At the end of October is a holiday which is controversial, to say the least among Christians; Halloween. Christians have a lot of different options on the holiday ranging from avoid it all together to embracing everything about the holiday. Some Christians do Trunk or Treats while others go out into their communities trick or treating.
When I was in Seminary and College I was an outspoken critic of churches hosting Trunk or Treats or Fall Festivals. If you search hard enough on my blog you will find old posts where I argued against Trunk or Treats or Fall Festival. I believed that churches hosted T or T and FF to avoid their pagan neighbors. I argued that Christians would rather congregate in holy huddles than be a light to their neighborhoods on a night in which unbelievers coming knocking on Christian doors. I saw Trunk or Treats/Fall Festivals as retreating from the Great Commission as opposed to advancing the Great Commission. (To Be Honest I still think some churches in my area are using Trunk or Treats/Fall Festival as an excuse to run away from the Great Commission but still pat themselves on the back).
After Seminary I moved to what could only be described as the "Rural South (I'm sure some people reading this will disagree) but when you live in a town called Tobaccoville than you must be in the "Rural South". As a part of my job I was responsible for hosting the annual Trunk or Treat at the church. The first year I felt like a sell out. Here I had spent eight years speaking out against Trunk or Treats and now I was encharge of hosting one. I felt like a sell out.
I felt like a sell out that first year but went along because I didn't want to lose my job. The second year October rolled around and Trunk or Treat was coming up again. At this time I lived in a neighborhood and had a house. It was time to stop retreating to the church on Halloween but instead embrace my neighborhood and be a light to the children in my neighborhood. I began talking to neighbors and communicating with people in my town and I quickly learned an important lesson. My neighborhood has no street lights. It's too dark for anyone in my neighborhood to go Trick or Treating, so what do they do... they go to churches to do their Trick or Treating. As I talked with others in the community I began to learn that most people do not live in neighborhoods but live out all by themselves; therefore, most people are looking for churches, schools or community centers to go Trick or Treating.
I learned an important lesson last year. I need to contextualize my approach to sharing the Gospel so that it is relevant in the town I live in. To say it another way what works in the city does not necessarily work in the country; therefore, I need to adapt.
In College/Seminary I spoke out against Trunk or Treat because I was in a context where people went trick or treating in neighborhoods but now that I am living in the Rural South the majority of people do not have neighborhoods nor do they feel safe so they come to churches to go Trick or Treating.
If I had been stubborn and cancelled Trunk or Treat without listening to others I would have missed out on an event which serves hundreds of people and families in my community.
What's the lesson? We need to listen to others. It is easy to read a book written by an expert in the field but if he or she is not located in our town than he or she may not know the best way to reach our city or town or small rural community with the Gospel. We need to listen to others and host events/share the Gospel in ways which fit our particular culture.
In Stanleyville, Trunk or Treats are natural ways to be a light to our community and instead of running away from our community is a way we love our community and shine the light of the Gospel. In another town it might be something different. It is up to those of us who are ministers of the Gospel to listen and share the Gospel in ways which are culturally relevant.
I for one am glad I listened and I am glad we host Trunk or Treats. In fact of you are in or around Stanleyville on Monday, October 31st from 6:30-8:00 pm come on by First Baptist Church of Stanleyville and pick up some candy!