Christopher Nolan’s Tip for Easter Sunday

Christopher Nolan is the master filmmaker behind The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar. Reflecting on how he made the move from small, self-funded films to studio-backed projects, his advice to up-and-comers is to always have your next project ready. He explains:

“The thing that happens to a lot of people is that you get that opportunity, somebody says, ‘I really loved your film, what else do you have?’ And if you don’t have anything, or if you’ve just got vague ideas, it’s very difficult to take advantage of that moment, and that moment doesn’t come around again… You’ve got to jump on it.”

It may not sound like it, but this is great advice for Easter Sunday — a day when there will be many visitors and guests. If they connect with God, your ministry, and you as a preacher, it creates the kind of moment to which Nolan is referring: an openness to more.

At the very least, you should be prepared to intentionally invite them to a specific event — whether it is worship the next Sunday, a meal/fellowship event mid-week, or some other ministry. Give them a concrete day and time to return (or to meet you out in the community). Create a clear call to action to which they can respond.

Even better is to have something to announce that specifically targets guests. This could be a class or small group, but the most common thing I see is a sermon series that tackles an intriguing topic or question. Lifeway CEO Thom Rainer has shared that visitors on Christmas Eve tend to be new to church, while visitors on Easter tend to be returning to the church. Perhaps select a topic that digs into assumptions, questions, doubts, or frustrations — the kinds of things that lead people to leave in the first place. Or select something that may be top of mind for people outside of the church, such as cultural or current events.

Often, the Easter message is either the final week of the Lenten series (which can be a challenge for guests to engage), or it is a stand-alone Gospel message. These can certainly work, and an Easter Sunday message should always place the story, meaning, and power of the resurrection front and center. However, if you can find a way to do this while also beginning the new series on Easter, you create a desire to return and hear what’s next.

For this to be effective, you need to face two realities:

First, you have to do the work ahead of time of having the new project ready to go. Nolan was offered the chance to make his first studio-backed movie because he had a new screenplay ready when his independent movie released. He gave interested parties the opportunity to buy into an actual project and not just the idea of one. The more concrete your pitch is, the easier it will be to understand and respond to.

Second, you need to be ready to launch into the new series, class/group, or ministry immediately after Easter. Perhaps this is the last thing you want to do after a 6-week-long Lent and a meaningful yet exhausting Holy Week. But, as Nolan said, you want to jump on the opportunity. Christmas is usually easier as you can invite folks to come back in January, and then take the last Sunday and week of the year off. However, with Easter, you need to have the energy level, resources, and staff/volunteers ready to go right away. This may mean intentionally resting during the week or two before Holy Week, and then having people who can cover some of your other responsibilities in the week after as you recharge.

Who knows when you are actually reading this, but it is going live the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. If I had published it any earlier, you may have passed on it because Easter was so far away. But I can’t publish it any later because the clock is ticking. You still have the chance to get something in place that will bring glory to God, make disciples, and demonstrate good stewardship of the amazing opportunity you will have with visitors and guests on Easter.

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