Christians, please DO NOT do these things this weekend...

Easter and Christmas serve as the two biggest opportunities for churches around the world. Services are usually increased in number and the pews are packed full. Hours of preparation go into canvassing neighborhoods to hand out flyers, preparing just the right sermon, staffing and a myriad of other behind-the-scenes duties. Sadly, I read yesterday that these holidays also reflect an increase in persecution of Christians, especially those living in countries that are hostile toward Christians.
These two holidays also serve as a time when Christians feel most comfortable about sharing their faith. Sayings such as, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” or “He Is Risen” are commonplace. These two holidays give a burst of closeness with our Savior. They give us time to pause and reflect. While we should be doing this more than just during these holidays (that’s a whole different blog), how can we get the most traction out of these holidays?
I think there are at least three things that Christians should NOT be doing during these holidays. There are more than just three for sure, but these ones stand out to me.
So here goes:

1)Christians, please DO NOT spend exorbitant amounts of money on Easter outfits.

I know we all have certain gifts and for some people, dressing up and always looking put together is as easy as me putting on my sweat pants, however, there are many of us who spend too much money on matchy-matchy outfits for our families when our closets are bursting with clothes that are already perfectly fine.
I get that some interpret “giving our best” to the Lord includes the way we dress for church services. However, our closets are jam-packed with our bests. In a time when more and more Christians are saying that “social issues” should be left to politicians and others, let us not forget that there are real poor, sick, lost and lonely people out there. This is a “social issue” that we should be talking about more and for now, is one that Christians are allowed to talk about openly.
Easter is a time when people who don’t regularly attend church attend. Easter is a time when people who don’t or haven’t ever attended church attend. If they walk into a sanctuary with a whole bunch of overly fancy people, and they are not, do you think they will be focusing on the worship or the message? Maybe, but maybe not.
In the story of Joseph in Genesis 37, Joseph’s father gives him a fancy coat. This coat represented the fact that when he was wearing it, he was not likely to be working nor would he have to work hard in his lifetime because he couldn’t be working in the fields with the fancy coat on and that his father, Jacob, loved him the most. When his brothers saw him wearing this fancy coat, they were angry because they knew that this coat made him special and meant he wouldn’t have to work like his brothers did. When Joseph’s father saw the brothers with the coat, but with no Joseph, he knew something had happened. That fancy coat served as his identification. What do your clothes say about you?
Shop in your closets this Easter and use the money you may have wanted to spend on an “Easter outfit” on feeding, clothing or otherwise helping someone this Easter. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
2)Christians, please DO NOT save seats during worship services. 

Maybe this is only a pet peeve of mine, but it actually embarrasses me on behalf of the Church. I know people want to sit with family members and friends during Easter services, but please try to arrive on time together and not save seats. 

Counter service restaurants recognize this as a problem. They have signs that say, “Wait until you have placed your order before being seated.” Why do you think they say this? Because if someone in front of you is ordering their food and they have their food, but no table, what are they to do? They’ll have no place to eat. And if you’ve ever been in a restaurant standing with a tray full of food with no place to sit, you know how it feels as though every eye is staring at you and you are frantically thinking how in the world am I going to sit and eat this food? I’ve been known to walk out before even ordering if it looks like there may not be a table available by the time I get to the counter.
Take this analogy and put it in the context of church. What if you were saving a row of seats for family or friends and a person (or family) walked up and wanted to sit down in that exact spot. And what if that person (or family) had never been in church before, or had been hurt by the church before and you tell them they can’t sit there. What kind of impression is that? That person (or family) will then have to walk away embarrassed (especially if others are sitting around there), scorned, angry, upset and perhaps, may just walk right out of the church that very minute.
Be mindful that there will be people in church this weekend that aren’t familiar with whose pews are whose. We sit in the same spot every week at church so I understand the thought of “my seats,” and “my row” and that we all want to sit with family and friends. We come across it sometimes and maybe that week is just a little more squished in the pews if someone else sits there. It’s okay and we survive. So can you.
Recently on a visit to Boston, we walked into one of the first churches in the city. It is still a functioning parish and it is still set up as it was back when it first opened. The sanctuary is set up with boxes for people to sit in. A lot of this arrangement had to do with the fact they were trying to keep the cold air off of them when they were in church, but it also served as a status symbol. Parishioners had to buy their pew boxes and of course, they were different sizes and different locations. Parishioners even had the ability to decorate their pew boxes (think junior high/high school locker decorations on steroids). As I was walking out the door, I noticed that the visitor pews were at the back of the room and not decorated. How unfortunate is that and yet it is not much different than what takes place in our own sanctuaries every week. Instead of allowing visitors to sit among us, we tell them by our body language, actions and words that they are not welcome.
Please be encouraging to people who visit the Church this weekend. They are there because the Holy Spirit has led them there. Perhaps a small gesture like giving up some of your saved seats and comfort will be the difference between a person’s salvation this weekend or not.

3)Christians, please DO NOT treat restaurant staff badly at brunch after services. 

Have you ever heard that restaurant workers dislike certain days?  These days include Mother’s Day, Easter and any given Sunday. Why? Because they say that church-goers do not treat them very well and they tip very badly.
Why do we do this? If we can spend tons of money on fancy outfits for Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Sundays, in general, why can’t we be generous to the people who serve us?
The people who work in these restaurants are sacrificing their time to serve you. Yes, they are doing it to make a living, but many do not have the choice as to whether they want to work a holiday or on Sundays. There is absolutely no excuse for treating restaurant staff poorly on any given day, but please do not do it on a holiday and/or on Sunday, especially if you are wearing a fancy outfit and they know you just came from church. It gives you a poor Christian witness. It also creates a stereotype of Christians…that we are cheap and rude. Jesus is in no way cheap or rude. If we are spirit-filled Christians, something’s wrong.
Be kind, share a smile, a nice compliment, use a nice tone and give generously in your tipping. We tell our children to have these manners and yet forget that they apply to us as adults as well.
We are fighting a spiritual battle and a Christian’s moves and motives are being watched by someone. If we are the salt and light of the earth, as Jesus said we are, our salt and light needs to be good and God-honoring (see Matthew 5:13-16).
Jesus doesn’t care if we are fancy; He cares if we are feeding His sheep (spiritually and physically) (see John 21:15-17).
Jesus is the only One who can save our seat (see Ephesians 2:6).
Pray for those who will attend Easter services this weekend. Pray that many will come to church for the first time in their lives and encounter the living and reigning King Jesus. Pray that we, as the church body, will welcome people warmly. And pray that our actions, words and attitudes will reflect the glory of God Almighty.

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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Jen Ryerson - April 18th, 2014 at 10:39am

So well said, a powerful blog post this morning. Wow, puts so much into perspective. Thank u for sharing your heart!

Robbi - April 18th, 2014 at 2:24pm

Thank you fir reminding us what Easter is really about.