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.