By Bethany Turner
Pastor Rick Warren once told me that in church leadership, we should approach every Sunday as if it were Christmas or Easter. (Okay, he happened to tell me that at the same time that he told several thousand other people who were in the room, but I tend to feel as if speakers are talking just to me. So I’m going with it!)
My full-time job (apart from writing…my other full-time job) is on staff of a church, and this past summer, I was able to travel to a conference at Saddleback with sixteen leaders from the church where I am on staff. What Pastor Rick meant when he said those words to me (and those other people, if you insist) was that we raise the bar at church for our Christmas and Easter services. And of course that is with good reason. Statistics tell us that more people attend Christian churches for those two services each year than any other. And not only that, the regular attenders who are just as likely to attend a service in mid-July as they are on Easter Sunday are often more likely to invite their friends, family, and co-workers to join them for those “special” services. And why is that? Well, because their friends, family, and co-workers may be more likely to accept the invitation.
So, in general, churches raise the bar for those services. We shampoo the carpets, we re-stripe the parking lot, we buy the good coffee to serve, and we set out extra chairs—all of which have been dusted/scrubbed/polished.
And none of that is bad. Pastor Rick wasn’t saying we shouldn’t do those things for Christmas and Easter. He was saying we should raise the bar for every other church service as well.
I’d never thought of that in terms of my other full-time job until literally twenty minutes ago.
I believe my calling is not only to try to entertain (and maybe even encourage and enlighten) fellow Christ-followers, but to do all I can to reach non-believers for the kingdom of God. Through what I write? Yes, of course. But also through who I am as an author, who I am in person when I meet readers, and who I am online in every word and photograph I post. And at Christmas, it sometimes feels a bit easier to go where I might not normally go, in terms of what I discuss.
Because even in our struggling, often-divided world, there is a little more grace at Christmas. It is easier to invite people to church, without fear of judgment. It is a little bit easier to give a copy of my novel to non-believers without them distancing themselves from me because they fear being preached to. It is easier to post “For on this day, in the city of David…” on my Facebook page without wondering if a couple of non-believers I have been making strides towards reaching will unfriend me.
But Jesus never said that being His follower was going to be easy. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I know this post isn’t your typical holly jolly Christmas post. I hope you’ll forgive me for not invoking a single “Fa La La” or even debating which artist sang the best version of “O Holy Night” (Celine Dion, by the way). But ever since my realization twenty minutes ago that this principle applies to both of my full-time jobs, I knew it was what I had to write about. I do love Christmas, though. It is without a doubt my favorite day of the year, and I never tire of celebrating the birth of the Savior. But this year, I’m issuing a challenge—to you, but also to myself.
Treat today like every other day. But let today be the day which sets the precedent for the 364 others.
Bethany Turner is the author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, published by Revell. She writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight. Connect with her at www.seebethanywrite.com or www.facebook.com/seebethanywrite, and on Instagram and Twitter @seebethanywrite.