I’ve been a proponent of servant evangelism for many years. Our Vineyard church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is 13 years old and we’ve always had a heart for the type of outreaches that Steve Sjogren first brought to our attention in the Vineyard family back in the late 1980’s. Over the years we’ve done free food giveaways, hosted farmer’s markets, distributed free flowers on Mother’s Day, raked neighborhood leaves in the fall, and given away free goodies at Christmas parades.
As I write this short report, our church is gearing up for our seventh annual Trunk-N-Treat Halloween event. On October 31st, we turn our large parking lot into a Halloween spectacular that draws in hundreds and hundreds of families from around our city. We line up our cars at the end of our parking lot, making a huge U-shaped loop. For two hours on Halloween night, from 5 PM to 7 PM, we give away candy and treats from the trunks of our cars, giving parents a safe and protected place to do their Trick-or-Treating. At the end of the “U” each participant gets a free hot dog and drink, and a warm greeting from our welcoming team.
Over the years, I’ve had well-meaning Christians question me on why we are cooperating with such a dark holiday as Halloween. I tell them that while I personally hate Halloween (and I’m guessing that so does Jesus), I believe that Jesus wants us Christ-followers to be out there with the masses, loving ‘the hell’ out of those who come our way. Oh yeah, I know, I might be trafficking with evil, but as I see it, God’s love is so much stronger than the powers of darkness.
So my encouragement to you this October 31st? Don’t go underground on Halloween, hiding behind your locked doors or hunkering down in your church buildings. May I suggest that you and your church go ‘public’, moving beyond the typical Hallelujah evening for “Christians only”. Try something risky. Take a step into the darkness with the loving light of God. Try hob-knobbing with some of the pagans this year, letting the love of Christ be evident. And while the time might be too short for you and your church to pull off a full-fledged Trunk-N-Treat, try doing what our youth group has done in past years. We call it a Reverse Trick-or-Treat. We arm our youth group and families with bags of candy and on the night before Halloween, we send them out into neighborhoods, knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. When the folks answer the door, we offer them free candy! Without a doubt our teams come back with many reports of surprised faces and blessed neighbors! I’ve been so thrilled year after year when parents from our neighborhood express their appreciation to me that a local church would provide such a great blessing for them during the Halloween season. As I see it, it’s a perfect opportunity for our churches to bring the light of God into the darkness of the season, for His Name’s sake.
Happy Halloween! Yeah, you heard me, I said the H-word. As I grow in “maturity” (those of you that know me stop snickering) I can’t help but to look back and reflect on my various responses to this most perplexing holiday over the years. I have run the gamet between handing out tracks instead of candy to hiding deep in my house with all the lights off and the doors locked, to organizing my church’s alternative “Harvest Party” to what I now feel is the best response for all Christians:
SERVE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!
I am not pulling any punches here folks. Life is too short. Recently I was approached by a brother in Christ to volunteer at the “Hell House” that his church is hosting. Apparently, if I got the gist right, they intend to literally scare the HELL out of people. The plan is to have a “christian-themed” haunted house of sorts that shows the horrors of abortion, drunk driving, premarital sex as rape, and the rampant crime and drug use of urban areas. Now don’t get me me wrong these are all important issues that need to be addressed by the church, but I simply can’t wrap my head around this approach. Is this type of boom and doom delivery, Holy Spirit with a shotgun approach ever effective? I want to keep an open mind, so please do write me if you have success with such an event, but I just don’t see it working in my community. Maybe I am wrong, but it just seems to be devoid of both common sense and Godliness to purposely plan to offend and scare people into the kingdom.
The thing was, he tried to sell me on this notion by calling it “spiritual warfare” and joing the ranks of the front line to gain territory in kingdom. I am a older believer and he was making me uncomfortable with his demeanor. I can only imagine the way such an aggressive evangelistic posture would be interpretted by the unchurched–his targetted demographic.
I tried to calmly disuade him. He wasn’t having any of it. I think he walked away looking at me as a coward, afraid to wage war against the enemy. It really got me thinking about this whole notion of warfare. As believers, we have access to an incredible array of weapons to use when warring with darkness. I just happen to think we can skip the racks holding the lances, pikes, and maces.
I would rather pick from the shelves that hold the toilet brushes, rakes, buckets and sponges. Nothing irks me more than being around people that see a demon lurking at every turn and want to blame whatever is going on wrong at their church on spiritual warfare. These same good-intentioned folks will then use that as some excuse to begin, as Rick Joyner often describes, “shouting down devils and throwing hatchets at the moon.” All this type of behavior generally results in is getting a severe headache from the hatchet blade landing back on your forehead. You might as well be spitting in a fan.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of room for intense intercession, the pulling down of strongholds, and yes, at times, full-scale deliverance. The Kingdom is a strange place. It is both physical and spiritual. You need to battle in the heavens AND here on the ground. What I want to introduce you to is something that transcends traditional spiritual warfare.
It is called it servant warfare:
Pray while you work!
The problem with most forms of what many call spiritual warfare is that it is primarily based on big tent revival models. Gone wrong it can generate more fear and mysticism than is healthy. When it becomes insular it can become downright toxic to your church. Rather than mostly spin your wheels with hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo from a folding chair in the basement of a church, do something proactive–SERVE!
Look at the model Jesus demonstrated. He was out and about serving people even as he “warred in the heavens.” It is a balanced blend of practical action and prayer that is the most effective weapon to use against our enemy. By the way, permit me one comical observation; have you ever noticed that the spiritual warfare mystics will actually esteem Satan? They give him an honor that is undeserved when they mix in the drama. They almost remind me of the characters in a Harry Potter novel with their constant “those followers of the name that can not be named” nonsense. It isn’t lost on me that they probably never even sniffed at J.K. Rowling novel, to understand what I am saying here. While they were protesting and condemning the books, I was handing out drinks, candy and bookmarks to people that stood in line at midnight at bookstores to get the newest edition.
See, the majority of what people label as spiritual warfare tends to be based in human emotion. It is nothing short of melodrama. I am sorry if I am stepping on toes here, but life is simply too short to pull punches on this topic.
If you really believe you are under some form of spiritual attack, what better way to fight back than to get the all powerful sword of the Holy Spirit in your hands: a toilet brush!
That’s right, I said it. I am not trying to be vulgar, or irreverent. I am very serious. Pray in tongues while you swirl your brush in the porcelain pits of the worst dens of iniquity in your city. Have a problem in your city with adult bookstores and strip clubs? Don’t make a public protest rally with hand-painted signs and lame cheers. Instead, quietly go and offer to clean the restrooms of these places and do it with a smile on your face. You name the evil that may be lurking in your town, and I will find you a service outreach for the purveyors of that evil. See vile sinners need Jesus just as much as you do, and what better way is there to demonstrate the kingdom to these folks than to lay down all your nonsense and show them real life sacrificial love? This Halloween I intend to get out of my house, turn the lights on, perhaps sit at the end of my driveway with a nice comfortable fire in the mobile fireplace and have fresh steaming cider for the adults and the best candy in the neighborhood for the kids. I plan to make my home a little taste of heaven on earth on Halloween and offer an alternative to rebuke and evangelical outrage: KINDNESS! Will you join me?