On Mission this Halloween

This coming Monday offers a great opportunity for many to engage in new relationships with those around us or to revisit some old relationships with new missional intentionality. Regardless of what you think of the holiday and it’s roots, the culture we have been sent by Jesus to reach is going to celebrate Halloween this Monday. We all have in front of us a wide open door for missionary engagement in our neighborhoods. I want to encourage you not to miss out on the opportunity.

If you are looking to be more intentionally engaged this year, I want to present you with a few ideas for how you can more effectively walk through the open door that Halloween presents to us as Jesus’ missionaries.

BE HOSPITABLE…Don’t just give out candy

  1. Give out the best Candy. Please, don’t give out tracks or toothbrushes or pennies…kids are looking for the master loot of candy. Put yourself in their shoes.
  2. Think of the Parents. Consider having some Hot Apple Cider and pumpkin bread or muffins out for the parents who are bringing their little kiddos around the block. Make your entry-way inviting so they want to come closer and hang for a bit if possible.
  3. Be Present. Don’t hide out all night. Come out to the door or hang out on the porch and if they stop to have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.
  4. Be Encouraging. Tell the kids you love their costumes and to have a great night. Practice building others up with words.
  5. Party. If you’re really into it, you may want to throw a pre-Trick or Treating party. Provide dinner and drinks. Then, send the dads out trick or treating with the kids while the moms continue hanging with some hot apple cider, coffee or tea. Then reconvene with the parents and kids together to examine all of the loot (kids love to show their parents and other kids the loot).
  6. Learn the Stories. If you are out T or Ting with the kiddos or staying back with the other parents, ask questions…get to know their stories. Pay attention to their hearts and their felt needs. Look for opportunities to serve them later. This is how I first got to know Clay (while Jayne was hanging with Kristi and the other moms). I learned his story while we were with the kids and Jayne got to know hers. This led to both of them eventually coming to faith in Jesus.

GO TO THEIR PLACE…Join what is happening elsewhere

  1. Attend the Party. If others are throwing parties, you may want to join them. If so, bring drinks, food or whatever is needed. Then, serve by helping to clean up.
  2. Join the Community. If your community has key events, join them and invite some neighbors to go with you (then get to know their stories along the way). Our area has a trick or treating event on a main street where all the businesses give out candy, the firemen give tours of the fire engines, etc… We go with a group of friends to this each year and consistently meet more people to reach out to.
  3. Head to the “Watering Holes”. If you do not have kids or are not going to engage in the Trick or Treating activities or events, consider going to the local pubs, restaurants or clubs near you for their events and get to know the people there. Make it your goal to learn the story of at least one person who needs Jesus and walk away with some next steps on how to serve them. You will want to do this with others so that you don’t go it alone.

BE PRAYERFUL…Ask for the Spirit to led, guide and work

  1. Pay Attention. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.
  2. Stay Dependent. Ask the Spirit to help you listen, care and serve those around you.
  3. Open Doors. Ask the Spirit for open doors for new relationships and gospel conversations

SHARE YOUR IDEAS…Let us know what you’ve done or are going to do. Please share your ideas with us…what have you done? What are you planning to do? Let’s learn and prepare together…

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85 Responses to On Mission this Halloween

  1. Alexis Braga says:

    This is GREAT, Jeff! Our family typically does a pre-party a couple of days before Halloween so we can join our neighbors for the trick or treating. I have found one fun activity the kids always look forward to at our party is to provide mini pumpkins for the kids to glitter & decorate. They have so much fun with this and the parents do too. Also, we have appetizers, sweets, and beverages for everyone to enjoy. :)

  2. Josh Elsom says:

    We’ll be grilling hotdogs on the sidewalk in front of the house and giving them away. Great way to create a pit stop for mom’s and dad’s as they make the circuit through the neighborhood. We’ll also have some extra chairs and a cooler full of drinks for the kids and the adults. This is one of the best nights of the year because God gives our feet a rest and brings the world to our door. October 31st = low hanging fruit.

  3. Hey Jeff & others who will comment, I think I already know the answer, but what are your thoughts on a group of believers gathering somewhere else to pray that evening? We’ve got good friends who tend to be a little more isolationist, but they have also interviewed people coming out of the occult & feel that there is an intense spiritual battle taking place that night. It seems in our area a lot of the costuming & decor is getting particular gruesome & horrific. These friends want to host a prayer meeting & have young kids joining in. They’d rather not confuse their kids or have them freaked out unnecessarily by going out in the neighborhood. I want to encourage them & their heart for prayer, but I don’t want to act monastic every time something disturbing is going on in my neighborhood. I appreciate your advice,


    • Ross,

      I think we need to encourage people both to live within the place of freedom the Spirit of God is granting them in their spiritual growth as well as call people not to remain in slavery. So, if people are not yet free to engage more, we should encourage them to serve in the capacity/freedom they are able for now (in this case prayer apart from the activity of Halloween might be best). With that said, I would not want a few to prevent others who are more free from engaging in active work in the world however (John 17 – Jesus’ prayer was not “removal from” but “set apart for” in the world). I think I would couple the two for now: Ask them to pray for those who are going to participate that God would open doors for the gospel. I would also encourage them not to live in fear, but with faith in the power of the gospel to save and set people free. Anything not done in faith is sin. The world, the devil and sin are not more powerful that our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit within us that raised him from the dead. You eventually want to lead everyone to a greater confidence in the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17), but do it with gentleness, respect and patience.

      • Excellent. This is very helpful. I appreciate you!

      • Jayne says:

        I would agree wholeheartedly with Jeff and add a reminder that there are a lot of people who have never heard of Jesus engaging in this night and we can be the presence of Jesus who come alongside these precious people and walk the streets with them. I have made it a personal practice to learn how to “walk in prayer” and coming alongside someone, while praying for them as I interact is powerful! I have many stories of how the presence of God was with me in situations that I felt very uncomfortable in. Don’t ever use prayer as an excuse to hide, instead, encourage believers to walk in boldness and confidence amongst these people because they have the power of the risen Christ in them to will and act according to His purposes, Amen! :)

  4. jasondensberger says:

    Love this Jeff! The temptation is to separate ourselves- “light from darkness,” yet Jesus didn’t say stay away from the lost. He said, “Let your light shine!” and for our lights to shine we must be in the darkness. We have got to intentionally initiate relationships with others despite their scary evil costumes to lead into sharing the Gospel with them. Thanks for these practical applications to propel our family to take advantage of Halloween 2011 and others to come.

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  6. CJ Godfrey says:

    Terrific post Jeff! It really helps to have someone showing or suggesting alternatives that are easy to implement and get us pointed in the right direction.

  7. Annie Wagner says:

    I LOVE THIS!!! We were invited to join a family from our kids school to go trick or treating. I have been praying for the Spirit’s lead as we spend time with them away from school events. I like the challenge of making a night of it and think I will extend an invite before or after to our house as well. Also LOVE the idea to “give the best candy” NO ONE likes toothbrushes, tracks or pennies in place of candy!!! Thank you for the encouragement in this. Praying for Jesus to Redeem Halloween as His people live and love as His Spirit leads.

  8. Pingback: On Mission on Halloween « Joewulf

  9. Melanie Freshour says:

    I have a friend that makes a huge pot of chili on Halloween, then stands out in her cul-de-sac and serves her neighbors the Gospel thinly cloaked in beans, cheese, sour cream and fritos. She says it’s the one time of the year she can count on them to come over to HER house. Our church hosts a festival of sorts and gets a huge turnout…of Christians. Somehow I like Roberta’s way better.

  10. Pingback: Being Missional on Halloween – Justin Taylor

  11. AJ says:

    Do not presume to be a teacher…
    Do you not know that there will be those who will fall away in the last days? Of course we are to reach out and minister to those on October 31st as always, but we are to do it God’s Way not the enemy’s way! Why do you say that you are more mature in claiming that we are to participate? It reminds me of the counsel. “You shall not surely die!” Beware saints, the spirit behind this counsel is a spirit of deception. Those who have an ear let him hear! Please do not compromise by joinging in and mocking God’s Holiness, under the guise of being “more mature” Seek the wisdom from above! We know He is merciful, but let’s be grateful and not mock His Holiness…Grace is not a license to represent evil, but we are now impowered and able by the Holy Spirit to overcome. This truth is not fear, this is His love! Please seek out the Scriptures on your own. Thank you for asking to leave a reply.

    • Interesting thoughts AJ. Could you explain how you would minister in a tangible incarnational way?

    • AJ,

      I would, like Ross asked, like to hear how you plan to engage in the mission of the gospel this Monday as well.

      In regards to my statements, I was responding to Ross’ question about those who have had a bad experience with the occult – Halloween is a day that is hard for them to engage on mission in, so they are looking to pray. I was not intending to communicate that more mature people will engage and less mature people will not. I really was calling us to live within the freedom that the gospel allows while being guided by the Word and the Spirit of God.

      Also, I am not calling people minister according to the enemy’s way. I am calling us to love and serve and look for opportunities to show the implications of the gospel and share the message – this is the way of Jesus, not the enemy.

    • we cannot join in the world we must take the world ,to Christ. So on this holiday we should have nothing to do with witchcraft as the bible speaks. So have a party that does not involve ANY of the pagan stuff.That means no compromises!!

  12. RachelC says:

    I live overseas, but as my kids have progressed from infants (where you don’t really need to think about halloween) to very interested young elementary kids,I’ve decided that if we ever live in the States during Halloween, I’d like to set up some kind of fun fall-ish table outside my house with the (very excellent) candy on it and hot cocoa or cider for adults. Then, as kids come and get their candy, do what Jeff is saying – talk to the families. Get to know them. Then, offer to take a picture with kids and their parents. Get them developed the next day and deliver them. That’s a second visit, a starting friendship, and none of it felt weird or forced. I love the idea of not hiding during halloween!

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  15. Larry says:

    Halloween is a “holiday” that is steeped in wickedness. As such shouldn’t Christians be calling those who are participating to repentance? Or are Christians no longer to confront our culture with its sins?

    • Larry,

      Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but save it. So often Christians stand apart from and confront the culture instead of going to, loving, sharing the good news of Jesus and then looking to see people and culture redeemed for Jesus’ fame. It would seem from Scripture that those Jesus confronted were not those who claimed not to belong to God, but those who claimed to be God’s people, but distanced themselves from “sinners” and made it harder for people to come to God through their rules and condemnation.

      To be “in the world” is not to affirm what is right or wrong about what is going on around us – if that were the case Jesus’ accusers would have been right for accusing him since he hung out with “tax collectors and sinners”. To be “in the world” – to be with those who don’t know of the love of God in Christ Jesus – has to do with loving those who don’t yet know and believe in Jesus and we have to be “with” them in order for them to come to know the love God has for them.

      The reality is that none of us can be involved in this world without being connected to philosophies and practices steeped in wickedness – Christmas is a great example of such a holiday – it is far better known for materialism and greed than for a loving savior born into this world to save the world from sin. The radical individualism of the United States is another example – however, I am not going to distance myself from our country because of the worldview that is contrary to the gospel. Instead, I want to see the creational good of God creating humans individuals meant to live for his glory redeemed.

      I want to stand up for what is good, right and perfect, be with those who don’t know of the love and grace of Jesus Christ and pray that, by God’s grace, they and the culture around us is redeemed from Jesus’ glory.

      • Larry says:


        I undertand that “Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but save it.” Here’s the thing, He will come in judgment when He returns…and we are to call people to repentance until that time. Christ Himself did this…

        “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 3:2)

        Suggesting that Christ coming to save the world means we ought not (or even that Christ didn’t) call people to repentance is an erroneous view of Scripture to say the least.

        You said: To be “in the world” – to be with those who don’t know of the love of God in Christ Jesus – has to do with loving those who don’t yet know and believe in Jesus and we have to be “with” them in order for them to come to know the love God has for them.

        My reply: To be “of the world” is to be conformed to its practices….like Halloween. We can’t show people the love of Christ without first showing them the sin that they are enslaved to. Those who experience the love of God do so by turning from their sin and turning to Christ. To take the ‘turning from sin’ part out of the Gospel, making it less confrontational, is to pervert it and preach a different Gospel than the biblical one.

        You said: The reality is that none of us can be involved in this world without being connected to philosophies and practices steeped in wickedness

        My reply: But we are not to submit to those philosophies and practices, but rather…

        We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2Co 10:5)

        You said: I am not going to distance myself from our country because of the worldview that is contrary to the gospel.

        My reply: Praise the Lord! I will not distance myself either…but i will not placate the antiChrist spirit, but rather confront it and call those who are in it to repentance as God has commanded us to.

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  17. David Mathis asks some good questions on the Desiring God blog that might help some of us be open to engage Halloween as Jesus’ people sent on mission to share the good news in deed as well as word: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/sent-into-the-harvest-halloween-on-mission

  18. Pingback: Sharing the Love of Christ on Halloween | A Pilgrim's Path

  19. Sam Smithers says:

    “tracts” not “tracks.”

  20. Kathy says:

    Why would a believer join with his neighbors in the celebration of darkness, simply as a way to “be the best neighbor” or hand out the best candy, the happy Christian? Why stop there? Why not dress up as _____ and go door-to-door handing out gifts of candy, or tracts, the trick-or-treating Christians. I believe I understand the good intentions, and it is an ongoing battle to be in the world but not ofit, but I cannot support what you’re saying, or doing.

    My church is celebrating the Reformation this weekend, inviting friends and neighbors to celebrate with us and learn of Christ and the brave men and women who have kept His church alive. My porch may be dark, but my church will be a light…. on a hill.

  21. Jeff,

    Here is a link to what we do on Halloween. We do not celebrate it. But we no longer lock our doors and hide. And we do “missonal” work the other 364 days as well which is a reason not to take Oct 31st as a day off.

    Love, rr

    • Thanks for sharing your ideas rr.

      As you know, the day we celebrate Christmas was also a pagan holiday at one point (Saturnalia) and the Christians of the day decided to redeem it and celebrate Jesus’ birth instead leading to our present day celebration.

      • Jeff,

        Yes that is true. If that were to happen with Halloween then there would be no more Halloween as we know it today because it would be replaced as Saturnalia was. I am not all that eager to redeem Halloween (or Saturnalia) but instead to see the gospel go forth. And if the redeeming of culture or pagan holiday’s occurs as a secondary result of converted hearts then great. But not primary.

        Love, rr

  22. I agree with you wholeheartedly rr.

    Thanks again for your heart for those who don’t yet know and believe in Jesus. I will be praying for you and the many others looking to be the light of Jesus on Monday.

  23. Lucille says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I admire your personal insight on celebrating Halloween. I know that you have encouraged many with your passion in making people feel that the essence of Halloween is not just about giving anything one can grab in an instant rather making the children and parents feel that it’s still worth doing the tradition. Thanks a lot for an awesome article.

  24. Aaron says:

    Awesome, insightful thoughts…thanks for sharing! Forwarding this on to our small group.

  25. Sam says:

    great stuff here jeff! I’m also very encouraged by your example and graciousness in dealing with those who disagree with you. You’re a great example brother. thanks for all you do!

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  27. Susan says:

    What are your thoughts about Christians having halloween parties that have NOTHING TO DO with unbelievers, only their own friends?

  28. Meg says:

    Why no tracts? The ATS says something like 52% of new believers come through written literature. George Whitfield was one of them. We put tracts in bags of candy to hand out. Jesus didn’t just make friend’s and feed people, he preached the gospel and commissioned us to do the same. There are some great tracts out there too. Especially those at livingwaters.com

    • Meg,
      I was more concerned with those who give out tracts with no candy.

      On another note, I wonder how often people who hand out tracts also talk to people about Jesus. It seems that some who hand out tracts don’t engage in conversation with people about Jesus. I would hope that tracts don’t replace a verbal witness.

  29. Larry,

    I’ve never suggested that we shouldn’t call people to repentance. I’m not sure where you got the idea that I believe we shouldn’t do that. I do believe people must repent and turn in faith to God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

    I don’t want to continue arguing about the rest of your response, but I would remind you that “it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance”. I didn’t repent of my sin because someone was in my face telling me how bad I was. I repented because of the love of God in Christ Jesus – I came to see how sinful my sin was when I saw how far Christ went to love me by suffering for me on the cross. We are to have this same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2).

    I in no way want to affirm sin or encourage people in it. But I know that no one turns from sin until they see God and come to know how great, glorious, good and gracious he is (Isaiah 6 is a good example of this). As the body of Christ, it is our job to show people what our Father in heaven is like – we are to be imitators of God as dearly loved children (Eph 5). As people, by grace, see what our Father is like by the way we love one another, they will also see what it means to be disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35). I am simply encouraging us to love others like we have been loved.

    I also am not less confrontational – I talk to my friends regularly about sin and their need for what Jesus has done for them through his life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of His Spirit. With that, however, I also believe we should love, serve and engage those who don’t yet believe at the place they are in right now. I can’t expect for them to come to where I’m at or to see what I see. I want to meet them where they’re at, like Jesus did for me – he came into my mess and cleaned me up – he didn’t call me to clean myself up first before I could come to him.

    On a final note, we can always debate how far engaged Christians should become in this world while we are on the mission of Jesus…some will end up where the Amish are, some where the Moravians ended up and some will go to places where you and I don’t believe we can go. The thing we don’t want to do is become Syncretists – so much like the world that we are no longer light and salt, OR Separatists – so far removed from the world that no one can see Jesus at work in us or hear the word of the gospel that we must proclaim.

    Whatever we do this Monday, let’s all ask “How can we be faithful to Jesus’ words to make disciples, be salt and light, love our neighbors, love our enemies, serve like he served us, etc…?” And, “How can we best share both the love of Jesus and the gospel of Jesus to those desperately in need of the grace of the gospel?”

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  34. Susan says:

    Still waiting for your thoughts Jeff….many believers simply have their own costume parties on halloween, with no purpose of reaching out to unbelievers. What say you?

    • This question has a lot of other questions connected to it…

      I guess I would start with asking what the purpose for the party is. It would seem a big miss to have a party on this night just for us as it is the second largest celebrated holiday in our country. However, there may be good reason for believers coming together…to pray, to enjoy building each other up, to care for one another, to celebrate and remember Christ…

      I would also ask if they are actively looking to serve and share with those who don’t yet believe through other avenues. In other words, are they engaging in reaching out through other events? I would probably then come back to “Why not engage more intentionally on this day?”

      What’s hard about your question is that this is never just a clear cut issue – everybody shouldn’t do the same thing…so I would probably want to talk to these believers and tease out how they are being faithful to Jesus’ commission and how this party fits into that.

      • Susan says:

        The purpose of the party is to party..it’s not uncommon at all among believers, so this is what is disappointing. Here’s a real-life example of what I’m talking about:

        It’s thriller time!!! everybody get ready to put on the scariest and best costumes for the 2011 Halloween party! come this Friday, October 28th @ 8:00 pm to celebrate!
        Will have a DJ so we can dance our fake blood off!
        Also, there will be a contest for best Halloween costume!
        Everyone is welcome, open invite! so come, have a spooktacular, be “witching” Halloween!! we’ll be carvin’ out some good times!

  35. Dave says:

    Jeff I appreciate your zeal to reach the lost and for that I commend you. One thing I’m not to sure about though is the evangelistic methodology of our day. Our view of evangelism today seems to me like we’ve lost a fear of God and we forget that were to live holy lives through Christ, and because of this we’ve also forgotton passages like 2 Cor 6:14-18 and Eph 5:3-13 which call us to be distinct from the world in every way. We talk like Calvinists but live like Arminians. We think that the power of God is in our loving behavior instead of the message we proclaim. We’ve become fishers of men who wait for the fish to jump into our boats before we can speak to them. Were called to “go” cast out the nets and draw them in and God will do the sorting according to his good pleasure. We establish “methods” of doing things which are not consistant with scripture. Jesus told us to count the cost before following him because we will suffer persecution for seeking to live righteous in Christ. The spirit of our age says, just show them love and they will come to Christ, but that logically doesn’t work. If my atheist neighbor is a loving person will he lead people to Christ because of the love he showed them, of course the answer is no but we often live in that reality. We have the mindset in America that we must earn peoples respect before we can share truth with them. I dont see that in scripture, neither directly spoken nor principially… I may be wrong and if I am point it out to me. What I see from Genesis to Revelation repeatedly are individuals who go out to a lost and dieing world and proclaim the truth to them, not being partakers with them in the unfruitful works of darkness in order to reach them, but rather exposing the unfuitful works with the light of God’s Word. Noah, Moses, Jonah, the prophets, the Apostles and of course Jesus all did this. Noah was a preacher of righteousness and everyone thought he was crazy and rejected his offer to come onto the ark, Moses proclaimed the truth to Egypt and they rebelled, Jonah proclaimed repentance to the Ninevites, the Prophets stood in the streets of Jerusalem and cried for repentance from their wickedness and many of them were killed, Peter preached open air to thousands and they said he was drunk, Paul declared the Gospel in the marketplaces to random people and he was often beaten for the message He proclaimed, and of course Jesus was crucified for declaring truth to a lost world. Jesus loved the people he served but he loved them so much he told them the truth and many walked away, being offended by His words. I don’t see Jesus earning peoples respect before he declared truth to them. He was killed because he opened his mouth and proclaimed the truth, and countless millions of His followers have been killed for the very same thing. I believe that weve come up with evangelistic methods that can accomodate our comfortable liestyles in America and minimize persecution, which has led to a watered down, non-confrontatial methodoligy and the message we proclaim is weak. Not that we should seek to be confrontatial with people but the reality is that the Gospel is offensive, but we should not fear how people will respond when we share the Gospel in love. We also should not fear that God will only work if were a good enough, or loving enough person. I personally am not good at all with small talk and cannot hold a conversation in that way, so I must rely heavily on Gods sovereignty and trust that the Gospel alone has the power to save…. Not me.

    • Kris Brossett says:

      What’s interesting is who persecuted Jesus

      • Kris Brossett says:

        I also agree, we say we are Calvinists, but functionally are Arminians, in that sometimes we can’t just hang out with people and progressively share the Gospel as they begin to know and see our love, trusting that through our efforts God will provide opportunities to teach, call to repentance, and draw to Himself who He will draw, instead we feel like if we don’t give people the 5 points of Calvinism on the spot, and condemn them without gaining any insight to depth of their sin, then they won’t be saved. Question, what is your idea of casting out nets, how would you go about that?

      • Josh Elsom says:

        Being wise and patient in evangelism should not be confused with Arminianism, in my opinion. It’s a category error. My patience and dependance on the Sprit’s leading has increased exponentially the more Reformed my theology has become. And that is because my trust in God’s providence and His sovereignty over the life of the one with whom I am dealing has allowed me to forsake the manipulative means which once attended my Gospel call. There remains an urgency to proclaim the Gospel but it has been tempered with the confidence that God is guiding the process. So if you are a Calvinist who is engaged in life investing missions work, don’t buy into the lie that you have somehow functionally compromised your theological convictions because you don’t have your neighbors on their knees after the first meeting.

  36. Josh Elsom says:

    WOW! Jeff maybe your next article could be “How to share Jesus while spraying a hornet’s nest with the garden hose.”

    Seems to me that the entire controversy hangs on whether one believes that assuming some of the cultural practices of Halloween is tantamount to a total capitulation to the spirit of the festival. Some obviously do and others do not.

    I do not and here is why. In my opinion Halloween has so ameliorated over the centuries from its original practice that its primitive meaning has been completely lost. Certainly, there is a vestige of the evil and the occult that remain but the vast majority of the population have no idea why it is there. For instance, when parents dress their children up like Ghosts and Witches and send them our for candies do they believe that their children’s costumes will protect them by frightening off the demons that roam the neighborhood on Samhain? Or when they carve out a pumpkin are they thinking of Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil in a drinking game? Hardly.

    That said, I do believe there is a line which we should not approach as ambassadors of Christ. I do not believe that we should associate ourselves with darkness, that is, we should not dress ourselves or our children in costumes which depict those things which God explicitly forbids or abhors. God hates witchcraft; so much so that He has Moses name it as a capital offense in the Law. Therefore, I don’t display witches or anything associated with the occult on my house or on my body. God hates it and I ought to as well. Jesus’ perfect love has cast out all fear of judgement and death, so I will not try and retrieve it and re-present it anew for my neighbors to see and experience. Therefore, I’m not trying to cover the house in bats and spiderwebs whilst playing a sound track of the living dead over the stereo.

    What I am doing is participating in those modern community-centerd conventions of the night like passing out candy, carving a gourd, and taking my kids through the neighborhood looking for sweets. My 2 year old little girl is going as cupcake and my 5 year old son is going as Spider-Man for the second year in a row. Quite a departure from the practice as it originated 2000 years ago, eh? Nothing satanic, nothing marking the end of Mother Earth’s summer, just a masquerade and a treasure hunt.

    As I said in the beginning of this response, I believe that the festival of Halloween is so far removed from its original meaning that it is hardly recognizable as being the same holiday. Given that fact, I do not believe that we dishonor God by participating in those practices which are not dark and which do not run contrary to the explicit commands of Scripture. Further, I believe that we can claim the night for the Lord and use it to advance His Gospel. It is the one night when the world comes to our door. The last thing I want to do is turn out the porch light!

    The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it, and that includes October 31. I understand the hang-up. Genuinely, I do. But consider that Halloween may simply be idol’s meat for you. So I tell you what, I won’t invite you to my Halloween outreach, so as to keep you from stumbling into sin and perhaps you could consider not imposing your weaker conscience about Halloween on me.

    Grace and Peace

    • Josh,

      You’re right. The heart of the problem for many is around engagement in Halloween.

      At the same time, the hornet’s nest is not just about Halloween is it? It’s about the reasons many of us have given ourselves for being relationally disengaged with those who have not yet heard the gospel.

      I loved your statement: “It is the one night when the world comes to our door. The last thing I want to do is turn out the porch light!”

      I agree – and let’s let our light so shine that it brings glory to our Father in heaven and exalts Jesus above every other name – we will do this in our love for others and our willingness to share Jesus in word AND deed.

  37. Dave,

    First of all, my intent in writing this was to help people get engaged in gospel ministry with unbelievers which starts with actually interacting with and knowing some. I continue to meet pastors and elders in churches that have no friends who are unbelievers, yet Jesus was known as a friend of sinners, and the biblical requirement of an elder is to have a good reputation with outsiders and set an example to the flock.

    Second, if you knew me, you would know that my confidence is not in our loving actions but in the power of the Spirit and the gospel (I know that an atheist will not be able to lead someone to faith in Jesus just by being loving – to imply that I believe that is ridiculous). I do not shrink back from proclaiming the gospel and I am not trying to make it less offensive. I proclaim it and some come to saving faith while others do not respond in faith. Remember, the gospel is good news. It is good news to those who are being saved. Yes, it is also an offense to those who are perishing. Many of our friends who were “in the world” have come to faith in Christ because we loved them, hung out with them and shared the gospel with them. It was not offensive to them – they saw it as good news. And, part of that good news was not only the message we proclaimed, but also the way in which we proclaimed it. We proclaimed it with love. Paul makes it clear that the goal in all of his instruction was love. He also states that if we speak without love, we are a like a resounding gong and clanging cymbal. I am convinced that many who are offended by our proclamation of the gospel are not actually offended by the gospel, but by the lack of love with which we proclaim it.

    Third, I believe 2 Cor. 6 has been misrepresented. Paul is not talking about not being yoked with the world as you are representing. He is talking about not being yoked with a particular kind of person in the church. He is referring to people within the church who have opposed Paul. It has gotten so bad that he is actually calling them unbelievers. Later in 2 Cor. 13:5 Paul encouraged these people to examine themselves.

    Fourth, most of the examples you mentioned had great love for the people to which they proclaimed (Jonah clearly didn’t and that was the big point – Jonah knew that God was gracious and he didn’t like it). The prophets loved the people greatly and wept over them. Jesus spent 30 years of his live living a obedient, submissive, loving life before he spent 3 years preaching. He certainly wasn’t disobedient because he was not preaching and not offending people for 30 years. In fact, “he grew in wisdom and favor with God and man.” Then, in his preaching ministry, he was known for loving sinners and tax collectors and speaking harsh words to the religious leaders who didn’t love sinners and separated themselves from them. It was the religious people who didn’t approve of Jesus’ love for people and his message that were key in his arrest and death. Then, Paul said “I become all things to all people in order that I might win a few”. He also told the church not to separate themselves from unbelievers (If so, how could they do the work of evangelism? he asked), but from the Judaizers and those who were in the church causing problems. Peter told the churches in Asia Minor to live good lives AMONG the unbelievers so they would SEE THEIR GOOD DEEDS and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12). Then in 3:15 he says “Setting apart Jesus as Lord, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you.” Clearly, some of the evangelistic work is responsive as we tell people why we live and love the way we do.

    Finally, though I agree that many Christians in our country are living comfortable lives, seeking to minimize persecution, I have found that most of them are not actively engaged in evangelism. Most of them tend to be content to attend church on Sundays, participate in Bible studies with other Christians and avoid opening their lives and homes to unbelievers for the sake of fulfilling the mission of Christ.

    My hope is that we can start to see that change – that Christians will start to love the lost enough to be with them, serve them and share the gospel with them within the context of loving relationships. My hope for you is that your love for the lost will match your desire to proclaim the gospel and that the power of the gospel you and I proclaim will have the power to enable you to love the lost enough not just to preach to them, but to love them as well.

    • Dave says:


      I appreciate your reply and I would first like to say, I agree with a good majority of what you said but I still might be a little confused as to your methodology in evangelism. I also would like to clarify I am in no way suggesting that we shouldn’t be loving people and that we shouldn’t love our unbelieving neighbors, or bake muffins for them etc. I amen your statement about 1 Cor 13, that many people are not offended by the Gospel but by the person presenting it and I myself am guilty of this. So to be specific in what I was referring to in my last response is this… I’ve seen an adoption of this mindset in our culture and in Europe that the only way to reach the lost world is to build a long term, non-confrontational, no strings attached relationship with our neighbors and then after we’ve gained their trust and respect, that’s when they’re ready to hear about the good news. I don’t see that anywhere in scripture. Can that method work with our coworkers and neighbors etc. Sure, but I don’t see that as being the predominate way of doing evangelism in the Bible. Now I don’t know if that’s what you’re suggesting but it does seem that way. I have several friends who are part of the Acts 29 network and that is their view of evangelism. They disagree with open-air preaching, street evangelism and passing out tracts. I don’t know how anyone could say that’s not a good method when open-air and street evangelism are all throughout the Bible and our Lord himself did both? Are there people who give that method a bad name, of course… but there are groups who give speaking in tongues a bad name also, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with bath water just because some group has abused it in the past. Yes the prophets and Apostles loved the people they preached to, but that’s the whole point… they loved God so much that in turn they loved their neighbor and wanted to reach their neighbor for the glory of God, and in most cases that took the form of street witnessing, open air preaching to the masses and also small gatherings or one on one communication. But I don’t see anyone earning “cash” with people before they can share the good news with them. The other point I was trying to make was referring to contextualizing our culture to reach our culture. I’m not always a huge fan of John MacArthur but I really appreciate his most recent blog posts on this topic. The new young reformed and restless movement who wears their spiritual freedom on their shoulder like a badge of honor, so they go to bars and ultimate fighting matches to show how free they are in Christ. To be quite honest, most of what I see in the “church” today looks no different than what I see in the world. They try so hard to look just like the world in order to reach the world. That brings up the point of 2 Corinthians 6… you said I misrepresented that text but I have to be honest, I mean this with all respect but I don’t see how you can draw the conclusion you did from that passage. If you go back through church history for at least the past 500 years the predominate view is that Christians should not be yoked or partnered together with non-believers… meaning we should be distinct, different and separate from them in every way. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t communicate or go out and have a meal with an unbeliever, for that would mean we would have to leave the world. I don’t see anywhere in the context of that passage that he’s only referring to specific false professors within the church… He says “unbelievers”, so even if he was referring to specific individuals within the church he still calls them unbelievers, and explains what our relationship with unbelievers should be like. Paul makes his point even more clear when he references the law in Deut 22:10, which forbids the yoking of two different types of animals, which means when two different types of animals are yoked together they will not work together but will go in different directions. Yes Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but he never partook in or condoned their sinful behavior in order to reach them. He told the woman in adultery to go and sin no more. For me, hosting wine tasting parties, hanging out at bars, going to ringside ultimate fighting matches and hosting Halloween parties are not what we should be doing to reach the lost. People don’t need someone who is cool or just like them, they need truth. We’re all called to some form of relational evangelism, but all I’m saying is that is not the primary way it was done in the Bible. I hope that didn’t come across as being harsh, I apologize if it did, but I just don’t understand this new concept of evangelism in our day. Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley, John Bunyan, AW Pink, JC Ryle, Mccheyne and many many others all supported the public proclamation of the Gospel (street preaching)… Many of them used and even wrote their own bible tracts.

      • Josh Elsom says:


        You’ve brought up a number of things in your response to Jeff and I don’t wish to intrude on that conversation. However, there was one thing that I want to address. Namely, your assumption of what is and what is not biblical evangelism.

        For the sake of this discussion let me tell you why my perspective on this might be worth considering. I have been since 2008, though to a lesser degree today, quite active in the street evangelism world. I am networked very tightly with the guys at Living Waters in Southern California and have worked, since 2009, with that ministry training men and women to do evangelism and open-air preaching on the street in Los Angeles. During this same period I have also been a member of A29 churches, one of them being led by Jeff. Jeff and I spent a lot of time together and he was well aware of my evangelistic methods. During my time at Soma Jeff never once asked me to stop tracting or to stop preaching on the street. We sat down together and talked about it face to face and we discussed our views openly with other gospel preachers in our community. But more than that I want you to know that Jeff has laid his hands on me and prayed for me before I went out preaching in the open air. So be careful what you assume about Jeff’s position on methodology. 

        With that background in place let me very briefly give you some things to consider.

        First, you tell Jeff that you are a little confused about his method of evangelism, which you later describe as “long term, no strings attached, and non-confrontational.” I may be wrong but it sounds like you are cloaking your language. What I think you are suggesting is that Jeff’s evangelism method is, at best, life-style evangelism and at worst, not sharing the Gospel at all. If that is true, then it tells me that, first of all, you have assumed way too much, and second, that you may have presupposed that there is but one sanctioned way of doing evangelism which is explicitly outlined in the Bible. If that is what you think I’d ask you to demonstrate that for us. What you have done is to provide us with some descriptive examples of how Jesus and His Apostles preached in the contexts of their day. I’d ask you to consider that this does not prove, necessarily, that this is the one way which all Christians must engage culture with the Gospel. I will expand this a little further below.

        Second, you write,

        I’ve seen an adoption of this mindset in our culture and in Europe that the only way to reach the lost world is to build a long term, non-confrontational, no strings attached relationship with our neighbors and then after we’ve gained their trust and respect, that’s when they’re ready to hear about the good news… I don’t see that as being the predominate way of doing evangelism in the Bible… I have several friends who are part of the Acts 29 network and that is their view of evangelism.

        I am not doubting your assessment of your Acts29 friends but I do want you to consider that they do not amount to a scientific sample of the whole network. Are there some Acts29 churches who take that approach, probably so. Just be careful not to paint the whole community with the same broad stroke. I can tell you that in my experience I have not found this to be the case. Both of the Acts 29 churches I have been a part of have been large thriving communities which have been built upon the Gospel. That is, they have not gathered their people through advertisement or through seeker sensitive programing. People have primarily come into the church through the missional communities which are embedded in the cities where they are located. So evangelism is happening.

        I do believe that part of what you are seeing and defining as “long term” relational evangelism may actually be long term relational discipleship. One of my biggest complaints about the street evangelism movement is that many in that community purport to be the sole proprietors of the Great Commission. When if fact proclamation is just a portion of the work we are called to. Jesus said, “…go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” Most of the people in that community are not baptizing and they are not discipling. In fact, most often you will hear that Philip’s interaction with the Ethopian Eunuch should serve as the template for our evangelistic method; proclaim the Gospel then disappear. To that I’d say, if that person you are engaging on the street is not already versed in the Scriptures, like that eunuch was, and God does not teleport you to another city, you have no business abandoning the work that God has set before you. God has not called us to make converts, He has called us to gather His scattered sheep and bring them into the safety of His fold.

        Third, you write, “I don’t know how anyone could say that’s not a good method when open-air and street evangelism are all throughout the Bible and our Lord himself did both?” This one is a bit tricky and it is one which I have continually wrestled with in my mind. The assumption here is that to faithfully proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom one must proclaim it on the street and with a trumpeting voice. It is further assumed that the practice of standing in the public square as a herald transcends time and culture and should be the primary means of building the Church. I don’t buy it. Not only that, I don’t believe that the vast majority of street preachers today are doing anything like what Jesus or Paul did in their day. Consider the following:

        1. Jesus and the Apostles were preaching in a culture that was very open to public address in an open forum. Therefore, their communication was not considered intrusive or rude. I don’t think you can say that this is universally true for the West today.

        2. Many street preachers today gauge their success on the amount of persecution they receive and not the souls they lead to Jesus. It should not be overlooked that Paul was not persecuted and stoned for the “foolishness” of his communication but for the “foolishness” of his message.

        3. Many street evangelists are content to stand on a box and proclaim the Gospel many miles from where they live yet they do not live with the same Gospel intentionality in the neighborhoods where the call home.

        4. Jesus and His Apostles did not indiscriminately proclaim the Gospel (Which accounts for the majority of street preaching today). Rather, they had crowds following them who wanted to hear what they were teaching; they were preaching in venues which invited open and public discourse; and sometimes the Spirit provided an occasion for preaching through the working of signs and wonders.

        5. The point of the preaching was always to make disciples who would be baptized and be taught everything which Jesus taught His disciples. Paul did not engage in hit and run evangelism. He shared his life with the people who responded to his preaching and built the Church. Preaching that does not result in the expansion of the Kingdom through the building up of the Church has run off course.

        6. The definition of κήρυγμα does not include a decibel level nor a location. Proclamation does not have to be loud and it does not have to happen from a soap box.

        7. The Public Square is different today than it was yesterday. It has moved from the town square to “third places” like pubs and coffee houses. That is where the majority of public discourse is happening today. It is happening in college classrooms and scrap-booking clubs. One of the things that Jeff had suggested but which we never got around to was to go and sign up for a philosophy class at the local community college and through that class present the Gospel as the superior way of knowing.

        Lastly, after having spent some years in the street evangelism community I know how the rest of the Church is viewed. It is viewed as being backward and compromised; it knows how to satisfy felt needs but it certainly does not know how to rightly share the Gospel. That is what happens when evangelists, or any other group of gifted people, isolate themselves from the rest of the Body. So it may be that you have been contaminated to some degree by this way of thinking.


More could be said but I am short on time and have written far more than I had initially wanted. If you want to push back on what I have shared I welcome it, but I may be a few days in responding.

  38. Pingback: Be On Mission This Halloween « sea hope

  39. shawnadee says:

    My husband and I have gone both directions on this holiday over the years. We have prayed through it all to try and hear what God wanted from us and the light that was his within us. We don’t have the right to decide where he gets to use his light based on what makes us personally comfortable or feel like we are living holy lives. All that being said, we were home one night several years ago and even with our porch light off our doorbell rang. I opened the door to see a lovely little girl decked out as a princess and her proud and smiling daddy behind her. In her sweet voice she said, “Trick or treat!”. Immediately, my heart went out to her and I knew that to deny her would feel like rejection. And it would injure her father as well. They are doing what is natural for them. They were not assaulting me with what they believed. So, I found our candy stash and filled up her bag. I feel even now as I think about that night, that the love that overcame my heart was good and beautiful. Therefore, it was not from me. All that is good in my is from God. Does that mean he condones all that Halloween means in our culture, of course not. Does it mean that if someone comes to my door and I have the means to bless them that I should? I believe so, yes.

    Also, I would like to thank you for the example of your humility and graciousness as you deal with dissenting opinions. I feel that God has stored up something in my heart for my discipleship and growth.God bless you.

  40. Pingback: On Mission this Halloween | Mobilization

  41. Megan says:

    Good stuff, Jeff. The “give the best candy” is such a Jesus thing to do- reminds me of his first miracle, the wedding feast, where people had already probably had quite a bit to drink and what does He do? Brings in MORE alcohol- and the good stuff! I’ll confess that the legalist in me is very uncomfortable with that- aren’t Christians supposed to stay away from “messy, worldly” things like drinking and Halloween? But I’m finding more and more that Jesus isn’t really concerned with my comfort… huh. Who knew? :)

    • Larry says:

      To compare a celebration of the God-ordained institution of marriage with the celebration of a satanic holiday like Halloween is ridiculous.

      • Josh Elsom says:

        You presuppose too much I think.

        The very name All Hallows Eve indicates to me that the night does not belong to the devil Larry, but to the Lord. So, perhaps Megan’s analogy of Jesus’ good wine and our best candy is not such a bad comparison after all.

        Christmas has pagan roots, Easter has pagan roots, and even birthday celebrations can be traced back to pagan ritualistic practices. All of these have some demonic pagan origin and have all been christianized to some degree or another. If your complaint is that Halloween is a satanic holiday then what do you do with these others? Do you believe that they are any less contaminated by evil? Do you think God abhors a day where children dress up like witches and monsters and yet winks at those days which retain many abominable pagan symbols like yule logs, christmas trees and bunnies which lay eggs? If He does He is either inconsistent or He is not as Holy as we had supposed Him to be. If God hates Halloween because it is clothed in pagan and satanic symbolism then He also hates Christmas, Easter and your birthday party and these too should be avoided.

      • Larry says:

        I’m not speaking of the roots of Halloween, but of its current cultural practice. Halloween is practiced by our culture in such a way as to glory in the macabre.

        You ask: Do you think God abhors a day where children dress up like witches and monsters and yet winks at those days which retain many abominable pagan symbols like yule logs, christmas trees and bunnies which lay eggs?

        My reply: i never implied that at all. I am simply speaking to the question at hand, which is Halloween. I do have problems with Easter and Christmas celebrations as well, but don’t want to go too far off topic with that since this post is about Halloween in particular.

      • Josh Elsom says:

        “I’m not speaking of the roots of Halloween, but of its current cultural practice. Halloween is practiced by our culture in such a way as to glory in the macabre.”

        I don’t think you can say that is universally true Larry. Is it the predominate practice? Sure, but the fact that many of the kids that I saw last night were not dressed as goblins and vampires demonstrates that it is not the universal spirit of the night. A Christian, in my opinion, can participate in the cultural practice of trick or treating (especially with Gospel intention) without compromise because the cultural practice is so diverse.

        BTW, our night went great. Got to meet a few neighbors and I look forward to our future engagement with them.

        Have a blessed All Saints Day!

  42. Pingback: A New Way to Celebrate Halloween « Free By His Grace

  43. Josh Elsom says:

    Something worth considering. Perhaps our understanding about the origins of Halloween has been flawed all along. – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/trick-or-treat-its-martin-luther

  44. Pingback: Short and Sweet: A Halloween Treat « Great Bay Gospel Fellowship

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  48. Pingback: Christians, how do we respond to Halloween? « Equipology

  49. Carmen says:

    When I was a “room mother” in my son’s 2nd grade classroom, the parents (and teachers) were divided on what to do with Halloween. After much discussion around the table, I expressed my opinion. Parts of the halloween celebration can be fun–pumpkins, candy, fun costumes. However, since we are not allowed to “celebrate” the spiritual aspects of such holidays as Christmas and Easter, then as a public school we also should not “celebrate” the spiritual aspects of Halloween. I went on to explain that there is a dark spiritual world, there are real witches, and we should stay away from those religious aspects–while having a fun, safe celebration for the kids. I think the young teacher had a lot to think about after our meeting!
    Another time I was able to submit a “fact” paper regarding Christmas, to be sent home along with all the other “fact” papers we received about Eid, Chinese New Year’s, Hannukkah, Divali, etc. The principal accepted my paper, and asked the teachers to be consistent–send information home about ALL religious holidays, or NO religious holidays.
    Working to develop relationships at school and in the neighborhood gives you a right to be heard.

  50. Chris Priebe says:

    “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:1-6 ESV)

  51. Angel Chung says:

    Our church did a fall festival carnival had a bunch of games that gave out candy and tickets. And the kids could save up the tickets to trade in prizes. We made a fall backdrop for families to take pictures and a table of food in the foyer. We also have stations for making crafts, decorating cookies and face painting. It was Soo awesome, I’m tired, but it was so worth it! Glory to God!

  52. Josh says:

    I’m writing this from my phone so I will make it quick.

    First, if we focus on knowing Jesus and helping others know him, the Holy Spirit will do its job and reveal sin to each of us.

    Second, isn’t much of scripture written warning us of self righteousness?

    Third, Jesus’ instructions to us were the great commission. The great commission has been badly misinterpreted by many as an evangelism verse. It is discipleship verse. The only imperative(command) in the original text(not English) is to disciple. Teach and baptizing are both participles, basically meaning they support disciple. What does it look like to disciple. See Jesus and disciples. Even see 1 Thessalonians 2:7-13. Discipleship is more than a one time conversation, it is living life with someone.

    Last, legalism is an extremely dangerous thing. Paul wrote an entire book about it, Galations. If you have trouble studying it, John Piper goes line by line through Galations in 1983. You can find those sermons on desiringgod.com

    The religious crucified Jesus many years ago, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me when the religious try to crucify him now.

  53. Pingback: Another Halloween… and what’s your evaluation? « gloria s. lee

  54. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for writing this.

    When we lived in Olympia, we were able to connect with more neighbors on Halloween than at any other time during the year. A couple of days before Halloween, we had a pumpkin carving party. On Halloween night , we had a garage party. We opened up the garage, decorated it and had music playing. We handed out full sized candy bars, served cookies sandwiches, cider, coffee, etc. Our missional community joined with us to host what became a tradition in our neighborhood. The neighbors would come over and spend a lot of time talking, meeting other neighbors. Some people even started strategically visiting our house so their kids could use our bathroom as they made their way around the neighborhood. When we moved, we had a garage sale and many neighbors commented that they would miss our Halloween night garage party and I encouraged them to do it themselves! This year, a couple of people sent me messages that they did just that. So the tradition continues and Jesus’ love continues to spread, long after we are gone. Because it’s not about us.

    We are called to love our neighbors. Not just on “Christian” holidays. Our mutual friend, Heidi Rush wrote a compelling blog about this very issue…in my view, she nailed it when she said that this is God’s day….not Satan’s.


  55. rushartist says:

    Jeff, I’m not sure if you remember me, but my husband Colin and I were a part of the beginning of the Olympia/Centralia missional community in 07/08. We were in the area for just one year, but we were changed by what we learned at Soma. In my struggle to grasp what God was doing with us it was Halloween that really solidified in my mind what it meant to live missionally. When we sat in Lloyd and Stephanie’s house and you spoke about loving our neighbors by providing a “rest stop” of sorts for them it finally clicked. And ever since, my heart has been desiring missional living.
    As we moved back to Vancouver we struggled to find a community that desired to live that way (we tried to do it on our own, but without community and relationship to sustain and encourage us we grew weary). But now, after three years, we have finally found a group of believers who desire to gather around a mission – and who are a part of a larger “church of house churches” as they call themselves. So we are starting a house church in our home that hopefully will be gathered around the mission to reach students (and, in effect, their families) in East Vancouver.
    Thank you for taking the time to meet with us every Wednesday night to explain how the Gospel speaks into and over my life in every way, and for encouraging us to live missionally that Halloween night. Our lives have been forever changed because of it. And I hope now that the lives of students in East Vancouver will be forever changed as well.
    Heidi Rush

  56. Yes – here are some ways our family has chosen to Redeem Halloween! :)

  57. Pingback: From Pastor Chris: On Halloween | Communion. Community. Mission.

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