Why All Good Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in 2009. Since we are once again approaching Halloween, George Robinson’s (Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World Missions and Professor of Missions and Evangelism) thoughts on Christian participation (or not) in the holiday remain pertinent and helpful. 

October 31st. For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.** Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue. But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. Or do they? Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517. That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween. Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival. This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun. No pagan witches and goblins allowed. But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character. All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween. I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors. Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway. And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating. I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context. I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors. We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional. That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors. In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night. And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children. Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here: http://story4.us/offer). The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!). In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.

__________________

[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).

__________________

If you found this article helpful, also check out this casual conversation which took place at Southeastern Seminary in which Mark Liederbach sits down with George Robinson and Bruce Ashford to discuss how Christians should respond to the celebration of Halloween.

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week at his blog, Dr. Danny Akin shared about preaching books for the beginning expositor. Dr. Akin writes:

Recently I was asked a question about a textbook that would help prepare and deliver expository sermons. No one hates self-promotion more than I! Having said that, for the beginner in this high and holy calling, I would commend Engaging Exposition written by myself, Bill Curtis and Stephen Rummage.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article this week discussing an evangelical response to fake news, cynicism, and “PC” conformity.

The past year in American politics has put on full display the social, cultural, and political breakdown we are experiencing in the United States. Evangelicals, we need to find a way to make things right again, and we can’t count on talk show hosts or politicians to do this. It’s up to us—ordinary citizens of the United States—to help restore the health of our nation, and we should start by doing three things.

 

At The Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. George Robinson wrote discussing how our curriculum alone will not make disciples.

Henry Blackaby. Beth Moore. “Explore the Bible”. “The Gospel Project”.  I’m thankful to God for them all.  Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” helped me to understand that as a Christian I needed to “Find where God is at work and join Him.”  Moore taught my wife that her identity is in Christ through a myriad of her Bible studies.  Both “Explore the Bible” and “The Gospel Project” are Sunday School/Small Group curricula put out by Lifeway Christian Resources helping literally millions of Christians to faithfully interpret the Bible and to grow in their relationship to God.   Most of them are good! But none of these curricula are effective (or even intended) at making reproducing disciples – at least not on their own.  Why?  Because curricula don’t make disciples.

 

At his blog The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls discussed two questions every Christian must answer. Aaron writes:

Every generation of believers faces their own unique set of challenges and questions. Different temptations hold cultural sway and attempt to pull Christians off course in different eras.

 

Yet, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” These challenges, questions and temptations have been around before—in different forms and different combinations, yes, but we do not face unknown riddles.

 

Today, many Christians are stumbling over how we respond to an unchanging Scripture and a changing world. With that, there are two distinct temptations those of us who are following Jesus today must face.

 

How we respond to these two questions will determine our faithfulness in this generation.

 

Chris Martin posted this week with three reasons we should not use social media.

My job is to help authors leverage blogs and social media to use the gifts God has given them to serve the Church in her mission of making disciples.

 

But man, I really wish social media would just disappear sometimes. Don’t you?

 

Usually, the times I wish social media would disappear come about when I see Christians behaving badly on social media in such a way that it makes Jesus or the Church look bad.

 

I tend to think everyone should be on social media (and that everyone should have a blog). I think this because I think God has gifted everyone with unique insights and abilities that, if shared, may be used for the building up of the body of Christ.

 

But, sometimes it’s smart to keep yourself off of social media. Some of us are prone to certain sinful attitudes or postures that may make social media more harmful than helpful for us. Sometimes it’s smart to avoid social media altogether. Here are three reasons you should NOT use social media.

 

This was a great week in Chapel at Southeastern. We were blessed with powerful sermons from two members of our faculty: Dr. Chuck Quarles and Dr. Steven Wade. Be sure to check out the videos below if you missed them earlier in the week.

Dr. Chuck Quarles, The Sound of Silence: Ezekiel 33:1-11

 

 

Dr. Steven Wade, While We Wait: Titus 2:11-14

 

In Case You Missed It

Dr. George Robinson posted at the Center for Great Commission Studies discussing how the SBC has a baptism problem, and it’s not what you think. Dr. Robinson writes:

The SBC has a baptism problem – and it’s not what you think it is.  For several years Southern Baptist leaders have noted and lamented a decline in baptisms.  To the degree that baptism signifies life transformation by the power of the gospel, that is a problem.  However, the real problem may actually be hidden under the surface of current stats.  The real problem may in fact be what we’ve been counting all along.

 

The following quote from a 2014 Christianity Today article reveals the real problem few people are talking about.

 

“In last year’s (2013) Annual Church Profile, 60 percent of the more than 46,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reported no youth baptisms (ages 12 to 17) in 2012, and 80 percent reported only one or zero baptisms among young adults (ages 18 to 29). One in four Southern Baptist churches reported zero baptisms overall in 2012, while the ‘only consistently growing’ baptism group was children under five years old.”

 

Yes, it is sad when churches go an entire year without baptizing anyone.  But it is even more sad when many of the churches that are seeing baptism seem to be abandoning a key distinctive of what it means to be Baptist in the first place – regenerate church membership.  In our clamor to address one problem, we may actually be creating a larger one!  Timothy George refers to this as “the downgrading of baptism” in SBC circles.  He goes on to hit the proverbial nail on the head stating, “One can mount a robust biblical defense of believers’ baptism as a conscientious act of repentance and faith, and there are well-reasoned arguments in support of infant baptism, but ‘toddler’ or preschool baptism is something different, and relatively new in Baptist circles.”

The questions we ask will drive the response and subsequent strategy we follow.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next door asking: “Is your church part of the movement?

There is a growing movement concerning local missions in North America, and I saw evidence of it this past weekend.

 

The Reaching the Nations in North America summit was a high-water mark for me, because it demonstrated a swell of concern for what can only be seen as the providence of God providing Great Commission opportunities to our churches. The nations are in North America. People from all over the world are moving into our communities, approximately 45 million of them. So many of these people are coming from places where there is little-to-no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

It is no coincidence that God is plucking up millions from the hardest-to-reach places and placing them in the shadow of your church steeple.

 

Dr. Danny Akin posted at his personal blog explaining that changing the world begins with prayer. Dr. Akin writes:

The work of reaching and changing the world is, indeed, a work done on our knees. And, it is a work that takes on the nature of fierce and intense warfare. After all, one of Satan’s chief weapons is to cut off communication with God, communication that takes place in prayer. John Piper is certainly correct when he writes, “Prayer is meant by God to be a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom … not for the enhancement of our comforts but for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.”

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article earlier this week giving four principles for political witness in our American Babylon.

The past decade has made one thing clear to evangelicals: the social, cultural, and political ground is shifting beneath us. We are not “winning the day” with our vision of the good life. Although we have seen some incremental progress on the pro-life issue, we are experiencing consistent regression on other issues that matter most to us, such as religious liberty, human dignity, gender and sexuality, and free speech.

 

In this moment of uncertainty as we find ourselves marginalized in an increasingly pagan public square, the Old Testament offers important lessons for us. Especially prescient is the story in Daniel 3 about three Jewish men—Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego—who are Babylonian captives under King Nebuchadnezzar. From these mid-level government officials, we learn four significant lessons about being faithful witnesses in a pagan public square.

 

Dr. Ashford also spoke last weekend in Nashville at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference. Dr. Ashford’s speech was quoted in an article from The Tennessean:

A Southern Baptist seminary professor called the current election cycle a “nearly unmitigated disaster” and a “colossal dumpster fire,” but he’s found a silver lining.

 

The polarizing 2016 presidential election has pushed some evangelical Christians to care less about what political parties and news outlets say they should believe and care more about how their views reflect the gospel, said Bruce Ashford, of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. Ashford shared his frank but hopeful remarks Thursday during the national conference for the public policy arm of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention.

 

“I say nearly unmitigated because I think it has taken something of this magnitude maybe to awaken many of us or most of us to the fact that we should not be beholden to any narrative,” Ashford said. “As I see it, every modern political ideology has idols working underneath it … I think this election has been unsettling enough that we might once again realize the gospel transcends and calls into question all of those things.”

 

Finally, last but not least, be sure to check out The College at Southeastern’s new website!

THE COLLEGE AT SOUTHEASTERN IS MORE THAN JUST A COLLEGE—IT’S A CALLING. Whether you become a lawyer, business professional, English teacher, missionary or pastor, God has a plan for you to be involved in his mission. This is a place where you can be trained both theologically and vocationally. Whatever you choose to study, we can equip you to live out the gospel in any career path.