Or Three practical ways to be missional this halloween
Halloween is coming upon us. This week I will be getting my Halloween decorations out of my attic and decorating my yard for our annual Halloween yard party. It’s interesting to me that for many this becomes a “hot button” topic to discuss. I was sitting in the Waffle House yesterday morning talking with a couple Christians at the bar. Our talk over coffee came to Halloween. One man stated how he hate's Halloween and went on to explain why. I was driving with another Christian the other day and they stated how their family does not do Halloween.
So today I want to address the question: Should we as Christians engage in Halloween or should we abstain? I am copying and pasting allot of this blog from a similar blog I posted last year at Halloween. In actuality if you start reading about Halloween’s roots, it’s hard to find an answer of where it came from. But, regardless of where it comes from, the question at hand should be: Why is Halloween celebrated today? For most of us, Halloween isn’t a time where we celebrate the dead and go and skin a goat and sacrifice it to Satan. For most of us, it’s a time to dress up our kids as a super hero and send them to strangers’ houses to get free candy.
It has become just part of our culture in the West and has very little to do with the “darkness”…it’s not good, it’s not evil…it’s just something we celebrate, like the 4th of July. I know we might have stories of darkness, but there are also many stories of overdrinking and evil happening on our other holidays as well.
The whole of the Bible talks of God bringing reconciliation and redemption to all things back to himself. To bring peace to all things. Not only that but Paul speaks (1 Cor 8) to us about pagan festivals and says that there is nothing in them that is powerful, because there is only one God and everything and everyone comes through him and are because of him.
Paul then talks about eating food sacrificed to idols…saying…it’s no big deal, unless you have a brother who would be deeply hurt by it because they struggle with the idol and eating of that meat because they actually used to do those things.
Here’s how to contextualize for Halloween: If you have a brother who used to worship Satan and they used to sacrifice goats and drink its blood, then it might be a good idea to walk through Halloween with them and whether or not it would make that brother stumble. This does NOT mean, if you have a brother who thinks it’s merely wrong to celebrate Halloween then you should put it to the side. That’s never the intent with any of the passages of making a brother stumble…if that was the case, many of us would be in sin because of all the things we do that make other Christians merely uncomfortable. Jesus was not about making people comfortable.
And Jesus would have made many people stumble with the life that he led around sinners as he ate and drank (yep wine) with them. Again…making a brother stumble and making a brother uncomfortable are completely separate issues.
With all that said, what are we to do with Halloween? If we are to look to redeem Halloween, what does that mean? If we are to do all things to the glory of God, what does that look for Halloween?
First, a few things you should probably STOP doing:
1. Dressing your kid up as St. Paul or Moses to try to prove a point.
2. Calling the Halloween Party at your church building a “Harvest Festival.” It is like an atheist calling a “Christmas Party” a “Holiday Party.” It’s just calling the elephant in the room a squirrel and it’s weird.
3. Taking all your people away from their neighborhoods and into your building.
4. Wrapping a tract around an apple and handing it out to the kids who are trick or treating and calling it “evangelizing”
None of these things redeem anything, but just add to the notion that Christians want to be apart from the world and create their own subculture. Instead, let’s be like Jesus and celebrate it like he would have.
When we look at the life of Jesus and our God, we see that they always pursued the sinner and the world. They loved us right where we were and engaged us in the ways that we’d understand who God is and what He has done.
Not only that, but Jesus used the everyday celebrations as a way to build relationships so he could speak into the lives of those around him. He was continually at parties. So much so, that when Matthew was called to follow Jesus, it seemed normal to Matthew to invite Jesus and all the apostles back to his house to party with all his “sinner” friends. (Matthew 9:9,10; Mark 2:14-17) People knew that Jesus was about celebrating, he was about truth, he was also about pursuing and about building relationships with people. With that in mind, how can we then show people THAT Jesus to our communities during Halloween?
1. Be THAT House
You know “that” house. When you were a kid and you went to a house and said “trick or treat” and they handed you a full size candy bar, it was like winning the lottery. It was such good news, you’d tell strangers dressed up like a clown zombie where to find the goods. Everyone knew that house in the neighborhood and if you didn’t have one in your neighborhood, you’d travel what seemed to be miles to get to that house. Be THAT house. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Think about how this shows people the Father. Everyone is expecting to get a small fun size bar. It’s what they’ve earned by dressing up and having the courage to knock on your door and say “trick or treat.” What they know they haven’t earned is a full size candy bar…it speaks to this idea of grace and blessing.
You don’t need to tell the kids this, but it starts to tell the story of what your house is about to the neighbors. It tells a different story than what they expect or are used to and this is exactly the story of the gospel. Spend the extra cash to make that happen. If you can’t afford it, get your Missional Community to all pitch in. Ask your church to put it in the budget for next year…whatever you gotta do…be that house! You’ll be amazed at what doors that opens with your neighbors.
2. Be a Welcoming Presence
If our God is about pursuit, blessing and welcoming then what would it look like to be about pursuit on Halloween? How about instead of staying inside your house, be in the driveway or front porch. I know this isn’t available for everyone because of weather, but what would it look like in your neighborhood for people to feel welcomed to come to your house and feel blessed by it?
For The Liederbach's, we are going to have fire pit in our front yard. We will be cooking hot dogs over the fire and making s’mores. We put invitations in all our neighbors mailboxes. Last year we had over 280 kids trick or treat our house and over 100 or so hang out and cook a hot dog or s’more. It’s a way for us to come together and hang out and bless our neighborhood. It shows that we are more than about handing out candy, but we are here to bless their entire family and in a sense, welcome you into our lives.
Again, it shows something quite different than every other house. Last year a father with three young kids came up with them to our front porch to get candy. The father said, “The kids all discussed before we headed out they wanted to go to this house last. Save the best for last! Plus once we come her we usually hang out awhile.” The kids put candy in their bags then they headed towards the fire pit and fun. We have been doing this for 5 years and the neighborhood now expects it and people come and hang out and have a great time meeting their neighbors.
If you can’t be outside, how can you bless the families that are walking around your neighborhood? Maybe offer coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. to the parents and trick or treaters that come to your door. Again…think, “How can I be a blessing and show that we are a welcoming and pursuing people like our Dad?”
It is not secret that Jesus loved to party. So much so, that people kept inviting him to parties. Pretty amazing to think about. If we have a Dad in heaven that loves us and accepts us, not for what we do or have done, but because of what his Son has done for us and now we are heirs to the throne of heaven…don’t we have the most to celebrate?
We should be defined as Jesus was defined: a glutton and drunkard. He was celebrating so much that the religious saw him as a glutton and drunkard but the sinners and the world saw him as a dude that they’d like to hang with. Where have we gone wrong here? Christians shouldn’t be the ones avoided for parties, but should be the ones that people are most excited to have come around because they bring the “better wine.”
We made it almost a rule in our house that if we are invited to a party…we are going and we are going to think through how we can bless that party as much as possible. We are always invited to parties because of this. People know what Nancy and I are about, they know we love Jesus. But they also know that when we enter a room we won’t make it weird, but we hopefully make the room more enjoyable by being there. We have literally had people say, “if Jesus is like this…he was a lot different than we’ve ever been told.”
If you aren’t invited to parties…this Halloween is a great time to throw one. Throw a costume party, a pumpkin carving party, a cookie decorating party, have a photo booth at the party, have a party with games for kids. You can do all kinds of things for Halloween…it’s a party holiday. By doing this, meaning throwing an awesome party, you start to show off something different about you as a follower of Jesus and showing off who Jesus was and what he was about.
He was about parties because that’s where people were and that’s where people connect and share stories and start and continue relationships. Halloween is a really funny holiday when we think about it. But, it’s a holiday that is so easy to build relationships and bless the community and start (or continue) to show off what our Dad is like.
If instead, we turn off our front porch lights, lock our doors, go to our church buildings and we have a “harvest festival” we show the world exactly what they’ve always seen about our God. He is closed off, judgmental and waits for us to come to him. This isn’t our Dad…he is quite different. He is welcoming, he is gracious and merciful and he pursues us and can’t wait to celebrate with us. Don’t use this holiday to make a point. Use this holiday to point to the true reason we all get to celebrate and bless…Jesus.
My guess is that if Jesus lived in our neighborhood, everyone couldn’t wait to go to his house to see what he was going to hand out this year. Everyone would be excited to go to Jesus’ Halloween party and couldn’t wait to invite him over to their party. My only question I wonder is “Who would Jesus dress up as for Halloween?” Who knows…but you know it’d be a killer costume.
Please add your thoughts or questions in the comments box below.
Gary Liederbach-Lead Follower
One Direction Community
My daily prayer is, “Lord send us the ones no one else wants.” Please give, support and partner with us as reach out to those in our community.