I’m glad I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist home. I also am happy that, for the most part, I’ve been cared for and discipled as a follower of Jesus in churches that want to engage culture redemptively and not just run away from it, or constantly look for the worst in it. I have been reminded over the years of hosting Halloween parties sponsored by the church of the incredible good that comes out of being in the community on arguably one of the most community-focused holidays of the year. Halloween is many things, but it is also this unique night of celebrating creativity, and unlike every other holiday where we gather with our family, we actually go out and connect with our entire neighborhood.
On Halloween nights I’ve watched kids come out to participate in a fun night at Epiphany Church. I experienced a single-mom reach out for someone to be a big brother to her son, and one of our church members instinctively and instantly step up. I even had a couple of people ask me for counseling for themselves and family members. I’ve had deep philosophical conversations with people that we haven’t had much time with all year. I’ve been able to meet the spouses of some of the parents in our Christian community I haven’t yet met and have had many people ask me about our church, what we do and what we are about, and I’ve had the opportunity to invite them to worship with us at Church and / or connect with us at Theology on Tap. Just tonight we served more than 200 folks some hot chocolate, took photos of 70 families and personally connected with dozens of people and reconnected with even more. All we were doing was embracing and celebrating Christ and having fun on a Halloween night in our hood.
None of this would happen if our church decided to freak out and consider a party, on Halloween night, at the church building something demonic. I am so glad we intentionally use many opportunities to engage our community, and not just hide at home.
Look I’m not the guy that just doesn’t believe in evil on all kinds of levels. I’ve sat as a Pastor in the front row and witnessed the fall out of murder, rape and years and years of abuse and manipulation in people lives. I’ve also seen the effects of the occult. Overseas while serving in central Africa, I saw witching, hexing, and cursing as a common way to settle scores with enemies. As a trainer of Pastors in the village, I was a guy who was called on regularly to visit people oppressed by unseen forces, as I led people towards renouncing that evil through repentance and faith in Christ I also saw the victory and healing of the Lord in the most amazing ways.
So I believe deeply in the truth of Colossians 2:15 (that on the cross Jesus disarmed all the dark spiritual powers), which leads to the call to not judge about matters of food, days and other external things in Colossians 2:16. Our engagement with the world, even its darkness, and brokenness, is love, truth, and God’s power, not fear, hate and trying to impose our will.
We don’t co-sign everything that is going down on Halloween now or in the past. It is true that the holiday was long ago an ancient druid holiday, but every holiday on the calendar has its pagan roots. There is a reason holly makes us think of Christmas and not some ways to increase our chances of getting pregnant as the ancient Romans did. Even the regular days of the week retain the names of old gods, (Thor’s day, Saturn’s Day…) and we use those names, every single day. Just like Paul counseled new Christians that meat that was sacrificed to some god was okay to eat, because there really is one true God (1 Corinthians 8) and that for one person certain days are holy and for another all days are alike (Romans 14:5), we believe that in the presence Jesus, we do not have to fear. They are like a wolf that has been defanged or a snake that has had its venom drawn out. Our ancient foremothers and forefathers who spread the love, light, and truth of Jesus saw the victory he had over these days, they saw the biblical truth that all curses are null and void in (Galatians 3:13) Jesus and did not wonder if the light would still shine in the darkness.
Our ancient brothers and sisters did not keep a posture of fear, or ask themselves “what has come of this world?” They did not always look for the next thing to freak out about and add to their list of reasons the world is so bad. Instead, they asked in wonder and proclaimed with love “what has come into this world!” They already knew the world was hurting and in chaos, but they had confidence, hope, and love.
This is our context; this is our mission field, so we step into any opportunity to share the love of Christ with our neighbors. Therefore, we are not scared to lovingly engage our neighborhood on Halloween night.
For those who strongly feel like this is some kind of compromise, I have a word for you if you will listen. Compromise is not just distorting the message, but it is also a compromise to not get His message out there in an effective way that people can actually hear it and respond. I’ve actually had folks jam me up in the middle of one of these outreaches and I’ve had to tell them, ‘hey listen can we get back to this conversation?’ I’d love to talk to the twenty people over there that have no real connection with a church. I’m not saying at all that you have to celebrate Halloween, but I am only explaining why we do. Let’s spur each other on with creative ways to reach out and if you choose another way, I’m not mad at that, just understand why we do.
We have no reason to fear Halloween, but I think we should be a little more afraid of missing opportunities to get on the block and in our community to show off the love of Jesus.