Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fall Festival Time

Maybe I’ve been more vocal this year than in years past…(I doubt it!) Or maybe it’s because Oklahomans are more “liberal” than Tennesseans…(I would expect them to be about the same), but for whatever reason I have had two minor conflicts when it comes to the issue of Christians celebrating halloween this year. Since childhood I have been convinced of the evils of halloween. Of course, it’s not like it takes a lot of spiritual discernment to look at a holiday that focuses on death, destruction, and fear and make the determination that maybe, just maybe, this celebration has at least the “appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22)

So, it has always baffled me that at this time of year churches feel the need to offer a halloween alternative. Call it a “Fall Festival,” a “Harvest Festival,” a “Hallelujah Night,” or whatever you want to call it, it’s basically the same thing. The stated purpose is two fold.

1) Give Christian children something else they can do on that day since the world has its halloween parties and “trick or treating.”
2) Provide an outreach to the community so that the world can be evangelized.

I want to address these two reasons from a Biblical point of view to examine whether or not the church really has a legitimate need for these festivals.

First, should we have a festival so that our own Christian children will not feel “left out” when their friends talk of their halloween festivities? As parents, we should instruct our children that there are things that the world does that we should have no part in, simply because the Bible tells us that it is wrong.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(1Jo 2:15)

As we offer this instruction to our children, they will learn that they are to be separate, “distinct,” from the world. As adults they will come to understand that fellowship with friends should not take place at happy hour at the local bar. They will learn not to compromise with the world for the sake of enjoying the same pleasures with a Christian disinfectant sprayed on it.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
(Jam 1:27)

So, I maintain that our children don’t need to be “thrown a bone” when it comes to giving up something that is wicked. They should simply say, “Yes sir” and accept their father’s direction that we don’t participate.

Next, should we have a festival in order to reach all those unbelieving children for Christ? Then, in turn, we can reach the parents later. The first problem is that we are using worldly entertainment as “bait” for the presentation of the Gospel. We know that the carnal mind is enmity against God. (Romans 8:7) So, why do we try and disguise the Gospel presentation in a package that even the world will enjoy? If we are being deceptive in the “product” we are selling, how can we expect them to truly seek the Lord for repentance of sins? The Lord tells us how the Gospel is to be presented:

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
(1Co 1:21)

God has ordained preaching as the means to save the lost. What’s more, this preaching is to be done out in the world by you, the individual Christian. Our church leaders equip common believers to do the work of the ministry. (Eph 4:11-12) We don’t need to sponsor some big festival where we pass out candy, act just like the world, and throw a Christian message in here and there in hopes of evangelizing the lost. It’s much better to stand on the street corner and proclaim, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” We have two excellent examples of this in scripture. First, John the Baptist proclaimed this message. (Matthew 3:2) Next, the greatest preacher who ever lived (and is still living), our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed the exact same message. (Matthew 4:17) If you do this, people may walk by and look at you funny. They may say strange things about you. If you are in a tyrannical country, they may even through you in jail. (Matthew 14:3) But the fact remains that this is the means by which the Lord has ordained to bring in His elect into the Kingdom. If He has called them, they will respond to the message. If He has not called them, no amount of candy coating will lure them into the Kingdom.

No. A Harvest Festival/Fall Festival/Hallelujah night/Halloween alternative is not only unnecessary, but I submit to you that it stands in violation of what God expects of us.


Blake Law said...

You are forgetting that Halloween has been more or less hijacked from the church. Christians used to dress up as scary things to mock them, and show that, even though we live in a world of darkness, it is impotent against Christ's supremacy and the coming dawn of His return. In more recent years, commercialization has seemed to convert it back into a secular holiday with no redeeming aspects whatsoever. Why not recover the uniquely Christian aspect of the celebration? God does not seem to have a problem with redeeming pagan paradigms for His glory. Just look at Paul's use of pagan philosophy in Acts chapter 17. The Reformers certainly had no problem redeeming secular traditions and music and using them to bring glory to God. Of all the things that are actually antithetical to God and should be opposed by Christians, I hardly think children having fun on Halloween is worth the battle. Why miss an opportunity to see all your neighbors face to face (when else does that happen?) and teach your children something more nuanced than, "Look kids! Unclean! Retreat into the house and turn off all the lights!" While we do not want our kids to gleefully join in a celebration of death, that kind of attitude won't serve them as they become mature Christian adults in a fallen world. Just some of my thoughts!

Mike Southerland said...

Thanks Blake for your thoughts. I'm thinking you are referring to the papier celebration of "All Saints Day" when you say that it was hijacked from the church. I'd be very interested in your source when you claim that the Reformers "had no problem redeeming secular traditions and music." In my study I've seen quite the opposite. In general the Reformers, and especially the Puritans, would not even celebrate Christmas because primarily of their understanding of the second commandment that tells us we are to worship God only in the manner in which He had ordained in the written Word of God. I stand by what I wrote in 2006. Halloween is totally inappropriate for Christians to "celebrate" in any manner. Since 2006 I have been more regular in acknowledging "Reformation Day." On Oct 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Whittenburg Chapel, igniting the Protestant Reformation. We will typically pull out a video about Martin Luther to view on Oct 31.

Mike Southerland said...

Interesting that I can't edit my comment (though it would let me edit the post). I have a problem with my Android phone thinking it is smarter than I am. It wants to always "correct" my words. So, when I wanted to type "papist celebration" Mr. Android decided to change that to "papier celebration" (whatever that means).