What to do with Halloween
Eating supper together is one of the things that is not optional in our family. We all eat together around the supper table; Phones put away & the TV turned off. We take turns praying and thanking God for the many blessings we have in our life - especially the food we get to eat.
Yesterday, my middle daughter, 6 yrs old, included "Dear Jesus, thank you it's almost Halloween," in her supper-time prayer.
What's a Christian parent, let alone one who is a pastor, supposed to do?
Each year, the battle wages over a few select holidays and what it means for Christians to participate in them. As Christians (and even more so for Christian Leaders), we walk a fine line of: "Oh, you're one of THOSE pagans who celebrate Halloween" or "Oh, you're one of THOSE Christians who doesn't know how to have fun." Seriously. These are conversations that happen.
If you've grown up in Christian homes, you may have memories of turning off your lights, hiding in the basement and pretending that no one was home when Oct.31 came around - for fear of 'participating' in this 'evil' day by handing out candy. Or perhaps, you're new to this church thing and you remained baffled why a day where kids dress up and loads of free candy can cause such a stir in Christian circles.
The question remains: is it OK for Christians to participate in Halloween? Should I reprimand my daughter for thanking Jesus that Halloween is almost here?
It's not a secret that many of the "Christian" holidays that we celebrate are actually based on pagan celebrations and rituals. Christmas and Easter are loaded with pagan imagery in our traditions. I mean, what do bunnies, eggs, yule logs, candy canes and Christmas trees have to do with Christ (on which Christians like to believe the holiday is based on)?
Short answer: they have nothing to do with Christ.
Short answer that requires an explanation: syncretism
Syncretism is a combining of beliefs to 'synchronize' them into one. This happens over time as different traditions, beliefs, and theologies run into opposing traditions, beliefs and theologies. Often, instead of battling it out, small concessions and modifications happen and over time, the two things that used to oppose each other are combined. We've seen this over time in the church a LOT.
Christmas is full pagan traditions that Christianity has claimed for their own: taking the good and fun practices and redeeming the bad parts. One example is the Christmas tree: a tradition of pagan origins during the winter solstice, fir boughs were brought inside the house and decorated to remind them of spring to come and to honour fertility gods. Christians simply overtook this tradition and it is no longer a second thought for most Christians to have a Christmas tree in their house.
So... what to do with Halloween? On one hand, Christians have been able to take over holidays and claim them as their own, but Halloween seems to have other, occultic or sinister undertones... can we do that in this case?
Well, let's look at the origins of this day:
It is a Pagan Celtic tradition that dates back over 2000 years ago where the souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes and the festival began to take on sinister tones with witches, goblins and ghosts said to roaming around on this night and a time to appease the supernatural powers that governed nature.
About 800 years ago, the church reclaimed this day to have it celebrate and honour the memory of saints and martyrs of the faith - hence all saints day on November 1.
While the past of this day may be scary to participate in, avoiding it out of fear is not the best response! Christmas and Easter have been redeemed from their pagan roots to now celebrate our Risen Lord and I believe the same can happen with Halloween.
SO... what to do with my daughter?
Well, in our house we take the approach that no matter what, we serve a God who is able to redeem the fallen, broken and misguided of the world. Things that were meant for evil are turned into things that glorify God. Death isn't something to fear because our saviour conquered death by rising again three-days after his crucifixion.
We don't celebrate, practice or honour traditions that undermine the basis of our faith or that give death credit where credit and power aren't due.
Come October 31, our children dawn the costumes of fun characters and princesses (of which they do many times while playing together throughout the year) and go out and get too much candy. We dress up (but not in gory, or occultic themes), we decorate in fall colours (but not with fear, death and gore), and we carve pumpkins into funny faces.
It isn't about can we celebrate this day, and even thank God for it, but can we do it thoughtfully and with care.
I will use every opportunity to show my children how even when a fallen world creates a 2000 year old occultic ritual of celebrate the day of the dead, there is an ability to redeem it by pointing to the faults and showing how Jesus is the missing player. We don't celebrate spirits coming back to revisit our house - we point to a God who is preparing a place for us in heaven. We show that death isn't anything to fear or appease, because our God tells us that we will resurrect - just like he did! - and even death can't hold us down.
Thank you Jesus for Halloween? Absolutely! It means I can talk to my children about their saviour!
OR... If you're from a reformed background, you can always just dress up at your favourite reformer and celebrate October 31 as reformation day (the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the church :P
For those of you who don't know who Jennifer Lawrence is, ask your teenage son or daughter. She is the heroine and star in the gigantically successful Hunger Games movies. This past year in Student Ministry, I became aware of just how hugely popular and influential she is - specifically with the female population.
Many of the girls thoughts and fantasies revolved around the character, Katniss, that miss Lawrence played in the movies. They had created Hunger Games blogs, shared Katniss pictures, discussed what male character was better for Katniss to have a relationship with, argued who would win in a Bella vs. Katniss fight and so on. Without being super-redundant, Jennifer Lawrence has huge sway over pre/teen girls because of this role. That's why when her personal nude pictures were hacked/leaked to public last month were such a big deal.
Now, Lawrence, is making headlines as she publicly responds to the hacked images in an Vanity Fair article being published this month. Some of her quotes include:
"It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change."
The whole situation is a really big deal on many fronts and that's why I think every parent needs to talk about these 5 things:
It is up to you as a parent to bring this conversation up! Chances are, your child won't come to you with all the juicy gossip and opinions that they or their friends have on the situation. And trust me, they have opinions and have probably seen the pics, too. It doesn't matter what your child's age is, it is never too late or early to begin conversations around topics like this. Here are some talking points to get you started:
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Anything to add? Leave a comment below!
He drop-kicks open another one
A follow up to this post - found here
Let's go back a couple weeks to before we had made our presentation to the school board: our church leadership was sitting around in a planning meeting, planning the September series, The UPSIDEDOWN Church. We were getting ready to get the congregation excited about our Neepawa location and were addressing why we existed as a church.
We wanted to have a bunch of interaction during the series where we could interview people whose lives have been changed when they encountered Christ through the church. For one week, my wife, Joanne and I, were going to share our story a bit of how we were called to Neepawa.
Another week, we were going to have a testimony from someone who came to Christ through our church and found real health through Christian community.
For the final week, we were scratching our head wondering who we could interview or record telling their story. One of the pastors on staff suggested that it would be great to interview someone from Neepawa who would tell how excited they were for PAC to be coming to their town.
This is all fine and dandy and all, but it was also really annoying to have that suggestion voiced... we didn't know anyone in Neepawa. Let alone someone who would be excited enough about our presence in the town to share their story. So we stopped our meeting and prayed specifically for these people. Honestly, my prayer was pretty half-hearted. As if we'd end up getting anyone in time.
That next week, God sent us exactly who we were praying for: a couple who have lived in Neepawa for 40 years and have been praying for their town for decades. They had heard that PAC was planning on coming to Neepawa and wanted to hear and see first-hand what kind of church was going to be coming.
The week that they came to our church was the week that we were going to be presenting to the school board and I was far too occupied with the presentation to even remember that we had prayed specifically for this couple. The afternoon of the presentation, I spent 3 hours in their home getting to know them, hearing their stories and watching them tear up that a church like ours was coming to town.
We were the answer to their decades of prayer. They were the answer to ours.
You can hear their story first hand here. We were able to share it with our congregation and introduce everyone to our new name change from Portage Alliance Church to Prairie Alliance Church.
While I was worried about getting a building, God had been providing us with something way more important than buildings... people. While the building question is still being figured out, we can see God's hand at work preparing hearts for PAC coming to Neepawa. God is good!
More to come
School Board Blues
Read the first part of the story here.
I thought I had it all figured out. Based on my research of what the school board was looking for, their potential objections and final presentation, I was sure the school board proposal would simply be a formality for us to begin our first rural multisite location in Neepawa.
But that's not exactly how things went.
Backing the story up a bit, the school board trustee I had talked to was hesitant on two major areas with granting us permission to use the local schools:
We also included in our presentation the kind of church we are: a place where some of the least-likely to come to church end up giving their lives to Christ and making big changes in their family and life. While a school board wouldn't be all excited about people finding Jesus, per se, they would see the benefit of families being turned around for the better.
We also wanted to do everything we could to let them know that a year from now, they would be happy that we were their tenants and wouldn't want us anywhere else because of the blessing we might be able to be to the local schools. This was tricky to navigate because we didn't want to appear to be greasing any palms but we wanted to let them know that we knew about the stress of sharing facilities and would do everything we could to alleviate it - including paying more, buying mutually beneficial supplies and generally blessing the teachers and principal.
We left the meeting thinking that we had provided a clear presentation that would allow them to make an easy decision in either direction. All we had to do was wait.
The next week, a letter arrived that let us know that the school board had voted to deny our request to use their facilities. I was shocked.
This seemed like one of the last pieces to fall into place to allow us to have church services happening by January. If we had gotten the green light, we would have been on the phone to Portable Church Industries to get us outfitted with the potable church solution that would fit out needs best.
Instead I was left with a crushing feeling. The letter officially stated that they denied our request based on a local community college requesting to use their facilities after hours during the week and they thought it best to allow recreation and educational groups in above other groups. It was an us or them decision.
I kind of get that. However, the letter (and official board minutes) contained wording that opened up the ability for us to fight to be allowed in based on a freedom of religion violation. In my anger and hurt and shock of the situation, I wanted to fight hard against their decision. To pick up the phone and drag them over the coals for their (potential) discrimination.
How dare they? Don't they know how much is riding on this facility? How could they deny our request when we had, in my opinion, overcome all of their objections?
In the midst of a door being shut, God was drop-kicking open another one that was was way more important than a building....
More to come.
“Haters gonna hate,” is everywhere now - even Taylor Swift has used it in her latest single, Shake It Off:
‘Cause players gonna play, play, play, play, play
The idea behind this saying is that people who raise any criticism against you are labeled "haters,” who by their nature are going to “hate” or criticize all the choices that you make. If you’ve been in leadership for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered the person that embodies this description.
Unfortunately, it might even be in the church that you’ll find the the worst kind of these “haters.”
Culture will give you the remedy to these “haters” and it follows much of Taylor Swift’s song: “shake it off,” because that’s all that you can do against people who will only hate.
Simply shaking things off sounds really good and it also feels good when you can do it, but unfortunately, it’s the half-truth that lives in there that will limit your growth as a leader and as a self-aware, mature person.
Here’s why I think using “haters gonna hate” is a bad thing:
1. You assume that you’re in the right… all the time
2. You’re the least qualified person to render judgement on your actions/motives
3. "Shaking it off” will limit your personal growth and cap your leadership
So, how does this actually apply to your life?
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.