Some weeks fade from memory quickly; others stand out for their significance and impact.
This year, the week of Easter and following was a memorable week for us to learn some indispensible things about being a vibrant and healthy church in the 21st century.
The week began on Easter Sunday. The throngs that showed up at worship across the land remind us that our message of hope remains indispensible and desperately needed.
Wise clergy and congregations will do more than lament the disparity in attendance between Easter and other days. We must give careful thought to what it is that brings such a crowd.
There is something in the Easter message and spirit that resonates deeply with human beings.
When we understand that the Easter gospel is what we can lead with 365 days a year, we will be on our way to increased relevance and attraction to people who crave what we know. Easter serves to remind us of what matters most.
If we are wise, we will reprioritize what we do, the ministries we offer and the message we communicate the other 51 Sundays each year.
Somehow, we must bring people a glimpse of Easter every time they encounter us. Easter Sunday reminded us that hope is a trait of a healthy church.
On Wednesday after Easter, we watched in horror as devastating tornadoes tore through communities and decimated lives and property. The apocalyptic scenes of destruction and loss of life defied belief.
Nearly everyone had family or friends in harm’s way. Within a matter of hours, churches and denominations began spreading the word that help was on the way. Disaster vehicles rolled in, generators showed up, cleanup teams arrived and supplies began to flow.
In scenes repeated throughout the devastation, people were amazed at the generosity and helpful spirit of God’s people. Putting Matthew 25 into action, believers rolled in with desperately needed help and care for strangers.
Some of our finest hours as God’s people take place when we forget ourselves and give to others unconditionally of our time, resources and energy.
Healthy congregations will remember that delivering the healing touch that Jesus called us to administer in his name continues to deserve a place of preeminence in our congregation.
If we simply lament and empathize with victims of storms or hunger or inadequate health care or substandard housing or sex trade trafficking, then we have a faith that is dead, James tells us.
Healthy churches do something when they see people in need. In the name of Christ, they reach out and become the hands and feet of the One who commanded us to care for others as if they were Jesus himself.
On Wednesday, God’s people brought help and healing to those in need.
On Friday came the royal wedding. Granted, I was as cynical as anyone about the event that seemed so over the top and irrelevant to real life.
However, as I watched the worship event unfold on Friday morning, I was captivated by its beauty, redemptive message and universal appeal across ages, cultures and standing.
Seeing the events unfold and the celebration spread, I became increasingly curious about what was so mesmerizing about the day.
To be sure, transference was at play, as was fantasizing about a level of pomp and ceremony that most will never know. However, I sensed a deeper and more profound reality emerging.
I believe the elegance and majesty of the moment touched us at a level far beneath the surface. There is something in the human spirit that desires transcendence and majesty.
Perhaps our projections upon a human monarchy reflect our hopes and dreams of a divine kingdom and the omnipotent reign of sovereign God.
Each week, local congregations come to worship with the opportunity to bring people into the presence of the Almighty, the ruler of the universe, God immortal and eternal.
Sadly, we too often handle such a momentous occasion casually and with borderline indifference. If we only knew those who come needing a glimpse of another world, another kingdom, a place where goodness rules and God is worshipped and reigns.
If so, we might take more care with our worship planning, our personal sense of reverence and our attitude of humility.
Friday served as a needed reminder of the privilege we have every week to bring people into the presence of the living God.
We may not worship in Westminster Abbey or wear the ornamental robes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but we do have something of the same role in our society.
We have the privilege of inviting human beings to imagine that there is a God and that they can have a relationship with that God through Jesus Christ.
On Friday, we were reminded that God is worthy of our worship and adoration.
A healthy church and clergy who give themselves to being voices of hope, help, healing and meaningful worship will find that they are relevant and necessary in the world before us.
Last week taught us many lessons about our future. I hope we were listening.
Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC) housed at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.