Empty Tomb, Full Hearts: Eternal Implications of Easter Celebrations Across Church of God

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Loving and Serving

By Carl Stagner

The Son has risen and, across the Church of God movement again this year, the sunrise greeted many caffeinated congregations eager to gather for early services. More incredibly, the Spirit harnessed worship services, special programming, outreach activities, and service projects—maybe even a few breakfast casseroles—to change the trajectory of numerous individuals and families. Exposure to the gospel was high with record-breaking attendance in some settings, baptisms yet again proved more prolific than any other day of the year, and heaven’s applause over first-time surrender to Jesus was loud enough to make the foundations of hell shake. This was Easter across the Church of God movement, an assertion supported by several examples of eternal implications.

Easter egg hunt at Spirit Lake Community Church in Winter Haven, Florida.

Starting several days, if not a few weeks, ahead of Easter Sunday, Churches of God in the United States and Canada mobilized efforts to reach out to their surrounding communities. The iconic Easter egg hunt was the most popular option, attracting families in droves for the fun, candy, and crafts, but including the message of Jesus in bite-sized chunks or in one fell swoop. Innovative spins on the classic egg-hunt (or egg scramble in cases where releasing children to the pastel-colored treasures was like opening the starting gates for thoroughbred horses) were plentiful and appreciated—easter story-walks, for instance, added interactive “stations” of Jesus’ life and ministry prior to the egg-hunting frenzy; crafting, painting, singing, bounce houses, lunch, petting zoos, prizes, and other family-friendly additions were especially appreciated. An “Easter Color Run” at Crossings Community Church in Sanford, Florida, took creativity to the next level as children were invited to “throw on a white T-shirt, and come ready to celebrate the Easter season with this fun, colorful, and exciting celebration! The kids will be running from station to station, around the parking lot, experiencing the sights and sounds of Easter, while getting different colors tossed on them as they run.” Not surprisingly, the event also featured an obstacle course, ziplines, and free food.

Easter eggs and obstacle courses weren’t the only examples of outward orientation among Church of God congregations this year. Several found other ways to witness, encourage, and bless. Main Street Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, recruited a caravan of carolers—not to sing Christmas carols, but familiar Easter-themed songs—in nursing homes and outside the houses of several shut-ins of the congregation. Donations received for the Easter breakfast at Heritage Church of Maumee (Toledo), Ohio, went to an external cause—the Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission. A post on social media described the rationale: “Jesus Christ lived a life of humility and service. We want to honor him!” Gospel Nation Christian Fellowship, a Church of God congregation in Powder Springs, Georgia, added lunch, games, and a community health fair—complete with mental and physical health screens for a variety of maladies—to their Easter egg hunt the day before Resurrection Sunday.

“Color Run” at Crossings Community Church in Sanford, Florida.

It wasn’t easy for many, but worshipers gathered across the country and around the world to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at the crack of dawn. Cold and rainy weather made it uncomfortable for some, downed power poles left others singing “Up from the grave he arose” by candlelight indoors, and others faced a variety of logistical challenges; still, the Lord prevailed and souls were stirred by the Spirit. Pancakes, breakfast casseroles, and Sonoran-style breakfast burritos were on the menu for a number of churchwide breakfasts preceding primary worship gatherings on Easter morning. Satisfying the hunger of the human heart, it was the combination of choral cantatas, children’s dramas, powerful anthems, and gripping messages from the Bible that will satiate long after the stomach was no longer full.

Maybe it was the sixty-five children screaming, “Tombs are for dead people. Jesus is alive!” at Northwest Community Church in Washington, D.C. Or perhaps it was the thirty-four baptisms and forty people making Solid Rock Community Church their church home in Kissimmee, Florida, that did it. Possibly it had to do with the baptisms in combination with child dedications at Good Church in Flint, Michigan. Or the “full house” at Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia. Likely it was the eighty-six professions of Jesus as Lord and Savior during services at Mountain Park Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Whatever it was, Easter 2024 across the Church of God movement showed there was a whole lot of it, to God be the glory!

Easter drama at Thursday Church in Vincennes, Indiana.

What was it that made your Easter experience so wonderful this year? Let us know! Just fill out this form to share your story with us.

Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

Feature (top) photo: Easter 2024 at First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio.

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