On Easter, Christian churches are bedecked with flowers, joyful music and people. Among those folks probably will be some who will not be back until next Easter.
To celebrate Easter is to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, something even Christ's disciples struggled to understand.
This month, our Question of Faith is:
Why do non-believers attend church on Easter? Does God take attendance?
Here's how some members of our Kentucky.com Faith Blog Network responded to that question:
The Rev. Myron William, Southland Christian Church, Lexington: God notices who loves and follows him.
If Easter is a beginning step to loving and following, attendance on Easter is very good. If attendance is for show or pleasing someone other than God, then attendance is really not an act of love or following.
However, attendance also means hearing the Gospel of hope and resurrection so there is space for God's grace to work.
Here at Southland, we welcome with open arms anyone who joins us in corporate worship no matter their motive or intent, and no matter what the day, because we believe in grace, and seek to practice it daily.
The Rev. Kory Wilcoxson, Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington: As a pastor, I don't in any way begrudge the Christmas and Easter crowd. Hey, at least they are there. They can't hear the good news of Christ's resurrection if they aren't within earshot. Who knows how God's spirit will work in them that day to bring them to a new level of commitment?
God doesn't pay attention to attendance on Easter more closely than any other Sunday.
Regular church attendance is an outward sign of an inward commitment we make to be an active part of a particular congregation. I believe God wants us to commit with our hearts and live that out in our lives, including through our church attendance.
The Rev. Mary Seeger Weese, Midway Presbyterian Church: This question assumes a God with a checklist and plays on the guilt that most people already feel about attending worship services.
The God I know knows us from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes to the bottom of our hearts. And God knows why we go to church and why we don't. God always longs to know us and longs to have us discover the grace and mystery of a life that is about more than the big, shiny stuff the world sells.
I think God would prefer to have our attention more often in worship and study. And spiritually it's really good for us.
But the real question here is: Does the church take attendance on Easter? On the holidays of Easter and Christmas, the few holy days that people might feel inclined to look for deeper meaning, a little ritual, a little something sacred, are we obsessed with numbers?
If we are a community changed by the love and forgiveness of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, making people feel guilty about their attendance kind of ruins the party.
The Rev. Pete Hise, Quest Community Church, Lexington: If you mean by "take attendance," does God care that people hear about his miraculous love and action on their behalf in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then come to experience that love for themselves — the answer is "absolutely yes."
God's heart is that everyone finds a place this Easter where they come face to face with the life-changing power and hope of Christ.
And if you're looking for a place to do that, you're invited to Quest Community Church.
The Rev. Ernie Heavin, Oasis Church of Christ, Georgetown: I would suggest the non-Christian attends church on Easter because it is a time when families get together.
And if the patriarch or matriarch of the family attends church on a regular basis, it is best to appease and attend the yearly ritual than to offend and receive the prophetic lecture about, "You should have gone to church this morning," that Uncle Bob has to hear due to his lack of reverent behavior. Once the service is over they head to the hosting house for an Easter egg hunt and a large meal.
When I was a child, the once-a-year church attendance on Easter was an excellent excuse for buying a new spring outfit and showing it off at church.
I suppose you could say it is more out of obligation to family than adoration of Christ.
Mike James, south-central strategist/discipleship/ assimilation coordinator for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Louisville: The early Christians began to worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath (Saturday) because of the resurrection, so I would think that God views every Sunday as Easter Sunday.
Sure we call Sunday "the Lord's Day," but he created all seven days so they equally belong to him.
Does God give more brownie points if we attend on the day his son rose again?
Now you are talking theology.
God is not into giving brownie points, but is more focused on granting us sinners forgiveness and grace. These gifts can happen to people as easily on Monday as on Sunday.
As finite people, we are more into keeping attendance, rules and regulations and trying to earn our way to heaven (I sound like a Pharisee).
God is more concerned about the human heart and giving us what we could never earn or merit on our own good works or good looks.
This is the hope of Easter.
People come to church on Easter, even skeptics and non-believers, because deep down in our hearts is the intense desire to believe in something beyond us, something eternal.