As we think about how church will look in the age of COVID-19, we know that things will be different. How they will look, we are still discerning. In the meantime, God’s mission has not changed. Even in the midst of a crisis, He still calls us to that mission.
This Easter will certainly be one to remember and it offers a wonderful opportunity to bring the church to our neighborhoods. Easter on the Sidewalk is an initiative to engage our neighbors with the resurrection message in an unconventional environment. This Easter Sunday, we are mobilizing the church, you, to invite your neighbors out to their sidewalks to hear the message of hope from fear that is so beautifully portrayed in the story of Jesus’s resurrection.
Purpose of Stories
Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population prefer to learn by story. Story telling is an effective tool to communicate God’s word.
- Stories engage listeners and are easily remembered and shared with others
- Stories illustrate important points about Christian identity
- Stories teach moral lessons and values
- Stories encourage active listening and problem solving resulting in more effective retention of information
- Stories increase a learner’s capacity to learn
Telling the Story of Jesus’s Resurrection
The story of Jesus’s resurrection can stand alone without need of commentary. It was originally meant to be told as a story with an evangelistic purpose. Learning to share this story with passion is an effective way to communicate the hope that exists for all people as they look to Jesus to relieve their fears and worries. It is a story that points us to a faithful God who relentlessly pursues a relationship with people. Read the story below or in your Bible.
For those who live in story telling cultures, follow the eight steps to writing a story below. For others, simply reading the story of Jesus’s resurrection is enough. The Apostle John originally wrote it as a story and there is not much that can be added to it. However, when you read it, read it with expression. It is no doubt one of the most exciting stories in the Gospels.
 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,  and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Eight Steps to Crafting a Bible Story
For those living in cultures where there is greater emphasis on telling stories, here is a simple process for crafting a story from God’s word.
- Read the story in context.
- Assess the need of background information to clarify the story. Background information should come directly from the Bible and not from other sources.
- Assess the need for additional biblical material to clarify the story.
- Close the Bible and write or outline the story from memory.
- Verify the accuracy of the story. If there are direct quotes, be sure to accurately recite them.
- Verify the simplicity of the story. Use simple language.
- Be aware of any non-essential theological biases written into the story.
- Practice telling the story.
Application in the World of COVID-19
Like any story, the story of Jesus’s resurrection provides a lesson for us to learn. In a world where COVID-19 is causing fear and anxiety, the story of His resurrection reminds us that despite what we see as our reality, He can overcome it.
The disciples feared their future. At a time when they witnessed the persecution, brutal crucifixion, and ultimate death of Jesus, their concern was they might also be experience the same. It could mean the loss of family, economic well-being, even their own lives. Yet, three days later, what Jesus had already told them but they did not believe, it happened. Hope of restored. What had once appeared as the end was just the beginning.
COVID-19 brings a level of uncertainty to our lives like many of us have never experienced. We wonder about the loss of family members, the loss of jobs, even the loss of our own lives. However, Jesus proved that hope exists.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”John 11:25-26
If you believe in Jesus or if you are still seeking a hope, we would love to talk more with you. Over the next days, we’ll reach back out to you by email or text.
Leading Easter on the Sidewalk
Here is a suggested outline for conducting Easter on the Sidewalk. The entire service should not be any longer than 45 minutes.
- If you have your neighbors email addresses or cell numbers, you can text everyone a reminder about the event.
- Arrive early to set up your lawn chairs on sidewalks or in the streets. Make sure you are observing proper social distancing and not interfering with vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
- If necessary, you may want to use some sort of amplification – blue tooth speaker or similar.
- Welcome the neighbors.
- Sing recognizable hymns or choruses – you could email or text the hymns to your neighbors the day of the service. If you are non-musical, consider playing the hymns on your phone through a blue tooth speaker.
- Tell the story of Jesus’s resurrection.
- Make the application of the story to the current environment of the community.
- Pray for the community.
- Follow up the service with a text or email to the neighbors. You might want to direct them to a gospel presentation such as This is Eternal Life.
- Be prepared for neighbors to ask for a similar service the following week.
Sample Social Media Announcement
Feel free to copy the image, along with the text, and post it on your neighborhood’s social media pages (Facebook, nextdoor.com, etc.).
Hi neighbors. This will be the first Easter in our memory when we will not be attending church. And for good reason. Rather than watching it on TV, we thought we might bring Easter to our neighborhood sidewalks. If you are in [our neighborhood], we’d like to invite you to bring a chair, stay six feet away from your other neighbors, and join us for an unconventional Easter service, April 12, that will remind us of hope in the midst of fear. We’ll sing some popular Easter songs and have a brief devotional from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 20.
Sunday, April 12
Time [whatever works best for your community]
Place [address of your sidewalk service]
Contact [your email and cell phone]
If you have questions or suggestions, please reach out to us. We want to learn and help in whatever way we can.