HALLOWEENies & BOOgers // Coll-O-Ween

This is about 10 blogs in one… take your time… feel free to skim…

The BACKGROUND:

Well as some of you know, Halloween is fast approaching. What was once a day that fell on the eve of an old Celtic celebration (click here for the origin of Halloween) is now the second most celebrated family holiday in America; a night where half the country dresses up their kids to go trick-or-treating, and the other half of the country throws parties, gets drunk, and visits haunted houses.

Since by nature, Halloween is a holiday that tends to over-glorify the dead and where people love to go watch b-rated horror flicks; the church has, for many years, tried to figure out how to best respond to this holiday. This blog is my attempt to explain what College Life has decided to do on this night, especially since this year, Halloween falls on a Tuesday night (Axcess night!).

In years past, when we embraced more of an “attractional” approach to ministry, College Life would have done what many other churches tend to do- and just focus inward, thinking of a way to pull all of our Christians out of culture so as to avoid the haunting horrors and debauchery of that night. In fact, just a couple of months ago, we had it slated to have a massive College Life dance that night, appropriately called “The Coll-O-Ween Ball.” There’s no doubt it would have been a ton of fun, a huge success, and would have drawn in hundreds for a top notch costume party. And honestly, in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with any church or group that would like to do that.

But for my staff and I, we really wrestled with whether or not that would be the best way to redeem that night. We wondered if that would only continue to encourage the already existing attitude in our ministry that Christians should just pull out of culture into their own sub-culture huddles, and completely disconnect from the world in which Christ called us to redeem.

Parties are fun- I love them! And they’re especially fun when it’s all your Christian friends who are there with you, enjoying a sweet time of fellowship together. And we will no doubt continue to throw some mack-daddy parties in the near future in College Life! But it just so happens that on that particular night, all of America is walking the streets begging for candy and going to parties. My thought simply was- we should be out there with them, being a salt and light for our Savior- not couped up in some room hiding the Light of Christ from the world and waiting for the rapture to come (Matthew 5:14).

The VISION:

So here’s the idea- and it’s been one we’ve been harping on all year… how about we encourage and equip our students to penetrate culture by engaging their own spheres of influence right where they are for the sake of the Gospel of Christ…?

Instead of calling all believers to come in so we can entertain them that night- how about we scrap any sort of formal event and send them out so they can love their neighbors right where they are that night?

An EXAMPLE:

For instance… My family and I live in a very kid-populated neighborhood. Just about every house on my street has children- and they all go trick-or-treating on our street and the streets surrounding us. Three years ago, we had 170 kids come by our house for candy. Two years ago the number jumped to 190 kids. (Yes, I actually count and keep tallies!). Last year we had 250 kids. Part of it is because we give away the really good candy :), but the major reason is, the sphere in which we live in is absolutely loaded with kids and families who love to dress up and go door to door begging for chocolate.

It would be insane of me to never get to know my neighbors, but worse yet- actually pull away from them on a night like that. As far as I can tell, there’s about 3 Christian families that live on my street- the rest are deeply far from God- and many of them have very broken families. My wife and I have a huge desire to get to know those people, love on those people, and share the Gospel of Christ with them.

So on Halloween, we’re cooking dinner for the whole neighborhood! We’re calling it “Halloweenies and Boogers.” During the main hours of trick-or-treating for my neighborhood, we’re inviting over 250 homes to stop by our house for some hamburgers and hot dogs.

sumlinhalloween2.jpg

Will this cost me some money? You bet! But is it worth it? You bet! This will give me a chance to get to know my neighbors in a way that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And my prayer is that this will be a huge, intentional step towards building a bridge to the Gospel with them. It’s amazing how just being hospitable to some people can create trust and credibility for the Gospel! I’ve also gotten those few Christian families in my neighborhood to stay home that night and partner with us in this effort. And it’s also an amazing witness to my daughters by showing them that when mommy and daddy say they love God and people, we actually mean it!

Anyway, for us, it’s just one opportunity that night to make a difference for Christ right where God has planted us.

Some IDEAS:

For College Life, our heart was to encourage the same attitude. Now, obviously it’s going to look a lot different in your spheres of influence than it does mine… Most of y’all aren’t married, don’t have kids, don’t live in neighborhoods, etc… but you do live in dorms, rent apartments, go to classes, are in the Greek system, are friends with art majors, music majors, comm.. majors, co-workers, etc… and you might just be in the exact place where God wants you to be so you can reach those people for Him! The trick is figuring out how God might want to use you to reach THOSE people that particular night…

For some of you it may be throwing your own parties at your own place. You know a number of lost friends with whom you have built relationships, who would love to come over to your place that night.

For others of you, it may be going out to some of the parties you’ve been invited to. You’ve got some co-workers who are throwing down that Tuesday night- and it could be a great chance for you and a couple of your believing friends to go there and be a visible presence, love on those folks, have some fun, and engage in some spiritual conversations with people at the party. Not to mention what it might mean to some of those folks that a Christian like you even cared enough to come by!

For others, maybe the best thing you could do is partner with a local church or organization that is putting on a Fall-Festival or Carnival that night as an outreach to the community.

It’s gonna be different for all of you, but the key is to think, and to pray, and to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance for how He wants to use YOU to engage and be a salt and a light that night- rather than just partnering up with your all-Christian friends while you bob for apples and listen to the latest album of Mercy Me.

Some DISCLAIMER’S:

Now I know as I say all of this, some of you are saying, “wait a minute, that’s a lot harder than you’re making it out to be… you don’t know some of the parties I’d have to go to or the kind of people that would come if I threw my own party like that… what about the alcohol? What about the possibility of drugs? What about the fornication?”

Yes… I know… it’s called the world. And in order to redeem it for Christ, it’s implied that we have to get close to it. This isn’t a long distance relationship where we evangelize by proxy- it’s going to take putting yourself in the world of the ungodly- who often do what ungodly people do… which is sin.  Christ called the term “Incarnation.”

However, I know that as a college pastor I have to be VERY clear in what I’m saying. I understand that if there is a mist in the pulpit, there can be a bong in the pew! So hear me very clearly when I am saying “YOU DON’T SIN!” You’re going to have to use HUGE discernment depending upon what it is the Lord is leading you do that night.

If you’re going to throw a party at your place and invite some lost friends, chances are they’re probably going to want to throw down a beer or two or ten. Drinking alcohol is not a sin, but many have sinned as the result of drinking alcohol. So you’re going to have to have incredible discernment as to whether you want to invite those possibilities into your home or not. And you’re dang sure going to have to determine what your behavior will be like in that context (see also 1 Peter 2:12) so that you won’t serve as a hypocrite. There’s a fine line between being around others who do immoral deeds and you being the one who fosters the environment for them to do them.

All that to say, if you’re going to throw a party with non-believers in attendance, then you must be ok with (or at least prepared for) non-believers doing what non-believers do. But in the same breath, watch yourself so that you don’t cross the line from penetrating culture into embracing worldliness. Again, heavy discernment there.

My guess would be that there’s only a few of you who can really pull off your own party well. At least the kind that will be redemptive in building some bridges to your lost friends. Most self-thrown parties tend to either drift towards an all-Christian party or an all-immoral party. Only an elite few can hold balance in the middle.

For the rest of us, it’ll come down to accepting invitations to other parties where you’re co-workers or classmates may be, and seeking to build bridges there.

In either situation, or in whatever creative outlet you find yourself in that night, it all comes down to intentionality and prayer. If we’re not seeking the Holy Spirit’s lead in this, or if we’re not intentionally putting on the mind of Christ as we enter into these situations- then we’ll always drift towards carnality.

Be intentional. Be above reproach. Be creative. Be Unconditional in your love. Be Spirit-led. Be in prayer. Honor the Lord and Preach the Gospel!

Some LINKS:

Here’s some interesting video clips from Mark Driscoll that speak to this whole tension I’ve been talking about…

Final THOUGHTS:

This is just one night of the year. My prayer is that we would live this way for the other 364 days of the year as well. My prayer is that we would serve as missionaries for Christ wherever we go and whatever spheres of influence we’re in.

The whole point of this is just to push some of our students out of the nest- and instead of encouraging them to come in and be entertained, encourage them to go out and share the light of the Gospel.

If you’re involved with College Life, and any of these ideas fire you up- then go do it. The church’s role in all of this is simply to equip believers to do ministry. So if you need some help with ideas, planning, material or monetary resources, etc… – please e-mail me or any one of my staff and we’d be happy to assist.

Please Note: We honestly don’t want to promote any of these parties or opportunities as a formal College Life event. We’d rather these opportunities just be about Christians doing what Christians should do. Promote Christ, if anything!

If y’all got any questions, post ‘em or e-mail me.

Y’all get out there and share the love and truth of Jesus!

Happy Coll-O-Ween!

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~ by Shea Sumlin on October 11, 2006.

4 Responses to “HALLOWEENies & BOOgers // Coll-O-Ween”

  1. Great idea dude. Your vision and leadership never cease to amaze me. We’ll catch up soon!

    Skip

  2. Hey man this is great! I am pumped to see what I can get my residents involved in! Seeya tuesday.

    -Andrew

  3. Very encouraging to read about others unafraid to redeem the cultural form of Halloween for the cause of the Gospel. Very unfundy of you. Also very like Jesus. LOVE it.

    Thanks for reminding us we’re not alone amidst the many “avoid the world” events on Oct. 31st.

    First time reader; I’m impressed.
    – Cor

  4. […] HALLOWEENies & BOOgers (Oct. 31st) […]

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