"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Commentary on Easter Sunday Worship Services

Yesterday was a great day at Emmanuel. We had five Easter Sunday morning services and had 3,000 in worship for the first time ever. The exciting part is that we were able to reach many people in our city with the gospel of Christ for the very first time.

I told my wife that there are things I like about Easter worship services and things I dislike. One of the things I did enjoy this year is that our staff was very creative and pro-active in the ways we reached out to unchurched people in our community. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and energy to do what we did, including . . .

(1). Filming and showing a three minute clip of the life story of a local dentist who was saved from a life of 'partying and doing all the things he shouldn't be doing' (his words) to a life committed to Jesus Christ.

(2). Adjusting the times and format of our worship services to accomodate five morning services including three blended services in the auditorium at 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00, and two contemporary services at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.

(3). Using newly designed community wide mailouts and special Sunday worship programs that were created to communicate both the gospel of Christ and the mission and purpose of our church to those unfamiliar with both.

(4). Hosting guest receptions for all visitors after each service and providing for them additional materials that further explain the gospel (a book by John Piper) and the specific ministries of our church.

(5). Never forgetting that what it takes to get people to church is what it usually takes to keep them in church. Therefore, our staff does the very best job possible to make sure the expositional teaching of God's Word and the praise and worship times, both choral and corporate, are the MAIN emphasis every Sunday. All power points, special presentations and worship events are designed to emphasize either the teaching of God's word or the strengthening of one's personal worship and walk with Christ. Thankfully, Easter Sunday is no different from any other Sunday at Emmanuel in these two areas.

I would particularly like your comments about your Easter services, from both pastors and laymen, and ask you to offer any ideas or suggestions that you have that we might be able to implement in the future. Of course, we would also be interested in those things you don't like regarding Easter since sometimes that in our lives we dislike the most are exactly the things that teach us our best lessons.

Blessings to all,

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. Thanks to Tyson Wynn of FBC Strang, Oklahoma for the cartoon!


Dave Samples said...

Great Report, Wade! We combined our usual three services into one "big" service at our High School Auditorium. Our folks have been working hard praying and inviting and today we a saw a wonderful harvest. Easter and Christmas are two wonderful opportunities that we have every year to reach the lost. If we invite them...they will come!

Jonathan said...


Praise God! I didn't know Enid had a "megachurch" (defined as over 2000 in attendance). WOW. And, if you screen it even further, 3000 is definitely WOW.

At Faith Church, we had probably slightly more in attendance... we are believing God to double our attendance this year... from 120 to 240. The children's choir did a special, the "Easter Song," and I did a special, "Marvelous Light" by Charlie Hall. My pastor preached a great message, although everyone was already saved, praise God, despite an altar call.

Please check out our new church website at http://www.faithchurchok.com/


bryan riley said...

We attended the Nuneaton Christian Fellowship here in Nuneaton, England. It is about a mile from the King's Lodge, so that it is walking distance, even with young children. It was a small congregation ranging in ages from infants to 80. There is a family who hails from Korea as missionaries (not with the King's Lodge or YWAM) and they made up much of the worship team.

The worship team consisted of a violin, a cello, a keyboard, a trap set, an acoustic, a bass, and two singers. They were really quite good, but were a bit loud instrumentally because the room was small.

I'm guessing there were no more than 100 present, if that. It was delightful. The service involved much singing of both hymns and "praise" songs, a testimony, open prayer, a poetry reading, and then a brief, but well done, sermon on the Resurrection and what it means.

No bells, whistles, or trappings. Simply a call to the magnificence of a risen Savior, which, as the pastor said, laid it all on the line. It is all or nothing. The gospel of Christ was shared clearly and you could feel the presence of the Lord.

Paul/Mary Burleson said...

At our church we chose to go Saturday night and avoid the Easter Sunday crowds. We loved what our staff did. The theme was A Defining Moment.

The pastor introduced the service by saying when he was a child there was a time in his life when the only church services he attended were Christmas and Easter. Being young he thought that all that man Jesus ever did was "get born" and "get dead." So, he decided to be different this Easter.

A Defining Moment featured five real stories of how an encounter with Christ was definitely a defining moment. The first one was Peter and was presented by the senior pastor.

The second one was a young family whose husband/father is a pilot and they moved to Edmond and he was immediately depoloyed to Iraq. The church and focus groups ministered to the young family and pilot. We saw a video and while we watched that, the real people came on stage and one of the elders asked questions and they gave a live response.

The third one was a drug/alcoholic addict who was saved through the OKC rescue mission and now leads the recovery ministry at the church.

Fourth one was a special needs adult who was scared of doctors and had a large tumor. The Ministries of Jesus and the Healing Ministries of the church related to her, helped her, and were with her through every step. She went through the surgery and then was on stage. Her summary statement was, "It was a miracle!" Very sweet.

The last one was the couple whose daughter was killed in a car wreck while she was headed to Mexico on a mission trip with the church youth group. It also showed how they have grieved and yet how they have become active in ministering to others in similar situations.

Each scenario ended with the elder/pastor emcee summarizing how Christ can and does make a difference in our lives.

The Saturday night crowd packed the auditorium, which I would guess seats about 1200 to 1500. The Saturday night crowd is usually a little more casual and more loose during the praise service. It was wonderful!!

We debated about driving the two hours to Enid and being with you in your services, but decided to stay close and enjoy both of us being home at the same time.

It was a wonderful Easter. I'm so grateful for our church home and our staff. We truly had "a defining Easter moment."
Mom/Mary B.

irreverend fox said...

praise God Wade! I didn't get a count but I think we came in around 80 or so...of them I'd guess 60-65 were previously either unchurched or unsaved prior to Southside...so we are excited because this is truly a pioneer area...and reaching out to people under 40 in a pioneer area makes it even MORE fun! lol

Wade...which book by Piper did you all give away?

lcr said...


I enjoy reading your blog and comments. I would like to pose a question to you and your readers. Is there ever a time when it is appropriate for the Christian Community, the Body of Christ, to come together in a service where worship is the emphasis instead of evangelism?

If the answer to that question is yes, then would not Easter be that time? It seems like Easter has become a time when churches compete to see who can put on the best show for the community under the guise of evangelism. After Easter is over I hear overworked Pastors, Staff and faithful members saying beneath their breath, “Thank God it is over until next year.”

Please understand that I am a member of a highly motivated, evangelistic church. I believe in sharing the gospel whenever, and wherever possible. However, I believe that the first order of the church is worship, not evangelism. Could not Easter be the one service where we say, “This is our time for worship”?

I trust that your readers will be quick to point out the fallacy of my logic.

I am ready, I think…


Wade Burleson said...


I think you will find that every service at Emmanuel is geared toward teaching and worship, even Easter's services. In other words, they are designed to encourage those who know Christ -- but I'm not sure we have ever passed up an opportunity, in any service to offer the invitation for those who do not know Christ to receive Him. When I use the word 'invitation' I am not meaning what Southern Baptists think -- I am using the word the way Gill, Spurgeon and others would define it -- a clear call to trust Christ through the preaching and teaching of God's Word.

Wade Burleson said...


The book is "Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die" by John Piper. Bookstores will sell it to churches for either a dollar or a dollar and a half. It's an excellent synopsis on the power and work of the cross in very practical terms.


Wade Burleson said...

Great report Mom! I can preach his sermon after reading your notes!!

I paticularly like how they described transformation in the lives of people who have come to know Christ. We did that on a much smaller scale through the video of a dentist, and the very postive effect upon those who saw it - particularly those without Christ was obvious.


David R. Mills said...

A. W. Tozer on Christian leadership wrote: "Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet - not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity". Oh for a ton of Tozers. Let's report next weeks statistics, and pray for the thousands that will not be in our Churches until next Easter.`

Wade Burleson said...

David Mills,

I don't necessarily disagree. I go back and forth on this one. The fact is, every single one of us who are committed to Christ were at one point 'aliens to the commonwealth,' at 'emnity with God,' and 'children of wrath,' from an experiential standpoint (in other words, this was me -- this was the way I lived). I could argue, as Gill did, that the love of God is everlasting for His elect.

Nevertheless, the point I am making is this one. We had what some would call a 'drunk' in the services yesterday. I preached on Blind Bartimeaus calling out to Christ on the old Jericho road. This drunk wept at the conclusion of the service and called out to Christ for deliverance.

We will be following up with encouragement, discipleship and counseling for this man - but I can categorically say he would not have come to our church were it not for the 'holiday' and a sense that he should be in church.

So . . .

On the one hand I understand Tozier --

On the other hand I am grateful that God used an atypical service to draw a man that would not typically be in our church.


irreverend fox said...


define worship. when is evangelism not worship?

Bob Cleveland said...


Our services were pretty much normal .. the sermon was from the passage in 1 Corinthians 15, and the fact that Jesus is alive, and if not, we're to be pitied more than anyone.

The worship was ok, according to schedule, and it was good overall.

What made it great was a lady came forward at the invitation, asking for prayer for deliverance from certain drugs. I had the privilege of sharing the gospel and she asked God to save her and also to deliver her from her problems.

THAT made it a great morning .. along with the fact that we started in our prayer group, worshiping at 7am, and had communion at the unoccupied tomb. That's a great place for it.

Bob Cleveland said...

Oh yes ... I like the common NT word for "worship" .. proskuneo. Like a dog licking its master's hand, according to Strong's.

I'll take that, every time.

Anonymous said...

From an IMB missionary,

Dear Brother Wade and blogger friends,

This past Sunday was the start of what I believe will be a new church, maybe even two, in our city. A lady we have known for 14 years, Mrs. F, has become a Christian, but not been baptized yet. She came to us and asked if we would help her with an Easter Home Party. She and her husband are owners of several after school “cram schools” She wanted to invite the children who attend their schools and their parents to an Easter “party” at her home. She chose 10 am Easter Sunday morning because she said the few Christians she knew would be in church and she wanted only non-Christians at her party.

We planned and prepared for several weeks. Sunday there were a total of 29 of her friends and their children to come to the party. That figures out to 90.6% of those attending had never heard the Gospel before.

My wife and I presented a mini-concert of vocal solos and a hand bell solo. My wife and Mrs. F presented the Easter story using pictures to the children and the parents. The children left the room and went to make several things that would remind them of the story they had just heard. I was able to share a “Bible talk” with the parents. Afterward we went to a park close by and had an Easter Egg hunt and a picnic together with the children and their parents.

All of the parents thanked us for making that day special for them and telling them about Jesus. None of the parents or children had ever heard the Easter story before. Some seeds were planted that day. We know because several have already e-mailed us saying they want to know more about God and His love for us.

During our preparation time several weeks before, Mrs. F asked if it would be OK to do the same thing the week after Easter at another location where they have more cram schools. We said that would be great!! Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, right! We are looking forward to see what God will do next Sunday as we gather at a cram school in another part of our city of 2.5 million for another Easter Party.

I would have loved to be in a worship service at your church Wade or the others churches who have written saying what a wonderful Sunday you had. However, I would not have traded the great music and preaching for the experience we had Sunday of being used by God to share the gospel with spiritually famished families in the country God has called us to.

We are often discouraged by the lack of response from the people in our country. However, we are a thousand times more discouraged by the fighting and seemingly gross lack of love and fellowship among many SBC churches and SBC leaders. We are often embarrassed to ID ourselves as SBC missionaries when we return to the states.

We are heart broken for our people group, but even more heart broken for the SBC. Words for thought from the MESSAGE, “ This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35

RP from the Pac Rim

Wade Burleson said...

Great reports RP and Bob!!

Strider said...

I try and give you Calvinists a lot of grace but this phrase

'providing for them additional materials that further explain the gospel (a book by John Piper)'

goes way over the top. The Gospel is not in fact a book by John Piper. It is God's own story and belongs to no author.

Seriously though, we had a great time here in Gondor with about 20 friends who gathered to sing, discuss the old old story, and take communion together.
The best Easter however, was had by my friend Gimli who with his wife met with the only other believer in Ithilien. It was her first Easter as a believer and Gimli reported that they had a great day. So, it isn't about the numbers, it is about God being glorified by doing the impossible. In your case, five Sunday morning services and in Gimli's the transformation of one. SDG.

Wade Burleson said...


Have you read Piper's "Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die"?

I can assure you, if you have not, the gospel is clearly articulated.

Bryant Owens said...

We traveled home for Easter and attended two different churches. One was my wife's family's church the other was our church we attended before heading out to Seminary.

I am always dumbfounded at how churches change church on Easter to accomodate the "unchurched" that always show up. I prefer to see church on Sunday be the same as any other Sunday. The obvious difference is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. But aren't we celebrating this fact all year anyway?

Why do we dumbdown our Easter services? I wonder what would happen if those who only attend church on Easter and Christmas saw and heard what church was really like the rest of the year. Would they respond to a more serious call to come to Christ?

bryan riley said...

Strider, I think I'm pretty much a Calvinist, whatever that label really means, but I get your point here. I dont' think you were commenting so much on the substance of the book, which is a good book; rather, you were commenting on the way Wade described the book, which, in your reading, a reasonable one, suggested that the gospel needed further explanation by a man.

What is interesting, however, is that I would think a Calvinist would be less concerned about providing further explanation ...? Or am I just confused. :)

irreverend fox said...

I agree with Johnny "Ignorance on Fire" Hunt...Calvinists are predestined to be right!

(and no I am not ripping on Hunt...that's a label he has used of himself many times...everybody breath...)

Alan Cross said...

Guys, I think that Strider was trying to be funny. At least that's how I took it.

We had a great service. We had our Good Friday service and then a sunrise service on Sunday. Then, our Easter service was our largest service in the past several years, even though we had a lot of people out of town visiting family. Our children's choir sang, and we had a special music as well.

I preached from Acts 17, verse by verse. It was such a great text to minister to both believers as well as the many visitors that we had that were unchurched or unbelievers. We worshiped God with abandon and proclaimed His Word. It was a pretty awesome day, but it wasn't much different than most Sundays, except we put a few more elements in the service together all at once.

jack said...


I too wonder why many churches present a (to paraphrase your question) "a different message on Easter in order to attract the unchurched."

My central question, though is the reverse of yours; ie: Why aren't we "trying to attract the unchurched" year round?

Strider said...

Thanks Alan, the emphasis apparently belongs on 'trying' to be funny.

S.A.M. said...

Your question: "Why aren't we "trying to attract the unchurched" year round?"

I think churches do try to attract unchurched people year round, but Easter is the biggest visitation to church by the un-churched of the year. Perhaps out of obligation or celebration, or tradition, etc. Our church tried to put on the best welcome face we could for the most visitors we have on one Sunday all year long. We try to take this chance to let them see we are not what their expectations are about the church, but that we are a united and welcoming family of God. We try to do this every Sunday, and I'm sure many churches with the right mission try to do, but Easter Sunday is like Super Bowl Sunday for Christ followers. Easter Sunday is the chance to show non-believers that religion is not what Jesus was all about. A chance to break a lot of stereotypes about church and church-goers. We need to sieze the opportunities as church members and as Christ followers to connect people to God who are not connected to Him.

Anonymous said...

I think I am more of a Calvin and Hobbes person than a Calvinist.....

jack said...


I absolutely agree with everything you said in your last post.

Here's what I was responding to:

"I am always dumbfounded at how churches change church on Easter to accomodate the "unchurched" that always show up. I prefer to see church on Sunday be the same as any other Sunday.

Why do we dumbdown our Easter services? I wonder what would happen if those who only attend church on Easter and Christmas saw and heard what church was really like the rest of the year. Would they respond to a more serious call to come to Christ?"

I am sensitive to statements like those because the church in which I serve is often (correctly) labelled as "seeker-friendly."

Some who afix that labels to like-minded churches often accuse us of "watering down the gospel" to attract a crowd.

I just don't get the mindset that it's OK to let the rest of the world go to hell -- so long as we don't "dumb down" The Gospel.

K. Michael Crowder said...

I think I am more of a Calvin and Hobbes person than a Calvinist.....

As in John and Hershel? OY!

I think I am more of a Rogers and Mohler person. As in Adrian and Albert.

But a little more R than M. :)

Wade, I have enjoyed your posts of late. No politics for me to comment on. :) A good thing. I will say, however, that God has been moving in ways unimaginable. I think I was wrong about a great many things.
I am currently reading Desiring God by John Piper and have found it to be a most excellent and inspiring book. I broused through a copy of "50 reason" at a Wal-Mart, of all place, a few weeks ago and thought, "how wonderful that such a simple message can be offered in such a way as to reach thousands of lost souls."


Debbie said...

If you will look at the history of Calvin and Hobbes you will discover that Calvin was named after none other than John Calvin. :)