By Justin Rossow
We aren’t having a party at church this year for Halloween. We have in the past; we could again in the future. And if you are bringing people in from your community, a church event can be great.
But this year, we are asking our St. Luke community NOT to come to a church building on a night when the whole community is out and about and stopping at your front door to say, “Trick or treat!”
As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. –Jesus
Think of it as being on special assignment: we want to embed Jesus followers into our community. If you accept this mission, you might face some unexpected challenges and meet some rather unsavory characters. It’s not an easy job, but somebody’s got to do it!
Remember not to take the “devout detour” around the houses or people you “know” you don’t like or disagree with. Everybody needs Jesus. And somebody needs YOU.
Getting Ready to Go Out On Assignment
To prepare for your mission as a Jesus follower in a culture that doesn’t know Jesus, be clear on two questions:
1. Why do we celebrate Halloween?
No, it’s not to honor the devil or give Wiccans equal holiday time. And it’s not about setting aside time for mischief or shenanigans. Rather, Halloween is intended to poke fun at things that could scare us if we weren’t so secure in our eternal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
Without Jesus, sin, death, and the devil become frightening specters that threaten not only our physical beings but our souls and our eternity. But if my eternity is secure in Christ, I can laugh in the face of these “scary” things because for me, their power is broken.
You can dress up like a skeleton or a witch or a devil to belittle the enemies of God who are now relegated to the status of fun and games.
Of course, you should take evil seriously. And you should not put yourself in a position where evil looks attractive or leads you away from the promise of God’s Word. But making fun of the devil is one way to drive away temptation. In other words, take that Old Liar seriously, but don’t take him too seriously: he hates it when we make fun of his feeble attempts to get between us and our Savior.
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2. Why do you get to know non-Christians?
What’s the point of embedding Jesus followers in a hostile culture? The easy answer is that you get to know other people so they, in turn, can get to know Jesus. But you have to be careful with that”easy answer.”
Although God does promise to work through His people and through their lives to reach the lives of the people around them, we must guard against the kind of thinking that says the POINT of meeting someone new is to get them into the kingdom of God. In that case, the individual doesn’t really matter at all, just the notch on the belt that says I got one more into church. Or, more likely, I offered one more soul a chance at salvation and they refused (again).
If your goal in a new relationship is to work in religious talk, others will sense your ulterior motive. So the honest goal of getting to know someone in your neighborhood must be: to get to know someone in your neighborhood. Really. Just get to know them. Take a genuine interest in their life. Think they are cool. Like who they are. Share something honest about yourself.
And as you share your life with them because you genuinely like them, Jesus stuff will come up. (If it doesn’t, do a gut check on how much of your life ignores Jesus altogether.) And if they don’t seem interested in that Jesus guy, you can keep the relationship intact.
They don’t exist merely as a way of fulfilling some church quota. They’re real people, with real needs and real opinions. And who knows? If you keep being a friend even after they don’t show interest in your church, maybe they’ll begin to trust that you actually do want to know them as an individual. Don’t stress out; Jesus is still at work, using your life to touch the lives of people around you.
3 Tips for Dressing up like Jesus
So if you are going to go out (or stay at home handing out candy) as one sent by Jesus this Halloween, here are three tips to keep you thinking in the right direction.
1. If you are invited, go.
Our natural inclination is to hunker down and stay with people we can be comfortable around. If your kid’s friend or that awkward coworker invite you to some dorky party you would rather skip, go anyway. If you don’t show up, there might not be any Jesus followers there …
2. Be genuine.
Don’t be holier than thou; don’t be extra sweet; don’t put on airs. Just be you. And take a real, genuine interest in them. And please don’t hand out Bible verses instead of candy—that just teaches the world that Jesus is a kill-joy and kind of cheap.
3. Follow up.
You actually go to a neighbor’s party; write them a thank you note. You meet some neighborhood kids the same basic age as your kids; invite them over for a movie. A high school kid TP’s your house; make sure you get him back before the snow flies (you might want to talk to his parents, first …).
Halloween is one night where the people walled up in the houses we pass every day empty into our streets. Try to make one connection this year that you can turn into a second contact. Who knows what Jesus might do with that?