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Q and A: Time for another Super Sunday

For pastor Mike Barnett, Easter Sunday, with its message of rebirth, is one of the biggest days of the year.

Seven years after he brought a young church to Farmington, Mike Barnett is headed back west.

Barnett came to Minnesota nearly a decade ago to launch New Heights Christian Fellowship. He brought the church to Farmington in 2004. But now, he's going home. He'll head to San Diego this summer to start another new church.

Since this is a significant time of year for pastors, we caught up with Barnett last week to talk about the church and what Holy Week means for him.

How are things at the church? Are you getting pretty well established?

Well, it's touch and go because of the recession and so forth. When we moved in seven years ago we relocated 22 miles from the Burnsville/Savage area. Because we had so many people driving up, 22 miles, when the gas prices hit about $4 per gallon, three or four years ago we saw a decrease. But the good news is we're starting to reach some local families in Farmington and I would say our most recent families who are coming and who we're attracting are from the Farmington area.

Who are you attracting?

I would say we're attracting younger families, of course. Families who are relocating down to downtown Farmington I would say is who we've attracted most recently. Young families moving in to downtown Farmington. It seems like we're getting more downtown Farmington traffic than anywhere else.

How many of your members are from right around Farmington and how many are the people who are driving a ways?

I would say when we first moved there about 90 percent were driving in and 10 percent were from Farmington. Now I would say it's probably about 50-50 or 60 percent Farmington, 40 percent driving in. So, as it's changed over we're getting more and more Farmington people.

It's kind of nice to know that you're making that connection and reaching people here.

Yeah, it's taken seven years, you know, but I would say Farmington has finally opened up to us. More and more events we're being invited to. For example, recently we participated in a veterans' dinner that we hosted at our location. Then we were asked to be part of the blood drive last night, which, we hosted that. We were asked to be part of the firefighters' award banquet ceremony, which I did the invocation and prayer.

It just seems more and more. The breast cancer fundraiser recently was at our church. So, it seems like more and more and more Farmington is calling us and asking us to be involved in events, which we've been praying for and wanting to have happen.

It's taken seven years but it seems like Farmington has finally opened up its arms and embraced us and we are part of the community and that's been part of our vision and goal and desire and prayer and it's been happening more and more in recent months.

Next week, obviously, is Holy Week. I assume that's going to be a big week around the church. Do you have big things planned?

Essentially what we do is we have a Good Friday service on Friday, which will be April 22, 7 p.m. This year we're having a drama to kind of give a visual of what Jesus did on the cross, died for our sins.

We have a drama ministry team at the church that's putting on a drama that will emphasize the significance of Jesus dying on the cross and rising again and what it means for us as Christ followers.

It's an outstanding drama, really, and we have seen it before and done it many years ago and we're bringing it back. It's going to be a nice drama for Good Friday, and then I'll give a little devotion based upon that and communion and so forth.

That's our Good Friday service. On Sunday it's pretty much a celebration because Jesus is risen from the dead and Christians celebrate that the old is gone and the new is come. We have new life in Christ. We have new joy, new love, new vision for the future. It's kind of a refreshing time that the old is gone. We don't have to carry the baggage of the past into the future....

The way I like to put it is before you can have an Easter resurrection you have to have a Friday crucifixion and sometimes we as Christians, sometimes we have to go through a crucifixion. Maybe a dream dies. Maybe a hope dies. Maybe we sinned or did something we feel guilty about and we just feel the crucifixion. We kind of feel the death. We identify that something has died, perhaps because of sin or perhaps because dreams haven't come out the way we wanted to....

I think that's why Easter is so important for Christians. We all want to rise with Christ and we all want to experience that resurrection, the hope, the love, the joy, the peace.

As a pastor, is it a season you kind of enjoy? Is it a nice message to give to your congregation?

Absolutely. As a pastor, Easter is like the Super Bowl. I mean, it's like Super Bowl Sunday for a pastor, because it's just full of hope, full of victory, full of joy, full of celebration. It's really one big party. It's the pastor's Super Bowl, and I would argue it's the Christian Super Bowl, although there's no reason why every Sunday can't be an Easter or why every day can't be Easter for a Christian, because in Christ every day we have a new start.....

To be honest with you, every day should be an Easter celebration for the Christian, but because Jesus was risen once, we celebrate it once a year, just like we celebrate his birth once a year. I think it's a great reminder that we can carry that hope, that joy, that thanksgiving into our daily life all year long, not just once a year.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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