Can you imagine going to a theater to watch a hundred million dollar movie only to discover there isn’t a final scene? Can you imagine a race car driver leading the entire race and then in the final lap, stops paying attention and loses the race? Can you imagine getting directions on Google Maps and it not giving you the directions for the last mile?
All three of those scenarios remind us that it’s all about the finish.
I know that you are standing right on the threshold of Easter. Every pastor I know loves Easter. It is the moment that we get to lead our people in celebrating the single greatest event in history. EVERYTHING about our faith hinges on whether or not Jesus actually, literally, bodily rose from the dead.
In 1 Corinthians 15:14 (NLT) the apostle Paul is very clear about this.
And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.
But we not only love Easter for it’s inherent meaning, we also love Easter because it is typically a big day for our churches. It is not unusual for a church to double its normal attendance on Easter. That means that people are showing up at your building and to your services that don’t usually come.
And I have no doubt that you have done a good job of planning for all the people who will show up at your church this weekend. You have thought about parking and children’s ministry and greeters and special music. You have worked hard to share an Easter message that is fresh and inspiring.
But can I gently remind you to make sure you plan the finish. The last five minutes of your Easter sermon is the most important five minutes. Please be absolutely 100% painstakingly clear when sharing the gospel. People’s eternity is on the line.
I remember attending Christmas services a couple of years ago at a large church. Hundreds of people were there that didn’t regularly go to church. The staff had worked for weeks to plan all of the details of their Easter weekend. But when the pastor finished his message, his presentation of the gospel was sloppy at best.
His message was well-prepared and well-delivered, but his sharing of the gospel seemed like an after-thought. I walked out that day wondering how many people there could have experienced a true transformational conversion but didn’t because the pastor wasn’t clear. Or worse, how many people left that day perhaps thinking they were Christ followers when they hadn’t had a real encounter with the gospel?
We have been given the incredible privilege of sharing the gospel. And we bear the incredible responsibility of sharing it simply and clearly.
It reminds me of the words of Paul in Romans 10:14 (NLT)
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
You are the “someone” to tell them. Last week I saw the video testimony of a woman with an incredibly painful past. She had been raped and tried to commit suicide. She had been divorced and in bondage to an addiction. Her life had completely come unraveled. She was invited by a friend to a church service where she heard a clear presentation of the gospel. And, as a result, gave her life to Christ and has been radically transformed.
In the video they showed her baptism and as she came up out of the water you could see the joy and freedom and peace that she had found in Christ.
People like her will sit in your church this Easter. They may look put together on the outside but on the inside life is coming unraveled. And they desperately need a “someone” to clearly tell them the good news of the gospel.
And remember, it’s not your facility, or your music, or your marketing, or even your sermon that transforms lives… IT IS THE GOSPEL that saves.
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. Romans 1:16 (NIV)