October 31, 2006
Gregory Thaumaturgus is probably not a name that rings a bell for most of us. In fact, he received nothing more than a single sentence in Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity. But he is a very important Saint??? to those of us who desire to actually reach the lost world for Jesus Christ and do it in a way that speaks the world's language without changing our message.
Gary Lamb and Dan Richardson have both posted about their Halloween experiences, and I think many more planters and pastors will over the next 24 hours. (What do you know I am adding one more...me!)
Two years ago, and another denomination ago, I was traveling to a certain "progressive" church in our denomination to do some workshops. I was passing out conference books to people as they entered the main session before heading off to the workshops. It was near the end of October, and I forgot that I was back in the Bible Belt. This lady walks up to me, hands full, and holds out her bag with both hands; much like a little child does when trick-or-treating. So I said, "Oh! Just like trick-or-treat."
Have you ever heard the expression, "If looks could kill"? That is exactly what happened next. Here was a woman who did not "celebrate" Halloween. (Though I bet she took her poor children to her little church's Hallelujah Party.
Gregory Thaumaturgus was one of the first Christian leaders to take a Missionary Approach to the holidays, festivals, and celebrations around him. He knew that people needed an alternative to what the world was offering, BUT he knew they needed a GOOD alternative. Gregory created rival festivals and celebrations that were meant to put the pagan celebrations to shame. His events were so well put together that pagans wanted to attend them more than they wanted to attend their own festivals.
Gregory didn't run from the pagan celebrations. He interacted and redeemed them. He believed, as do I, that Christ's redemption impacted more than just the personal soul of an individual. Christ's redemptive work goes beyond just personal salvation and redeems all of creation, time, and space. The pagan holidays, the pork of the Gentiles, everything is redeemed by Jesus' death and resurrection.
There are many who have taken the Gregory's missionary approach and substituted lousy, poor quality events for ones that parents and people could find better elsewhere. There is also the danger of dis-engaging from the world around and loosing the missionary focus of the event causing it to become nothing more than an "us 4 no more" "holier-than-thou" event.
After receiving the "die scum-bag" look from the woman, I returned home after the conference. I gathered up the bags of candy that my church had been collecting for weeks. Then, like we had planned to do all along, we went door to door at the local businesses and gave the workers all the candy they could eat. We called it reverse trick-or-treating. We went to those who were working and gave them candy because they couldn't take part in...are you ready for it?....Halloween!
Here is a list of other innovative outreach ideas.