Accommodating Culture on Halloween

I admit it.  Last night, our church accommodated our neigbhors who were out trick-or-treating on Halloween.  From 5 to 8PM on Sunday evening, the church that I have the privilege of pastoring — Bethel Baptist Alamogordo, NM — opened its facilities (actually just our parking lot) for our first-ever “Trunk or Treat.”  Bethel, which fronts one of the busiest streets in our town (most especially on Halloween), decided to reach out to our community after a multi-church “Fall Festival” that we were participating in was cancelled less than two weeks prior to Halloween.

Wanting to preserve a positive Christian witness in Alamogordo, we decided to come up with our own event that we could do on short notice.  With ten days to prepare, Jon, our new Student Pastor, came up with the idea of “Trunk or Treat,” something that he had been involved with in a Seattle-area church.

The idea behind “Trunk or Treat” is to have church members come to the church with their vehicles, decorate their trunks (or back of their mini-vans), and give candy to kids in the neighborhood who are out trick-or-treating.  At the same time that we are passing out candy, we were also witnessing to our neigbhors through tracts placed in their bags, through one-on-one witnessing opportunities, and through providing families and children with a safe, secure, and fun environment for trick-or-treating.  However, just offering candy to these families — without offering Christ and His love — would have missed the mark.

We wanted to be the salt and light to our neigbhors — most of whom are lost without Christ — on a night that is known for its darkness.  Why allow the enemy to claim any territory on any day of the year?  The Apostle Paul tells us to “redeem the time.”  In other words, we are to make the best use of our time in such a way that honors God, impacts our culture, and advances the Redeemer’s Kingdom. 

Beyond our wildest expectations, we saw approximately 2,000 people come onto our church property and participate in “Trunk or Treat.”  The reality is that most of these familes, including nearly 800 children, have probably never set foot on Bethel’s campus.  Many of them, prior to this event, may not have even known that Bethel existed, much less known where we are located.  And, if we want to be frank, most of the families in our town and in yours have never darkened the door of any church except for the occasional wedding or funeral.  Why not invite your lost neighbors and friends to church on Halloween and demonstrate Christ’s love for those who died on the cross to save? 

However, for some, that’s too much of an accommodation to our culture.  It did not take long for the cold water brigade (aka some Baptist fundamentalists/legalists) to pour cold water (with a strong dash of contempt and Pharisaical pride to boot) on our church’s “Trunk or Treat” outreach event. 

Described by a few folks (who, by the way, don’t live in our community and do not know our church) on Facebook as a “hellish” event accommodating culture, our church was compared to Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston.  It was suggested that we might want to think about adding a bar to our church to attract more people from the community.    It’s been a long time since I have laughed that hard.  If they only knew what I thought of Joel Osteen, but then again, why let reasoned debate get in the way of a drive-by.

The level of intelligent discourse from these fundamentalists continued to head south quickly.  Now, I don’t mind folks who have come to the conviction that they do not want to participate in Halloween, even in an outreach event.  And please, there is not much difference between a “Fall Festival” and a “Trunk or Treat.” 

Oh, wait, there is at least one difference:  “Trunk or Treat” allowed us to interact with actual lost people whereas “Fall Festivals” often-times are nothing more than a bunch of Christians who want to have their cake (or candy in this case) and eat it too, except they don’t want to eat it amongst the heathen that live right beside them and their churches!

Far too many Christians, especially of the fundamentalist variety, are worried about the church accommodating to culture.  Should the church and followers of Christ “adjust, compromise, modify, or otherwise adapt” (one definition of accommodation) our theology, beliefs, message or actions to please culture in order to win the lost to Christ?  Absolutely not!

Should churches and Christians be helpful and neighborly (another definition of accommodating) toward those who are our actual neighbors, even if those folks don’t act like prim and proper Christians on Halloween?  Should the church seek to reach our friends and neighbors with the Gospel of Christ every day of the year, including on Halloween, or do we simply retreat behind closed doors and wait until those “pagans” get off “our” streets and out of “our” neighborhoods?

I suppose the answer to those questions utimately comes down to which definition of “accommodation” you subscribe to.  Some fundamentalists will always be more comfortable railing against any “accommodation” by Christians to culture.  They probably will never be comfortable sitting at a notorious sinner’s table and eating a meal with him.  I’m just glad Jesus didn’t have that problem.  Go figure.

14 comments for “Accommodating Culture on Halloween

  1. Jonathan Dowling
    November 1, 2010 at 9:58 PM

    Praise God! Right on Pastor!!!

    • November 1, 2010 at 10:30 PM

      Jon,

      Thanks. I tried to get this up sooner, but the Deacons’ meeting delayed me in getting it finished. Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places. I doubt that the people who need to read it will and, even if they do, they will not understand it. Oh, well. Have a great night and try to get some rest. God bless,

      Howell

  2. November 2, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    It is screamingly obvious .. to me at least .. that the “fire extinguishers”are concerned about “eating with sinners and publicans , moreso than reaching the lost and unchurched. While THEY might attach pagan connotations to the “trunk or treat” activity, the public never would, and the program might actually build relationships with those “outsiders”.

    Maybe THAT is what upsets the “frozen chosen” the most.

    • November 2, 2010 at 7:47 AM

      Bob,

      I agree. I’m not at all surprise by this type of thinking. However, I am surprised that people who have no connection with our church and who don’t even live in our area of the country would take the time to be so utterly dismissive of what we were trying to do. But, as you say, some folks are more comfortable with their “own kind” than those awful sinners and riff raff. Thanks for your insight. Have a great day and don’t forget to vote (unless you voted early)! God bless,

      Howell

  3. November 2, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Yup, we went and voted. 22 minutes, our door to our door, including a stop at the drug store on the way home.

    And back to your original thought about the cultural thing, the way I .. with my Strong’s Concordance .. view the admonition about “winning souls”, it’s about building relationships, not about “leading people in the sinner’s prayer” (which, for some strange reason, I don’t find in scripture anyway). Doing something nice like the “Trunk of Treat” deal is precisely that.

    • November 3, 2010 at 3:03 PM

      Bob,

      I couldn’t agree more. Trying to build relationships so that God opens doors for sharing the Gospel is what this event was all about. We will do our best to follow up and try to water the seeds that have been planted. Sorry for the lateness in replying. Just after I replied to your original comment yesterday, my bro.-in-law, who lives with us, had a mild heart attack and was air lifted to Las Cruces, NM, about an hour from us. I did get to vote (just barely) before we left town. Just got back this afternoon. Bobby, my wife’s brother, is doing great and hopes to be out of the hospital tomorrow. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  4. November 3, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    Howell

    I don’t consider what you did last night as accommodating. You took what was meant to be a pagan/secular ritual and turned it into an event that focused on reaching others for Christ. Now, I am sure that Christians have done this in the past? Ummmm, let me see, what could that be? Maybe Christmas?

    I am as hard core baptist as you can get, just ask Bob Cleveland 😉 , but this is an opportunity to share the gospel with thousands of families without denying Christ or His Word. Congrats and I pray that the Lord blesses you all with many salvations from this event.

    • November 3, 2010 at 2:58 PM

      Robin,

      Thanks for the encouraging words. My student pastor tried to engage some of the folks that were complaining about this event by pointing out some of the other former pagan holidays that Christians have redefined in order to honor Christ. Let’s just say that this type of reasoning was completely lost on these people. We began following up last night with the over 300 registrations that we had. We too hope and pray that the Lord will use this to reach people and see people transformed by the Gospel.

      Sorry I did not respond earlier, but my brother-in-law suffered a mild heart attack yesterday and had a heart cath and stints put in this morning. Needless to say, I’ve been out of pocket the last 36 hours. I would appreciate your prayers for Bobby. He is doing great and hopes to be released from the hospital tomorrow. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. God bless,

      Howell

  5. Ron in Ok
    November 10, 2010 at 5:56 AM

    Hallelujah Night 2010

    We’ve done Trunk r Treat for years now but this year expanded it into our Fellowship Hall with religious games, popcorn, cotton candy, funnel cakes, etc. It was wall to wall people. We had over 300 kids register and not a one left without exposure to the gospel. Around 1/3 of those registered indicated no church attendance or affiliation.

    • November 10, 2010 at 8:16 AM

      Ron,

      That is great! What a wonderful outreach to your community. We had about 350 register and we continue to follow up with them through. We’ve had on family that has already expressed an interest in joining the church because of Trunk or Treat. This was our first one and we only had about 10 days to pull it together. We were involved in a community-wide Fall Festival event, but several churches inexplicably pulled out less than two weeks from the day of the event. We kept our Trunk or Treat simple this year because of the time frame and because of major construction on our property, but we can expand next year. Thanks for the encouraging words and for what you are doing to reach your community in Hugo. God bless,

      Howell

  6. Lydia
    November 16, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    Howell, My mom used to always say she would never pass up an opportunity where we have little ones and their parents coming to our home wanting something.

  7. C. E. Buttrill
    November 27, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Thank you Brother for such Spiritual insite as to how we are to go out into all nations and be a witness to the lost. Thank you Jon, even tho I have not had the privalage to meet you, for such an outreach to the community and neighborhood. May God Bless you all.

    • November 28, 2010 at 8:18 PM

      C.E.,

      Thanks for the kind words. It was great seeing you at Bill’s on Friday. Trust that you had a good trip on Saturday. We made it into Dallas at about 7:00 (CT). Had a great day with Stephen today just exploring parts of Dallas. Doctor’s appointment at 7:45 a.m Monday! Thanks for the prayers. God bless,

      Howell

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