Few questions haunt pastors as much as: “What makes a worship gathering successful?”

I can think of few questions that have haunted pastors as much as this one: “What makes a worship gathering successful?”

It’s easy enough to offer up a theologically sound response, but the stressful frenzy of activity within church leadership meetings preceding the season of Easter suggests that these answers rarely satisfy. Even as many of us ministering in contemporary evangelical spaces prepare to lead our churches in worship and through the Word, we likely know the tension between quiet, faithful labor and attempts to sanctify our own ambitions. Many of us understand how difficult it can be to plan for the church we have while trying to ignore the thought of the church we desire. Bigger, louder, more unique content to push—definitions of success for the church and its gatherings start to look familiar, worldly, unimaginative.

This ministerial irony is often loudest during the season of Lent. While millions of believers all over the world begin to embark on a spiritual journey of quiet, strenuous preparation leading up to Easter, many of their pastors are assembling teams to facilitate grand ideas that might draw record-setting crowds. The “Super Bowl Sunday” of the modern church calendar is marked to proclaim the victory of Christ, but with that date comes very specific ideas of success and uniquely heavy burdens required to achieve them. Budgets skyrocket. The number of required volunteers jumps. The joyful Easter celebration for the congregation can feel more like an exhausted, finish-line collapse for the staff and teams that facilitate it.

This price is worth paying when the measure of success is simply “more.” After all, the surge in attendance around Easter is a real …

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