Easter is the beginning of God’s story of restoration and renewal in us. Because Jesus rose, we too shall rise. Death will not have the last word. Because of the resurrection our preaching has purpose, our faith has forgiveness, and our service to Him has significance.

But Easter is more than a day of celebration, it is also a great day to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Easter represents the single-most important day of the year that first-time church visitors will attend a service. In fact, it is on Easter Sunday that the hearts of thousands of people in Panama City and the surrounding areas will be looking to attend a church for perhaps the first time in a year. This is the day when the Gospel is preached to the most people at any one time in America.

I have to be honest. Without sounding like a wrestling promoter, I want to break our attendance record for Northstar. I want to preach to a packed house. I want to have hundreds of new visitors attend Northstar. There is one day in our calendar year which, if maximized, can result in accomplishing those goals. That day is Easter.

I believe God wants the same thing. That begs the question: What would happen if every person who calls Northstar home made a simple invitation to one of our Easter services to people they know, be it first-time acquaintances, co-workers, friends, or even family? Each of us have people in our lives who would benefit from attending an Easter service at Northstar.  Easter is a very natural time to invite people to church, because the Easter message has the ability to change lives and change history.

In this process of inviting, I want you to think about who to invite. The people we should be targeting at Easter are the unchurched and the dechurched.

Dechurched Marty? Who are you talking about? They are those who have been so disaffected and disillusioned by church that they have walked away either temporarily or for good. If you live in America, chances are you’ve tasted faith in some shape or form. Most people will be introduced to a faith community sometime in their life. How that experience affected us probably determined whether we stayed in church, rejected it outright, or took a break from it short-term or indefinitely. We should reach out to those who have become disenfranchised by religion and bring them back into a caring, Christ-centered church. I don’t have any statistics, but I believe there are as many dechurched people in our culture as there are unchurched.

If we do, we’ll move much closer to the real meaning of Easter. It’s not just an evangelistic holiday, it is also an opportunity to bring back those who wandered away from the church for whatever reason.

So I ask that you invite one or two people to a Northstar Easter service. It’s about reaching out personally and even sacrificially so a relationship can start. Tell them all are welcome here, with no prerequisites of church background or prior belief. Tell them to bring their faith and doubt, their joy and tears, their praise and selfishness. Tell them if they feel excluded or don’t fit in or when others have turned their backs on them, they are welcome here. Even if they blew all the money that they were going to put in the offering at the Ebro Dog Track, they are welcome here.

Because at Northstar, we look beyond exclusion to inclusion and as a result everybody is welcome.

While Easter is all about a date in history, the hope of real-life change is what makes Easter not just an event, but a celebration. Easter changes everything. And as God is working in your own life, ask Him to give you an outward-focused heart, ready to share His gift of new life with others.