As I write these words, the U.S. National Park Service just celebrated its 100th anniversary. At the same time, one of my favorite sports broadcast personalities, Mike Greenberg, just celebrated 20 years of service with ESPN.
These milestones bring to mind a book that has been a big help to me over the years entitled How to Survive in the Ministry, by Leslie Flynn who pastored Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, New York for more than 40 years. In the chapter “Celebrate Often,” Flynn details various events, special speakers, and recognitions his congregation hosted during his time there.
This summons is certainly biblical, as God’s people have always been great celebrators. After escaping Egyptian slavery, the Jews commemorated their release by observing Passover. It’s certainly no coincidence that Jesus was crucified 1,500 years later as this same feast was being observed.
Around 1,000 BC, during a time when Israel’s spiritual condition had deteriorated badly, David led the effort to bring the ark of the LORD to its rightful place in Jerusalem. David was so excited that he gave an offering, passed out food, and danced in the streets. When his wife Michal criticized his exhilaration, he responded, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD” (2 Samuel 6:21).
After Nehemiah led God’s people to reconstruct the wall around Jerusalem, they gathered as one while Ezra read the law. When the people began to cry, Nehemiah proclaimed: “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep. Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:9,10).
Motivated by Flynn’s book and following the biblical pattern, here are five things you can lead your church to celebrate:
A Noteworthy Anniversary—Our sanctuary turned 50 in the Fall of 2013. In addition to praising God and fellowshipping with one another, people sat on the edge of their seats as we opened a time capsule that had been safely cemented into a corner of the building for half a century! We’ve since reloaded the capsule and returned it to its protected place. Plans are to reopen it when the church celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2035.
A Completed Renovation—A few months ago, we replaced the original windows in that same sanctuary with beautiful stained glass that colorfully depicts the “I am” statements of Jesus. After completion, we celebrated with inspirational music, a sermon on the Scriptures represented, recognition of the building committee, and a presentation from the man who designed the windows.
A Staff Member’s Milestone—Just weeks ago, we celebrated the 20-year anniversary of our music minister. Rather than having a sparse Sunday evening crowd scattered throughout our auditorium, we gathered a much larger group in our fellowship hall for a delicious meal, great fellowship, and sharing of wonderful memories. The best part was that the entire body got to see a side of our music minister that typically only the choir and staff enjoy.
A Supper for the Community—One Sunday night last February we moved away from the building and into the community, providing a meal in a nearby, needy neighborhood. In addition to food, we provided games for the children and handed out hundreds of dollars in gift cards. I was especially thrilled at the number of our members who brought and served food.
A Day to Honor Law Enforcement—In response to recent negative media, we decided to devote a Sunday morning to those who put their lives on the line every day to provide protection. Scores of officers and their spouses worshipped and enjoyed a meal together after the service. Pinpoint special law enforcement people in your church and community to help plan and promote the day.
These are just a few special events and occasions we’ve recently rallied around recently. I’m sure you can come up with many others within your ministry setting. What are some good things your church has celebrated? Feel free to share a few in the comments.