If you observe the habits of American churches you’ll notice a peculiar trend every October. While the rest of the nation is gearing up for Halloween, evangelicals are planning harvest festivals, Reformation Day parties, and trunk-or-treat events. While stores are overflowing with items to decorate homes and neighborhoods, and seasonal costumes and candy, Christians are preparing to create separatist gatherings away from the clamor of this cultural holiday.
In many ways this reaction to Halloween is understandable. Halloween is primarily directed at children and we have long been told—rightly or not—that the chief goal of raising children is to protect them from the evil that exists all around. Furthermore, the current cultural iteration of Halloween does in fact celebrate many sins that the Bible rightly condemns.
However, as followers of Christ we have never been given a pass from engaging any culture or system. Rather, we are told to go into all the world to make disciples of Jesus. There is no culture or people who we are exempt from loving in the name of Jesus. Furthermore, we are told to go into all the world to do this loving and disciple making. We don’t throw our message into the world from a separatist enclave, instead we live among the people we are told to love.
Obviously there is no better example of this principle of going into all the world than Jesus Himself. He came to us by taking on human flesh and entering into humanity’s existence. He also went to all types of people in His ministry. Tax collectors and prostitutes, Pharisees and religious hypocrites. There is no type of person for whom Jesus’ love is not good news.
And thus we return to the topic of Halloween for the Christian in general and our church in particular. Harvest festivals, Reformation Day parties, and trunk-or-treat events are not wrong in and of themselves, but they are less than helpful for our church community if we view October 31st as an opportunity to embody the loving ministry of Jesus. Church events are notorious for attracting church-people. And while it is important for us to be understand that we church-people need to be reminded of Jesus’ love as much as anyone, we cannot allow ourselves to be quarantined from the people who would not consider themselves to be the “church-going type.”
Therefore, for Halloween we have chosen to not host an event for our church but instead go into our community as a means of loving people who would never attend a church event. On Halloween night we will put ourselves where we have the greatest chance of interacting with people who do not go to church on a regular basis: the streets of our neighborhoods. We will have five different homes where we give out cotton candy, hot cider and candy as a way of engaging our neighbors. We will go into all of our community as people who love Jesus and are therefore called to love others. The best way to share the Gospel with our neighbors is by loving our neighbors and we can’t love our neighbors without first being among them.
So rather than viewing Halloween as an evil thing that Christians must avoid we are trying to encourage one another to view Halloween as an opportunity to interact with people who you wouldn’t normally meet on a Sunday morning. And by showing a little bit of love and grace on Halloween night we pray we will have the opportunity to show more love and more grace as we build relationships with our neighbors in the months and years ahead.