Let me say up front that I'm all for any church doing anything they can to come into contact with the folks in their communities...and...calling it whatever they want. I think it is an awesome witness to see a church, and it doesn't matter what size, do something...anything...that brings about the possibility for them to get to know their neighbors just a little bit. Now, please understand that I'm not trying to disrespect anyone, honest. I honestly and seriously applaud any church that does anything to get out into the community.
For too long, too many churches have become so inwardly focused (yada, yada, here he goes again) but for some reason the Halloween season seems to turn that around...a little...even if just for one night. We seem to get out more on that night than many others, and that's a start.
You've seen them, I'm sure. There's probably one or two churches at least in your community who sponsor a fall festival, or harvest festival, or fall family day...or something like that. But we didn't. Not at Grace Church. We didn't do a fall festival, or a harvest fest, or fall family fun day...or anything like that. We did a Trunk or Treat, and were intentional about calling it a Trunk or Treat.
"Jamie, you idiot. You must really be hurting for something to write about."
No, not really. This just hit me today and I thought I'd take a few minutes and write (Besides, my baked potatoes are in the oven and I have a few minutes of down time.)
The devil has had Halloween long enough, and at Grace Church, we took Halloween back this year and kicked his butt with it...Kicked it hard...Gave him a real good spanking. And it was fun.
I don't know why some folks in the church are so terrified of Halloween, really I don't. Oh, I know, it was born as a sacred holiday (All Hallow's Eve, or the night before the day set aside to honor the memory of those who had passed away in the last year) ...and I know it has somehow been taken over by eveeeeeel...and I realize that maybe that's the problem...ghosts, goblins, witches, werewolves, zombies, and the occasional superhero or Disney character are everywhere. Sure, it can be a little, well, bloody. (And that's just gross) Maybe we just can't get past the fact that it's just come to be known as the devil's holiday, I honestly don't know.
I have noticed, though, that in some places if a church does do something as a group for Halloween, they have to tone it down or "Bible-ize" it to get it past those in authority. But why?
I can hear the board meeting now: "Well, I guess we could do something for Halloween and everybody dress up like bible characters or something." Come on. "Oh, wait, what if we all set up bible scenes around the fellowship hall?" Really? Not that I'm not for those things. I am. Honest. I have given my life to telling those stories and doing all I can to convince folks that the only way to the Father is through the Son. Those stories are the stepping stones for making that possible. But what are we afraid of?
Are we afraid of being accused of "Being of the world" when Jesus told us to be in it but not of it? Are we afraid that we'll be seen as selling out to the world if we dress up as whatever? Are we afraid that putting on a mask and talking to our neighbors while we hand their kids candy is going to send us to hell? I don't know.
Confession time, though. I used to be one of those. I had sworn off Halloween 20 years ago. I hated it. I would turn my lights off and lock the doors. I wouldn't buy candy to hand out. I would mouth, "Get a job and buy your own candy" when I saw headlights pull into the driveway. I'd even pretend I wasn't home. Then I went into the ministry.
It's been a gradual process, taking 15 years so far to get me to where I am. What I have discovered over the last 15 years, is that most folks...most folks, not all...just want a church that's real. They are looking for a place that's full of real people...living in the real world...trying to live out this Jesus life in the midst of God only knows what...and are willing to take some time to get to know them. Halloween did that for me.
So...Grace Church hosted a "Trunk or Treat." And we painted our faces. And there wasn't a Moses in sight. And we had ghosts, and zombies, and axes, and...wait for it...pirates (Arggghhhh). And this little tribe of church folk in rural western Kentucky got to welcome 700 of our neighbors in a town with 1800 in the zip code. Totally...blew...my...mind. Totally.
Now please understand that I'm not saying you have to do things the way we do, or that our way is the only way to do kingdom work in your community. Good heavens, no. How arrogant would that be? I'm just saying, don't be afraid to take a risk. Step out on a limb. Take a chance. BE REAL.
Get down on one knee, face to face with a zombie and talk to them about how you did your makeup. Take a second and ask that kid with the broad axe where he got it, because you think it's cool. The kid that's running around, chasing people with a plastic sword, may just be a leader in your church in 20 years if you play your cards right. Don't be afraid to be in the world but not of it. BE REAL. Have I said that already?
If your church hosted a fall festival, or harvest fest, or family fun day, thanks be to God!!! I am so thankful that you took a step and got out into your community. Woot!!!! If your church didn't because it's Halloween, and you were afraid of whatever...don't be. Now is the time to start planning for next year.
As a Wesleyan, I can only imagine how it must have made John W want to hurl the first time he preached out in a field. Folks just didn't do that...but because he did...because he stepped outside of the accepted norm...thousands and thousands of people came to know Jesus as their personal savior. How cool is that?
So...you have 364 days...what are you going to be for Halloween?