Halloween, Christians, and What I’ll Be Doing Tonight

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According to the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints Day (Festum Omnium Sanctorum) is celebrated on November 1, and is a day of remembrance for all those “who have obtained salvation.”

It is followed on November 2, by the Day of the Dead (Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum), which is the “day of remembrance for those who have died, but have not yet received salvation, but are currently residing in purgatory.”1

October 31 is known as All Hallows Eve, the night before All Hallows (All Saints Day), AKA Halloween.

In the Protestant world, October 31 is Reformation Day, commemorating the day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg castle church in 1517, which is generally acknowledged as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

On further examination, this may not be exactly how it happened — see What Really Happened on October 31, 1517?

How Should Christians Handle Halloween?

One of the big questions I’m often asked this time of year is how Christians should relate to Halloween.

Some common reactions:

  1. Ignore it / Protest it.
    This often manifests in things like refusing to hand out candy to kids who trick or treat, turning off the lights, leaving the house, etc.
  2. Have alternative events for people to attend, such as “Trunk or Treat” in the church parking lot, or a Harvest Festival.
    These are often billed as “safe alternatives to Halloween”, which implies that going trick or treating in your neighborhood is not safe. Whether this concern is for physical safety or spiritual safety is not always clear, but my assumption is that the latter is in mind.
    Besides the fact that teaching children to go approach strangers’ cars to get candy out of their trunk is probably not the safest idea, these events try to create a fun fall atmosphere without the dark/evil underpinnings of Halloween.
    To be clear, while many churches host fall festivals, what I have in mind here is specifically those which are held on October 31 as alternative events that compete with Halloween.
  3. Celebrate it.
    Some churches straight up celebrate Halloween by having parties, etc.

A Missional Approach to Halloween

Here are a few factors to keep in mind about Halloween:

  1. We serve a God who has defeated sin, death and the devil.
    Colossians 2:15, speaking of the forces of evil, says that He (God) disarmed the rulers and authorities (evil or demonic forces) and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Jesus).
  2. God has left us in this world and given us a mission, to reach people in His name.
    There are certain things which you can only do in this life, which you won’t be able to do in Heaven — particularly: evangelism. Jesus himself is our example in this, that he left the security and sanctity of heaven and entered into our fallen, sinful world, full of evil and darkness, in order to bring salvation to us.
  3. This is the only day of the year, when most of your neighbors are going to come knocking on your door. The only day.
    This is missional gold! How can you use the unique opportunity that this cultural moment presents?

I certainly would agree with those who say that Christian churches should not host Halloween celebrations, however, I would argue that churches ought to encourage Christians to take advantage of this unique cultural moment for the purpose of God’s mission. Hosting alternative events on October 31 that take people out of their neighborhoods, therefore, is, in my opinion, unwise and communicates the wrong message — both to Christians and their neighbors.

What We Will Be Doing This Evening

Tonight, my two year old will be dressing up as a tiger. She told us last night that her name when she wears her costume is “Adventure Tiger”. We will be going out to our neighbors houses, knocking on their doors, chatting with them, getting to know them — and, as we do every year, we will be inviting them join us at to our church.

After that, we will put our fire pit in our driveway, start a fire in it, brew a bunch of coffee, and invite our neighbors to come hang out and chat, meet each other, talk about life, etc. — and we will pray and trust that God will use those conversations and relationships as inroads for us to ultimately share with them the hope that we have in Jesus.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the TroubleFace Mom blog:

If Jesus can go straight to hell, stare death and devil in the face, win and come back alive, can’t we open our doors to the 6 year old in a Batman costume and his shivering mom?

May God help us to make much of Jesus today (and every day)!

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Don’t Forget the Actual Holiday Happening Today

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Today is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Schlosskirche, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Today is a great day to remember the work of the reformers which you unquestionably benefit from. Men who struggled for us to have the freedom to read the Bible for ourselves, in our own languages – and consider for ourselves what God says to us in the Scriptures. Today is a day to be thankful for the return to Biblical theology and the doctrine of grace that these men fought for.

The Holiday America Forgot

Today is October 31st. That means that today, all across America, neighborhood children are going to come knocking at your door to try to coerce you into giving them candy by threatening retribution if you don’t comply. We call it Halloween, and yes, in its modern form, it’s innocent enough. In fact, as I wrote in this post earlier this week, Halloween is a great opportunity for Christians to think missionally,  as it is the only day of the year when most of your neighbors will come knocking on your door.

However, October 31st is a much more historical and significant day in the history of the world. Before anyone considered dressing up as a superhero or a robot, October 31st was celebrated for a different reason: It is the day when in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints Church (ironically on the eve of All Saints Day) in Wittenburg, Germany. This event is generally regarded as the catalyst of the Protestant Reformation, thus – for centuries before Americans came along and capitalized on Halloween and commercialized it, October 31st was celebrated amongst Protestant Christians as Reformation Day.

These days, Reformation Day is still a big deal in Germany and other parts of Europe, but in America it is only celebrated by a handful of Lutherans, Reformed Christians and other protestants – albeit, most of them celebrate it as a Halloween alternative, and still get dressed up and hand out candy to kids. If you really want to make a splash at one of these events, here’s a tip: dress up as Martin Luther. You’ll probably be the only one (no you won’t; I was being facetious). If you really want to wow all your Lutheran friends at the Reformation Day party, then you should actually dress up like Johann Tetzel – you will be the hit of the party (not really). By the way – I’m allowed to make Lutheran jokes; I went to Lutheran school growing up – Missouri Synod baby. That’s right.

Anyway, obscure Lutheran references aside – I am thankful for the work of the reformers. Men like Luther and Calvin, and Hus and Wycliff before them. I’m thankful that we have been given the freedom to read the Bible for ourselves, in our own languages – and consider for ourselves what God says to us in the scriptures. I am thankful for the return to Biblical theology that these men worked for.

I used to speak at an annual Reformation Day gathering in Hungary, and what was always said at those meetings was that we must remember that the reformation of the church is never over; it is a continual need, that we come and examine every practice and every doctrine according to the Word of God, even in our protestant churches. The Word of God must always remain our standard and our guide in all things.

I hope you have a great October 31st, and remember today that the fact you can have a Bible in your own language, that you can read any time you want, and have God speak to you personally through it – that’s not something to be taken for granted! The teaching of grace that you (hopefully) hear in church – that’s not something to be taken for granted. These things were fought for – and we reap the benefits. Keep that in mind while you eat “fun size” candy bars for the next several weeks, and give thanks to God for what happened on October 31st, 1517.

Halloween: A Conundrum

Halloween is a conundrum for many Christians. Is it only a weird fashion show for candy, or is it something more sinister? Should Christians allow their kids to dress up in innocent costumes and go knock on their neighbors doors begging for sweets, or should we forsake participation in this whole thing altogether?

This week I read this post about Halloween by a Christian woman, which I found very insightful. She points out one very important thing: This is the only day of the year, when most of your neighbors are going to come knocking on your door. The only day.

So, what are you going to do?  Are you going to go to a church event far away from your neighbors?  Will you turn off the lights and refuse to answer the door? OR, are you going to use this unique opportunity to reach out to your neighbors?

Being missional means being intentional about being incarnational.

Being incarnational means meeting people where they are at in order to bring the love of God to them. That’s what Jesus did. (For more on what it means to be incarnational, click here)

If you look in the Bible, at the nation of Israel, you find that they constantly fell in one of two ditches: On the one hand they had a tendency to conform to the nations around them: to take on their ungodly customs, and to worship their gods. They were called to be set-apart and different, but they oftentimes just wanted to be like everyone around them, and it got them in trouble. On the other hand, the other ditch they fell in was – like the Pharisees in the time of Jesus – they viewed themselves as superior to those around them and avoided contact with people who were not like them, lest they be defiled by them.

We as Christians need to avoid these two ditches as well, and make sure that we remember our calling to bring God’s light to all the nations, including those who live on our block and on our street. So many people are eager to do mission work somewhere else! But let us not neglect the neighborhoods that God has placed us in.

I’m not asking you to celebrate Halloween. I’m not asking you to compromise anything. I’m only asking you to consider how you can use this opportunity to be missional and incarnational, to build relationships through which you can share the love of God and the Gospel. Every year at Easter, White Fields church puts on an Easter egg hunt outreach in the Roosevelt Park in Longmont. We’re not condoning Easter traditions that take attention away from the resurrection of Jesus – what we are trying to do is meet people where they are at, so that we can have the chance to speak to them about Jesus. That’s a very important difference, both at Easter and this week at Halloween.

One thing I will be doing is passing out White Fields stickers. Kids love stickers – and these ones have our church’s website on them. Another thing I will be doing is trying to get to know my neighbors. We might put our fire pit out front to give people a place to get warm. We might provide coffee for parents. We’re still thinking through it – but here’s the point: we want to reach out.

I love this quote from the blog post I mentioned above:

If Jesus can go straight to hell, stare death and devil in the face, win and come back alive, why can’t we open our doors to the 6 year old in a Batman costume and his shivering mom?

What do you think? What’s the best way for Christians to respond to Halloween?