Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Responding to Halloween

I was amazed last year at the number of people engaging in Halloween related activities here in Harrogate. Evangelical Christians tend to be suspicious about Halloween and over the years have tried to offer children alternatives on the night itself. I am, and have been for some time now, a bit disturbed regarding the lack of reflection and prayer that goes on amongst Christians to do with this. We need to know why we say no to Halloween and make our response a positive one.
Why don't we support Halloween?

The menace effect
There is a degree of menace at times to do with Halloween that goes beyond 'mischief'. Even though most trick & treater's will not respond by doing something nasty - there is a threat in the air, some fear sown into people's lives. To some people (not all) there is a fear of harm at Halloween.

The overemphasis on darkness & the celebration of the representation of evil
We are familiar with the contrast in the Bible of light and darkness. We are not supposed to have anything to do with things that are dark - we are children of the light. We don't need to be afraid of the dark because light overcomes darkness (John 1) but we can't be found to be relating to or colluding with things that represent darkness (that which is not God). Halloween continually overemphasises things that can only be associated with darkness.
Lets take the previous thought one step further... the 'fruitless deeds of darkness' - things that are evil are not to be celebrated. We need to focus on good things, on the giver of all good gifts.

What to do?

Look for the opportunities of Halloween as well as the threats
We need to recognise that there have to be times and places of connection with good and evil - people are continuously telling us, and indicating that they are spiritual... but they have less time for religion. If we have a religious response to Halloween it will come over as negative and unhelpful but if we can engage with the issues of good and evil, have a good theology and practice of the kingdom coming and invading people's lives and a dark world and some creativity then lots could happen.

Earn the right to speak into people's lives
Back to the danger of being 'religious'. People do not want us to be telling them that they are wrong, bad or sinful. They see these things in our lives anyway - they know that we are not perfect and believe that in many ways we are hypocrites. Through relationship and consistency of contact and authentic effective Christian living we will earn the right to speak into people's lives.

Hold a gentle but firm, principled line
We always need to be prepared to give an answer on where we stand and why we stand there regarding Halloween - work out what you are going to say. Don't condemn someone elses thoughts or responses. I think people respect principled stands they don't respect hypocrisy or flakiness.

Develop a ministry and not a hit and run event

An event without connection to good ongoing kids and youth work is not useful. What happened to engaging with whole families? All our events at Halloween seem to be primarily children based? Things to do with good and evil, the right approach to death and thinking about death, light and darkness are all things that we need to equip young and old to deal with throughout their lives not occasionally at Halloween.

Final thought
Over the last couple of years we have bought a pumpkin and carved it with the children and put candles in it. Shock horror! We have always carved christian symbols as well as faces in the pumpkin and it has always proved to be a good way of discussing Halloween with the children.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A quote I am thinking about

"...there exists in every church something that sooner or later works against
the very purpose for which it came into existence. So we must strive very hard,
by the grace of God to keep the church focussed on the mission that Christ
originally gave to it". C.S. Lewis

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Cheer up!

I love the way in which people spoke to Bartimaeus the blind man when Jesus told them to call him. They said "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you".

What a great combination of attitude and action. We can cheer others up from the basis of our faith and trust in the one who has called us and will call them. We can enable them to get on their feet so they can move towards Jesus - you can picture people hauling the beggar up and ushering him towards Jesus.
It strikes me that this is all we are asked to do - Jesus does the rest. With Bartimaeus he interviewed him about his need and then met it and he will do the same with those that we cheer up and help towards him.
So if you are feeling a bit gloomy or despondent today... cheer up! He's calling you! Get on your feet and draw near to him.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Giving is...

I'd better explain - we are in the midst of our regular vision and commitment process.
We cast the vision for the coming year with vision targets and seek to prayerfully respond. We believe that where God calls he equips, but also understand that often we are the answers to our own prayers. So we have to ask questions, with the Lord, about what and when and how we give. We certainly need to revisit the key principles of biblical giving. I work on the basis of 'tithe & offering' as I am a simple soul that needs a framework and I find this in the Bible. I seek to give a minimum of 10% (tithe) to the part of the body of Christ that I belong with and I seek to give 'offerings' over and above what I am already giving.

Our vision targets for this year are:
BASE - to build up our 'base camp' - the church centre with appropriate admin and communications to be able to support the mission of the whole church. Building development, staff costs, practical things like the website.
COMMUNITIES - to build up and invest in the development of MSC's, releasing at least two MSC's in 2009
PIONEER - to fund the employment of Rachel as a pioneer to build up and develop work amongst children and families

While thinking about giving the following thoughts occurred to me.

Giving is....
... devotion. Our hearts, our worship, our love for him not of money
Jesus said something about treasure and hearts. When I give I demonstrate devotion - where my heart is.

Giving is....
... discipline. Martin Luther talked about people needing two conversions, one of the heart and the second of the pocketbook(wallet). Finances that aren't submitted to God get in the way of my relationship with him. Jesus said 'when you give' - in other words it is part of life - a discipline. It is something we have to learn and develop in our lives. It is good training to give.

Giving is....
...development. Our relationship with the Lord will develop and grow at times through the exercise of trust and faith to do with finances. Sometimes I will be stretched in my finances in order to help me grow in faith – he may ask me to give, to sacrifice as a loving act that releases more blessing and more trust in him. Furthermore God doesn't need us to give - he doesn't need money - but he does want us to exercise the kingdom principle of 'freely you have received, freely give'. In the exercise of giving, of sometimes being broken in this area we find that other breakthroughs come.