Can you remember the last time you walked up to a house in your neighborhood and actually knocked on the door? Or when someone rang your doorbell and wasn’t immediately greeted with suspicion and fear? For many of us we can’t, and for those who can, it’s likely that it was many years ago. [for a comedic enactment of this check out Sebastian Maniscalco]
Regardless of how we feel about it, the absence of neighborly interaction is the new normal in many of the neighborhoods surrounding Syracuse. When this cultural reality is coupled with the environmental reality of spending half our year seeking shelter from the cold, it’s miraculous if we say three words to our neighbors … let alone have a meaningful conversation with them.
Considering these significant and imposing challenges to sharing our faith, how will we see Gospel transformation in every heart, home and neighborhood? One answer could be Halloween … yes, that’s right … Halloween. Here are some thoughts on how this is possible.
1. Review your convictions
Halloween is one of the more confusing celebrations in American culture. Unlike other celebrations, Halloween’s historical origins are not commonly understood by people from many walks of life, including the Christian community. This confusion, for many Christians, seems to prompt one of two responses to Halloween: either its rapid rejection as a pagan holiday that “celebrates the devil” or its enthusiastic acceptance as an innocuous day that enables children to dress up and devour candy.
Neither of these responses are “wrong,” however, they are inconsistent with the depth of analysis required of Gospel-carrying culture makers. As with every area of life, understanding how the Gospel informs our perception of cultural celebrations necessitates a deeper level of introspection into our response to Halloween.
This introspection is vital in shaping our personal Gospel lens on culture while also enabling us to articulate our Gospel freedom to those unfamiliar with Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I spend much of my time in discussions deconstructing inaccurate preconceptions about Christianity, including the popular notion that “real” Christians do not celebrate Halloween. By providing a Gospel-fluent explanation for our participation, or non-participation, in Halloween we help those unfamiliar with Jesus begin to understand the depths of freedom we experience in him.
2. Rest in your conclusions
So what should our response be to Halloween? Well, that’s up to you. I’d encourage you to investigate Halloween’s history [a good place to start is Justin Holcomb’s blog], and take time to pray and discuss it with people you trust. Here’s the best part; regardless of your conclusions, you can rest with joyful confidence knowing that you are guided by the Holy Spirit while humbly accepting those with differing convictions as equally valid and consistent with a Gospel-centered worldview.
3. Resist the urge to retract
In our convictions we must resist the urge to retract from society for fear of being corrupted by our culture. We are Gospel-carrying culture makers called to make disciples in our circles of influence. Each of us are uniquely positioned to reach our neighbors and neighborhoods with the life changing message of the Gospel. Halloween is the perfect medium to push through the cultural norms of isolation and seclusion and into relationships and connectedness.
As we overcome these challenges we move towards creating environments where real connection is established and we earn the right to have meaningful spiritual conversations that introduce our neighbors to Jesus. If we embrace the opportunities that Halloween provides, we just might see Gospel transformation in that one heart, which can transform a home, which can transform a neighborhood.
For some practical insights into how to maximize Halloween to connect with people in your neighborhood check out these great writers:
Authored by NCC Assistant Pastor Jon Whiteway