Why the Baptist Church Should Celebrate Lent

on February 22 | in Church Year, Lent, Uncategorized | by | with 7 Comments

I grew up thinking the four major days of the church year were Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. They were certainly the days that seem to receive the most excitement and specialness. Since my childhood, I have been exposed to and studied so many different traditions of worship, and find that we often fall short of the wonderful experiences we can have in worship because we have eliminated much of the traditional church calendar. By this I mean, in our effort to move away from some of the excesses of some brands of Christianity, we have thrown out the baby with the bath water (another expression I learned when growing up!)

Wednesday of this week was Ash Wednesday; it marked the beginning of the season of Lent. The 40-day Lenten period is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use the Lenten season for introspection, self examination, and repentance.

Lent culminates with Holy Week, beginning the Sunday before Easter and going up to Easter Sunday. The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday and generally celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Thursday is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday and remembers the last supper. Good Friday is the day that we commemorate Christ’s death on the cross. Finally, Easter Sunday is a great day of celebrating the resurrection.

Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Some churches today still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, sweets, and other types of food. I often give up something during Lent. For instance, some years I have given up all soft drinks and sweet tea–only to drink water (I have a hard time without my sweet tea!). What I have discovered is that every time I crave tea or a soft drink, I think about the reason I am giving up this beverage and focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. It is amazing how much this helps me get in focus and prepare for Easter. Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities. Most Christian churches that observe Lent at all focus on it as a time of prayer, especially penance, repenting for failures and sin as a way to focus on the need for God’s grace. It is really a preparation to celebrate God’s marvelous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians.

In my opinion, unless we truly experience Lent, Easter is not nearly as great a celebration, but for many who have never been exposed to the “real” church calendar, the idea may seem somewhat foreign.

Here are some simple ways to help your church experience Lent. Perhaps, if this is your first year doing so, you will select just one or two things. Some ideas you may keep in your plans for next year.

  • Prepare a 40-day (or 46-day) Lenten devotional or even a Holy Week (8-day) devotional for the entire congregation to share. You can assign various members of the body to write the devotionals to make it more personal for your church.
  • Encourage your congregation to go through a daily Bible reading plan for Lent such as this or this.
  • Plan an Ash Wednesday service. (more on this in the near future)
  • Write Lenten devotionals in your weekly bulletin or newsletter.
  • Plan all your Sunday worship services to have a Lenten focus. Perhaps choose a song that will tie the time together each week, such as Lead Me to the Cross.
  • Plan special Holy Week services (more on this next week)
  • Display various types of art with a Lenten emphasis around the church. Find excellent art for your bulletin or screens in worship.
  • Distribute nails or small crosses to each person to keep with them throughout Lent as a reminder of the season.
  • Encourage families to observe Lent at home. There are numerous resources on the web to give you ideas. Here’s one.

Hopefully, this will get your creativity flowing. Next week, I will talk more about special Holy Week services. Take a look.

What are some meaningful things your church has done for Lent?

 

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7 Responses

  1. Sophi301 says:

    My granny goes to a Baptist church and they celebrate Lent. My church Baptist church doesn’t but I acknowledge on my own how important Lent is Fasting, devoting more time to prayer and reading the scripture. What better incentive to Fast and Pray than during Lent.

  2. Kenny Lamm says:

    I’ll be back on the Lenten topic on March 8. Had to take a week to deal with another issue. Thanks for the comments!

  3. Tim Williams says:

    Really thankful for your article. Have benefited greatly from time spent in an AMiA church where Easter seems to have more significance and seems more real because of their observance of Lent. Looking forward to trying to make that more of a reality at our church this year and more in coming years! Looking forward to your next article.

  4. Neal Eller says:

    Thank you Kenny and Milton Hollifield for leading the Baptist Building chapel experience in a most meaningful Ash Wednesday service. I will never forget what a pastor once said to me when I wanted to observe the 40 days of Lent in a church where I served as Minister of Music, “our people are not ready for that.” Sadly, the same commentary describes too many Christians today. Unless our heart (soil) is continually broken with confession and repentance, it will soon become hard like a well-worn path. I would never want Jesus to say of me, “they honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”

    Check out this new book coming out in March from a number of authors, some from our own Southern Baptist Divinity Schools and Seminary’s: “Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism”

    http://www.amazon.com/Journeys-Faith-Evangelicalism-Catholicism-Anglicanism/dp/031033120X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1330028469&sr=8-1

  5. Paul Clark says:

    Thank you, Kenny, for drawing our Baptist attention to a “non-Baptist” practice that has been making some subtle appearance in Baptist life through the years. The old revivals (some two weeks long) were notably in Fall (pre-Advent) and Spring (Lent). Today’s culture seems to have more appreciation for contemplative forms. You remind us, though, that we are leaders and as such have opportunity to be more disciplined (disciples) about following this patterned practice, and not just “get into it” based on the fact that contemplative is back to being cool.

    Keep up the good and very important work of helping us think!

  6. Kelley Garris says:

    Thank you Kenny for your thoughtful article on Lent. At FBC Wilson we are using a “Lenten candles” series in both our traditional and contemporary services; the readings each Sunday, coordinated by our worship committee, are a wonderful way to involve multiple lay persons in leading worship. (This week is women’s Sunday so we’re using a child, a teen, and two adult women) The contemporary worship team is using some pointed videos on the meaning of fasting and prayer at this season, and placing crosses in the worship space as a visible reminder of the meaning of the season. The preaching and the music both reflect the “journey to the cross.” You are right–Easter will mean so much more having remembered, pondered, and drawn deeper into prayer.

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