A View from the Pew: The Resurrection Applies to Chreasters, Too

Pew_smThe Resurrection is for everyone. Infrequent attendance at worship services does not exclude a person from accessing the hope of the risen Jesus Christ.

But for consistent church attenders, high holy days such as Christmas and Easter can create a sense of protective exclusion. We feel slightly annoyed that what we partake in on a weekly basis is suddenly interesting to others. In the dark corners of our emotions, we feel a bit selfish about having to share our worship experiences with those whose commitment is, on the surface, lacking.

In our culture of labeling everything, the person who shows up only on Christmas and Easter now has a name. “Chreaster” has emerged over the last 10 years or so, and it’s a mashup of the words “Christian,” “Christmas” and “Easter.” Look it up on the blog, The Dictionary of Christianese, if you want more on its origins.

“Chreaster” is not an appellation one aspires to, just as “fair-weather fan” or “conditional friend” are avoided. The year-round, “every-time-the-doors-are-open” faithful can’t help but look down on chreasters. If we view our church attendance competitively or comparatively, this is a helpful bunch to have around because we feel better about ourselves.

If you recognize these emotions about the twice-a-year attenders to your church, it might be helpful to take a different approach. Instead of viewing chreasters with disdain, recognize them as a symbol of hope, a symbol as powerful as the spring bloom, the cross draped in white or the empty tomb. Whenever anyone enters the church to worship, no matter what baggage they bring with them, hope is available to them.

Easter Sunday may not be a day when many form the life-long habit of faithful church attendance. The cliché is for the chreasters to show up on Easter and disappear again until Christmas. But when we judge chreasters, we are, in essence, judging the time lapse of their repentance cycle.

We look down on them because they only show up twice in a year, presumably out of some sense of obligation. Meanwhile, we give ourselves a pass because our repentance cycle is only six days. We show up each Sunday, often compelled by that same sense of obligation. But if our lives aren’t significantly different between the Sundays, how is our approach substantially different? We may have more checks in the boxes on our attendance sheet, but the condition of our heart is the same, if not worse.

The chreaster generally possesses humility that the week-in-and-week-out attender does not. Like the publican in Luke 18, the chreaster knows he or she is in need of grace while the faithful feels entitled to God’s blessing. I ask you, which is the healthier approach to worship?

One diagnostic of our spiritual condition is our response to chreasters. If we view them as a nuisance or second-class citizens to be pitied, then we have problems we need to sort out in our own lives. We have become self-centered and calloused in our ownership of church, refusing to recognize that the grace we lay claim to on a consistent basis is available to everyone, any time and every time.

If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you must have a firm grasp on the biblical idea of hope. All who enter the church, no matter how infrequently, have access to that same transformational hope. If we take a moment to let that sink in, Easter Sunday can be truly life-changing.

Instead of becoming frustrated that someone you haven’t seen since Christmas is in your spot, give thanks to God that the chreasters are there, pray for their return, and seek forgiveness for your self-righteousness.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson who works as Director of Communications for the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He previously served as Director of Communications with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Lance blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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