a strategy leading up to Easter that looked something like this:
1. Come up(through prayer and planning) with a killer new way to present the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
2. Ask everyone who comes to your church to invite their friends and family to Easter weekend
3. Make this invitation as easy as possible by offering email invitations, catchy invite cards, social media trailers, and a host of other creative ways to get people in a seat sometime this past weekend.
4. Flawlessly execute your fantastic killer new way to present the gospel!
5. Pray that people return the following weekend.
Was that similar to the plan you came up with? Maybe for your team, it was a little bit different than that, but I suspect it was kind of close. There is not a whole lot wrong with this plan. But if part of your killer new way to present the gospel did NOT include establishing a few important things, I am afraid you might have a gap in your plan.
What important things might create a gap in your plan? The first gap you might have is establishing why anyone would care about what the Bible says in the first place. If you just assumed that any of your guests cared at all about what the Bible has to say about any subject at all, let alone how they need a savior and that Jesus is that Savior, there is a good chance they mentally checked out at the first mention of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, or Paul.
Another gap you might have is to establish that Jesus was, in fact, a real person to begin with. Crazy I know, but there is a growing movement in the modern world called Jesus Mythicism. These people take a page out of the 19th-century historian’s playbook and claim that Jesus, as a real person, didn’t even walk the earth. For the guest that has this gap, His death and resurrection are impossible. For this guest, any hope he might have felt by your moving message was lost on the fact that it is impossible for a mythical character to do anything about that hopelessness at all.
Other gap areas you might have in your plan is not discussing the whole gospel. What do I mean by the whole gospel? I mean that part about following Jesus’ commandments. The command to Love(John 15). The command to take your cross(Luke 9:23). The command to live by the Spirit and see the fruit of that Spirit(Galatians 5). The command to love the Lord and your neighbor(Mark 12). The command to repent and turn from sin(most of the NT). Sure, I am using an expanded range of the word command here. I also want to say that I am in NO WAY talking about a “works based” salvation at all. We do because we love and we are serious about what was done for us on the cross. My friend Simon speaks a little about what we are to do in light of the truth of the cross here.
This week as you plan this week’s message, please remember to close these gaps. My friend Nick Peters, who is interviewed on my blog here, wrote an amazing article on his blog that will help you with this. What I am not asking you do is make next week’s message an apologetic class. Nick, in his article, and myself are asking you to briefly, each week, add in some relevant apologetic elements.
I will close with a quote from Nick’s article:
Your congregation is not meant to live in a bubble. They’re meant to do the Great Commission. How can they do it unless they are equipped to do it? It’s not enough to get them to tell their personal testimony. Everyone has a testimony. Even atheists in debate will often open with their personal anti-testimony. We don’t live in a time where testimonies have the same effectiveness. Consider instead combining them with a good apologetic, and you could be on to something.
If you would like to address these and other topics, but just don’t know enough about them to do so, please check out these articles for help.
Jesus Before the Gospels Review Part 1
The Resurrection, An Event To Be Confident About
Another great read by Nick addressing the mysticism issue.
Gary Habermas is a great resource as well
And email me with any questions you might have.