Halloween—it has become such a contentious time in the church. Even mentioning the term "Halloween" upsets some because of its pagan origins.
In response to that, many churches have switched from calling "Halloween" events to "Fall Festivals." I get it; I totally understand but bear with me a minute and consider that changing the name in this way takes away some of the potential for using this holiday as an evangelism outreach time.
What follows is not another Christian justification as to why you should let your kids go trick or treating, but an attempt to help you see how Halloween can be used as a significant time for evangelism. It really doesn't matter ultimately if you change the name or not but I want you to understand why I even bring up this point. The Apostle Paul said we should be all things to all people that we might win some and my contemporary paraphrase of his imperative of evangelism is that we need to use EVERY opportunity, every holiday, every time that we can to introduce people to Jesus.
Please consider what I'm about to share and I hope you'll agree that Halloween can be one of the best times of the year to motivate people to consider the gospel. Following is a podcast version of this information. If you want to see the images recommended and links to additional materials, keep reading.
Why it's a great time for evangelism starts with the origin of Halloween
Halloween has mixed stories about its origin and associations though all are similar in an important way. Consider....
- Some mention its origin as part of the ancient Celtic festival of Sanheim which celebrated the souls of the dead
- Others emphasize its attachment to the night before "All Saints (those "hallowed") Day which was November 1—hence, "All Hallows Eve" which became Halloween.
- Currently, the holiday has also become attached to Día de Los Muertos, a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated November 2, when it is believed the souls of the dead return to visit family members.
Regardless of the details in Celtic, Christian, or cultural Spanish versions, this holiday is fascinated with death. When we take away the focus on death and replace it with a Fall Festival approach, we swap a significant spiritual link from a highly motivating association to the spiritual equivalent of a pumpkin-spiced latte. Tasty, not offensive maybe, but relatively insignificant.
If we go back to remembering this holiday is focused on death, we have something to talk about—hang in there with me as I explain.
How a focus on death can be beneficial to sharing the gospel
With the exception of only two people, Enoch and Elijah, until the Lord returns, death will be the experience of everyone. As Hebrews 9:27 reminds us, "It is appointed unto men once to die...."
Death will come, but that is not the end and the verse follows, "and after that, the judgment."
Everyone is going to die and everyone is going to face God someday. Those of us who are Christians are charged with sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus so that meeting will be a time of great joy. We know that, but sharing our faith with others about everyone's final meeting with God isn't easy. We don't even know how to bring up a topic related to it. We most likely aren't going to ask our neighbors, "Are you afraid of facing God after you die? You know you will die and that will happen, so you ougth to prepare for it." This probably isn't going to be a stand-around-the-mailbox conversation.
Instead, consider how Halloween with its emphasis on death gives us a natural opportunity to share our hope because during this holiday, people are thinking about death. Not just thinking about it, they are obsessed and fascinated with it. Their fascination is morbid, distorted, and false, mixed with an extravagant celebration of it. So extravagant in fact, that the investopedia website reported:
[in 2021] U.S. consumers are projected to spend a record $10.14 billion on Halloween, substantially more than the $8.05 billion spent in 2020 and $8.78 billion in 2019.
The per-person amount spent on costumes, candy, decorations, and greeting cards is anticipated to average $102.74—up from to $92.12 in 2020 and $86.27 in 2019. Households with children will spend more than double the amount on Halloween items than households without children—an estimated $149.69 versus $73.57.21
In the midst of the costumes created and chocolate consumed, I wonder if a sliver of dread can't help but cross people's minds if even momentarily they consider the reality of ending up as a rotting corpse. Becoming a zombie or ghost isn't exactly a positive outcome to one's life.
Distorted though they might be, images of death predominate our culture this season and that makes it a great time to follow the command of the Apostle Paul, to make the most of every opportunity, including the Halloween season to share the gospel.
How to do that?
You don't have to change the name of your celebration. Keep doing whatever you are doing to involve people in your community as an opportunity for them to come to your church, but knowing what you know that they are at least confronted with the idea of death and the afterlife, be sure they leave with more than candy and with a meaningful message to consider. Your message can take a reference to Halloween and the emphasis on death to encourage them to think about it more deeply AND to consider the ONE person who not only died and was buried, but who came back from the dead. That person of course is Jesus.
To help you do this, I've created both flyers and quarter-page size handouts you can give to people that remind them that in the midst of the emphasis on death that there is only one person in all of history who died and then conquered death—Jesus. And tell them about the salvation he offers.
You can use the flyers to motivate them to think about the reality of death and Jesus AND to refer them to either seeker events at your church where they can find out more or you can refer them to websites or a place on your church website where they can find out more.
Following are free flyers that you can use to share this message. Below the images are Zip Files that contain both ready-to-print PDFs and editable MS Publisher templates. There are three versions: a silly ghost as image one; a more serious full-color one about Jesus; and an in-your-face message about the reality of death and that Jesus is the only way of salvation. These will not appeal to everyone but if they save one soul from an eternity apart from God or get one person to consider the claims of Christ even more, they will be worth the risk of offending some.
To download the ready-to-print PDF of this 4-to-a-page, handout and editable MS Publisher handout, click the following link: Ghost line drawing postcard
To download the ready-to-print PDF of this 4-to-a-page, handout and editable MS Publisher handout, click the following link: Ghosts aren't real but Jesus is Postcard
To download the ready-to-print PDF of this 2-to-a-page, handout and editable MS Publisher handout, click the following link: Serious Half Page Halloween Challenge
To download the ready-to-print PDF of this 2-to-a-page, handout and editable MS Publisher handout, click the following link: Serious Halloween Challenge
Take any of these, make copies, and put them into whatever goodie bags you give out at your Fall Festival or Halloween celebration. The name really isn't as important as sharing the good news of the gospel with them.
If you need some additional follow up material to share with people, following is my lesson on Life after Death, God's gift or man's wishful thinking. It is from my Bible805 ministry and is content you can refer people to or use for a sermon, lesson, presentation, or small group discussion.
An opportunity to do even more in a positive, affirming way
As I was working on the material for Halloween and its emphasis on death, I realized that I had some additional, in-depth material on life after death that might be helpful. I did this teaching for my Bible805 Bible-teaching ministry after someone in a church mentioned that "the Old Testament does not have a clear view of the afterlife." This greatly upset me because I believe the Bible has the same message from first to last, that God does not change, and that something as important as a clear view of full, bodily resurrection was a consistent teaching from the first to last in the Bible. After extensive study, I confirmed that to be true. I shared what I've learned in the materials that follow.
This lesson could be very useful to invite people back to following your Halloween or Fall Festival Celebration.
A link to the entry on the Bible805.com site that has notes you can print out from the video: https://wp.me/pazrJD-i0
For lessons on Life After Death and a Critique of scholars, check out the Bible805 Academy. Click on the thumbnails below to go to teaching modules that contains the PowerPoint files of the lesson, a copy of the video, reproducible notes, questions and artwork you can use to advertise the lessons:
These images are available from the Bibleverse Shop. They come in a set that has downloadable files that you can use to make unlimited prints or digital communications. The files are in both low res jpgs and hi-resolution jps (300 dpi) and hi-resolution PDFs that can be used for professional printing images from 5x7 desktop size to ones used by professional printing on canvas or poster size at places like Costco, your office printers, or online printers such as Vista Print.
Click here to go directly to this file: https://payhip.com/b/t9yrZ
Make the most of every opportunity
Halloween or your fall festival has many opportunities for you to make the most of it to not only have a fun time, wholesome time at the alternative events sponsored by your church but to use it as a time to share your faith.
My prayer is that these tools will help you do that!
Please share your thoughts, comments, questions!