Pastor, I trust your last Sunday was a blessed worship experience.
I understand the highs and lows of special emphasis days such as Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day. I’ve left them before feeling quite discouraged. I also know what it is to float into Monday on the wings of encouragement.
When it comes to special Sundays, I’ve learned to stop measuring success by counting noses and nickels. Don’t get me wrong, we count every dame, dude, and dime. But their abundance or lack thereof does not determine my worth to Christ and success in His service.
There is one thing about special Sundays that I’m absolutely sure about. Our regular congregation and our unchurched guests need to hear a clear presentation of the good news message of Jesus Christ. Pastor, that’s what your congregation needs on holidays, holy days, and high attendance emphasis days.
Why do I stand on this conviction? Because we can never assume they’ve really heard the Gospel. Pastor, it’s the one thing about that day that you have the most control over. Get it right, and you’ll glorify Jesus in the process.
So let me share three things that make for a great special-day sermon.
1. You need simple content for this special day.
Assume you will have guests present who are unchurched and have little biblical literacy. That being said, this is not the time for supposing five theories on the three days between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Don’t try to make connections between ancient paganism and our modern celebrations. Save those intellectual pieces for another teaching session with your core believers. And please don’t make snide remarks about those who only come to church on these special days. That criticism does nothing to help their souls.
On a special day, let the simplicity of Scripture speak, and let Jesus Christ be the star of your message. Share some heartfelt illustrations and maybe even the three-minute version of your personal testimony.
Enjoy the opportunity and be gracious in your delivery of the Good News.
2. Be brief in length for the sake of family gatherings.
Sunday is not all about you and the sound of your voice. And special days such as Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas (and others) are even less about you than you could imagine. The families in your congregation have planned to spend some time together. Respect that, and you will be beloved for years to come. I’ve never heard a sincere complaint about a short sermon.
In most people’s minds, even a bad short sermon is better than a good long sermon. An old saying emphasizes this truth: “if you haven’t struck oil in twenty minutes, you need to stop drilling.” Alas, I usually drill longer than that.
Clarity comes when you practice brevity, and the congregation is more likely to remember some of the content.
3. Please provide a clear invitation.
The conclusion of your message needs to be well-placed. Have the end in sight before you step into the pulpit. Resist the urge to tell it all, all over again. A well-placed conclusion makes for the beginning of an effective invitation.
Don’t blow this. Let your invitation be so clear that even the simplest ten-year-old in your congregation knows how they should respond. Do offer an opportunity for sinners to repent and place their faith in Christ. It’s also an excellent opportunity to help backsliders reconnect to their relationship with God. Have some altar workers prepared for this salvation opportunity.
Tell them when to act and exactly what action you want them to take.
Here’s one last thing about these special Sundays. Have a prearranged follow-up plan that includes more than just you and your spouse. Reach out to them with a little love and offer a prayer for any needs in their life. Handle these appointed days well, and you will likely have people wanting to come back for more.