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Not the typical Easter sermon

Life Center held six identical Easter services
Life Center held six identical Easter services

On Easter Sunday not all pastors were preaching about the resurrection of Jesus.

Joe Witter, senior pastor of Life Center Foursquare Church, focused instead on God’s “radical inclusiveness” and urged the congregants to commit (or re-commit) their lives to Christ.

The church has six identical Easter services, typically drawing about 8,500 people — double the church’s usual weekend attendance.

After contemporary, energetic songs by Life Center’s praise band, Witter told the biblical story of Matthew, a disliked tax collector with low status. He didn’t tell the usual Easter story of Jesus’ Last Supper, arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
He read from Matthew 9:9-13, “…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Pastor Joe Wittwer preaches as Life Center
Pastor Joe Wittwer preaches as Life Center

If Jesus felt someone like Matthew was worthy of being his disciple, then you’re worthy too, Wittwer said to the congregation.

He also referred to Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Witter said many people feel the verse excludes them because they have too much baggage.

“Jesus wouldn’t want me. I’m divorced … I’m gay … I’m addicted … The list goes on and on,” Wittwer said. “But anyone means anyone, and anyone means you.”

He added that everyone, including himself, has disappointed God in some way, but said no failure is large enough to deter God’s love.

Praise band performs at Life Center
Praise band performs at Life Center

“That’s why he died. To forgive us,” he said.

Using a video he told the stories of several Life Center members who made the decision to follow Jesus, and urged those in the crowd to do the same.

Bob Mulvey has been attending Life Center for about 15 years and said this was the first time the church approached Easter in this fashion.

“It was different, I really enjoyed it,” he said adding that hearing real stories of real people in the church, coupled with Wittwer’s sermon, made a strong impact.

“We all seem to think we have to clean up for God to accept us, but he just takes us as we are,” he said.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/religionspokane/sets/72157629770117025/View more photos in our Flickr album.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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