RESURRECTION & ‪“Easter—Myth, Hallucination, or History?” A powerful & classic article by #EdwinYamuchi via @CTmagazine

‪Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. This is an insightful article by a renowned scholar on the reality of the resurrection, via @CTmagazine archives.

Read the article (with a subscription) here … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1974/march-15/eastermyth-hallucination-or-history.html?visit_source=twitter‬

COMMUNICATION & How one church used Instagram story wallpapers as invitations for Easter (examples).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  My friends at United City Greensboro, a No. Carolina church, used the following Instagram story wallpapers.  Perhaps they will inspire you as you plan for a worship opportunity.

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(Please don’t use the artwork of United City Greensboro without permission.  Find out about this innovative group of believers here: http://www.unitedcitygso.com

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ATTENDANCE & When Easter and Christmas near, more Americans search online for “church” #PewResearch

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I tell church leaders not to plant a church in the fall or launch a new service or venue at that time. That is because while there is a peak of interest in going to church before Thanksgiving, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the lowest time of the year for people to be interested in attending church.

It is much better to launch new multiplication efforts during Lent in the Spring run up to Easter as depicted in the chart below.

When Easter and Christmas near, more Americans search online for “church”

by Nobel Kuriakose, Pew Research, 5/18/14.

More Americans search for “church” around Easter than at any other time, with the Christmas season usually ranking second, according to Google Trends data between 2004 and 2013. Google’s Trends tool measures the popularity of a search term relative to all searches in the United States. Data are reported on a scale from 0 to 100…

In 2013, the highest share of searches for “church” are on the week of Easter Sunday, followed by the week of Christmas and the week of Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent.

The lowest share of searches occur on the week of Thanksgiving in November each year, and the summer months have consistently low levels of interest in web searches for “church.” Sociologists also have previously reported low levels of church attendance during the summer months. Laurence Iannaccone and Sean Everton analyzed weekly attendance records from churches and argued that people are less likely to attend church when the weather outside is just right in a journal article titled “Never on Sunny Days.”

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/18/when-easter-and-christmas-near-more-americans-search-online-for-church/

STORYTELLING & Why Easter is the best time to tell Jesus’ story.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’ve noted in my books that storytelling is one of the best ways to communicate purpose and values. And my colleagues at Duke Divinity School have pointed out that never is there a better time for preachers to focus on Christ’s story, than at Easter.

“Some stories need to be told again and again. So it is with the story of Easter, a story that reminds us that we belong to God and that Jesus is out ahead of us, calling us to God’s future…” by Nathan Kirkpatrick, Faith & Leadership, Duke Divinity School, 3/26/18.

My colleague Christine Parton Burkett reminds preachers that children, after hearing a well-told story, never respond, “What does it mean?” Instead, with glee and abandon, they exclaim, “Oh, tell it again!” She reminds preachers that, as human beings, we never really outgrow our love of a story well-told; there is a part of each of us that wants to cheer, “Oh, tell it again!”

Several years ago in The New York Times Sunday Review, the Swedish writer Henning Mankell wrote that “a truer nomination for our species than Homo sapiens might be Homo narrans, the storytelling person.” Mankell’s argument was not that the biologists are wrong or that we are not thinking creatures but rather that we are also — and maybe even primarily — storytelling creatures.

We make sense of the world and our place in it through story. Story is how we create meaning, how we interpret reality, and how we come to know who we are and why we are. That is why when we hear a story that we know is good and true, we say, “Oh, tell it again.”

Literature professor John Niles, in a book called “Homo Narrans,” puts it this way: “It is chiefly through storytelling that people possess a past.” But it works the other way as well. Through storytelling we possess a past — but that past possesses us, too. It’s through storytelling that we find our identity…

It’s through story that we possess a past — a very particular past — and that the God of that very particular past lays claim to us. “Oh, tell it again.”

Each time the stories get told, we wrestle with our past, too. We wrestle with the violence of God’s people. We struggle with the sometimes inscrutable ways of God. We try to hear in some of these words the words of life, however faint they may sound. But in the telling of the stories, the past lays claim to us, and we lay claim to it. So we tell them again.

And yet it is not just the past that lays claim, because through story — through the particular story of Easter — God’s future lays claim to us as well…

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/nathan-kirkpatrick-tell-it-again?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

BEYOND HOLIDAY CHARITY & How to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder #YearAroundService

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/12/10.

A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs. Such churches in Dan’s mind were comprised of “do-gooders.”

Action C: Be a Good-doer, not a Do-gooder.

The difference between a do-gooder and a good-doer was revealed to me ten years ago. Dan was auditioning to be the drummer in a worship team I led. Though he was more than suitable for the task, I was confused because he looked familiar. “You visited me last Christmas,” Dan responded noticing my bewilderment. “Brought a lot of nice things for the kids.” Each year our church visited needy residents, giving them gifts and singing carols. “You were nice enough to come,” Dan would say to me later. Dan and I had become friends, and now our team was planning to visit needy households. “You go, I won’t,” Dan stated. “I want to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder.” Further conversations revealed with Dan saw a difference between “do-gooders” and “good-doers.” On the one hand, Dan saw do-gooders as people who go around doing limited and inconsistent good deeds. He perceived that they were doing good on a limited scale to relieve their conscience. Thus their good deeds were perceived as self-serving, insincere and limited. A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs. On the other hand, Dan saw “good-doers” as those who do good in a meaningful, relevant and ongoing manner. And, he was right. In hindsight I had been striving to do good, not trying to do good better. Therefore, a church should connect with its community by offering ongoing ministry and not just holiday help.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2019), pp. 48-49.

EASTER & The Whole Story of the Universe is Found in Three Words: “He is Risen!”

by Chris Stefanick, 3/26/16.

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“He is not here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay!” (Matthew 28:6)

Bilbo finds a ring.

A group of children fall through a wardrobe into another dimension.

Snow White finds the love of her life…

Every story has one truth at its foundation. Without it, there’s no story.

There are over 450,000 words stretching from Tolkien’s Silmarillion to the end of the Return of the King. If you stood them on top of each other they’d probably tower over the Empire State Building. But if you remove the words: “bilbo found a ring” from somewhere around the 5th floor, they’d all come tumbling down. Without that, there’s no story. Orcs, Elves, Hobbits, Talking Trees…who cares?

There is one claim made by one faith.

Without it, the rest of the story of that faith doesn’t really matter. All of Jesus teachings, and his dying, wouldn’t matter. Actually, the rest of the story of the universe, and of your life wouldn’t make much sense either.

That one claim was made in a quiet cemetery in an outpost of the Roman Empire. It was carried on the trembling lips of a conformed harlot to a group of terrified fishermen. It was spoken in whispers. A secret too good to be true. Yet it was true. It is true. So true, in fact, that eyewitnesses died horrible deaths attesting to it. (You’ll find people who die for belief systems. Dying for an eyewitness testimony is vastly different than that!)

Within 300 years, this one true claim transformed the Roman Empire.

These three words continue to transform everything they touch, until the story of time is done: “He is risen.”

“Cinderella finds love.” The one truth is found somewhere in the story, but really, the whole story is found in that one truth.

The whole story of the universe, of human history, of Christianity, and of our own lives are found in these three words: “He is risen!”

This one truth is the proof that God is real. Love wins. And life is good.

And if that’s not true…who cares about the rest of the story?

(National Catholic Register. Read more at … http://m.ncregister.com/blog/cstefanick/the-whole-story-of-the-universe-is-found-in-three-words-he-is-risen#.VvepKGH3aJI

TRADITIONS & Why You Need a Come-as-you are Worship Service at Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter (and how to plan it).

by Bob Whitesel, D.Mn., Ph.D., 10/25/15.

We cannot compromise the Biblical or theological threshold for becoming a follower of Jesus, but we can minimize the cultural one.

A student once commented,

“While I too grew up getting dressed up for church, I now work at a church that is anything but formal. Granted you do have those who wear suits etc. but the vast majority of people come in pretty normal, everyday types of clothing (this includes the pastoral staff)…. This has been a shift that has taken place over the last several years but we now are at a very casual, ‘come as you are’ kind of place. Generally speaking I like this a lot, but there are those times that it’s nice to dress up a little bit for church and you see this to be the case for others around Easter, Christmas, Mother’s day, etc.”

The student was right. 

Evangelistic churches try to make the cultural threshold low for those coming to Christ.  In other words, we cannot compromise the Biblical or theological threshold for becoming a follower of Jesus, but we can minimize the cultural one (have relevant worship music, language, dress down, etc.).

However, as the student noted, people still often dress up around Easter, Christmas, etc.  And yet, these are the days that many unchurched people first start attending church.  Thus, I wonder if our dressing-up for Easter inhibits this.

How to Plan a Come-as-you are Worship Service at Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter.

Therefore, I have suggested that churches hold extra “come-as-you-are” services at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter – perhaps in conjunction with a picnic, outdoor service (in the South), etc. to help people with less fashionable (or dressy) clothes feel at home.

Now, you don’t want people to feel like this is a service for the less-fashionable in your community. So, tying it to a picnic, carry-in, youth service, etc. can make your extra holiday worship expression more naturally down-to-earth.

OUTREACH & When Easter and Christmas near, more Americans search online for “church”

by Noble Kuriakoae, Pew Research Center, 4/18/14

“Priests and ministers have long noted a sharp increase in church attendance around the two most significant Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter. Some have given those who attend services only at those times of year a name — “Chreasters” — and churches have launched campaigns to get them to attend more regularly.

Google searches for "church" spike during Easter and Christmas seasons“More Americans search for “church” around Easter than at any other time, with the Christmas season usually ranking second, according to Google Trends data between 2004 and 2013. Google’s Trends tool measures the popularity of a search term relative to all searches in the United States. Data are reported on a scale from 0 to 100.”

Read more at… http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/18/when-easter-and-christmas-near-more-americans-search-online-for-church