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Trick or Treat?: Candy, Costumes, and the Gospel

Trick or Treat?: Candy, Costumes, and the Gospel

Hello Church Family,

I hope you’ve enjoyed sweet communion with the Lord this week. He is indeed a good, good Father.

As many of you know, a few years ago we stopped providing a trick-or-treat alternative on our church campus during the Halloween season.

The decision to cancel such a cherished tradition wasn’t made because we were doing a poor job with our Country Fair, as we called it. Quite the contrary. Under Jill Roth’s careful eye, our event was the best thing in the area, far exceeding the efforts of surrounding (even much larger) churches. (Sorry, that’s my competitive side rearing its unattractive head!). Kids and parents packed the parking lot for pony rides, a rock-climbing wall, and hand-spun cotton candy. The whole thing was a blast, and undoubtedly yielded some positive results.

But something occurred to me when I returned home from our Country Fair one night: Virtually everyone in my neighborhood was “packing up” after spending the evening at the edge of their driveways … talking, exchanging stories and getting to know one another better. To add to my consternation, one of our elders said to me casually, “For years I’ve felt like I had to sneak away from conversations with my neighbors to go to our event at church.” That statement haunted me. And caused me to spend a few twilight hours wondering: Why are we retreating to our campus on the single-best night of the year to reach our neighbors? Why not circulate and engage our community when they’re already sitting outside?

Finally, I was convicted (and inspired) by David Mathis’s article Halloween on Mission; in it Mathis writes: “What if Jesus’ words in John 17 (‘They are not of the world … I have sent them into the world.’) … led us to move beyond our squabbles about whether or not we’re free to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, and the main issue became whether our enjoyment of Jesus and his victory over Satan and the powers of darkness might incline us to think less about our private enjoyments and more about how we might love others?”

All of that to say: we eliminated the event.

And I encouraged the people of Northpoint to be intentional about being among their neighbors and engaging them in conversation. And by God’s grace, the church responded. Some folks baked banana bread and went door-to-door introducing themselves to neighbors they’d never met. Others set up a play areas in their own backyards and invited passers-by to join in. Still others set up round tables for folks to take a break from their walking. Not everyone agreed with the decision, but most people were eager to get on board.

Jenine and I decided to divide and conquer. I would circulate with our youngest kids, while she and our oldest son remained home to pass out candy. To my surprise and delight, I met folks who lived on the same street that I had never even seen. Let alone talked to. And God even allowed for some spiritual discussions (which I was careful not to force). One man said to me, “I haven’t been to Mass in years, but my family is Catholic. What are the differences between what you believe and the Catholic Church?” Wow. God exceeded my expectations in a hundred ways. As He always does.

So, here we are on the verge of another trick-or-treat night. The question is: How will you be present in your community, be attentive to the stories of your neighbors, and show the costume-bearing solicitors who tap on your door that they are loved and valued by you as fellow image-bearers of God?

Who knows? One might just ask: “What do you believe?” Or share with you a struggle that you can pray about. Out of the mouths of babes (and erstwhile ghouls and goblins) He has ordained praise.

On mission with you,

Pastor John