We asked Bob Russell to help answer the question, “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?”
Bob led Southeast Christian Church, the 5th largest church in the US, for 40 years. So we thought he could help Children's Ministry leaders by providing a wise response to this question that seems to be a hot topic every year in Children's Ministry. Here's his answer:
Halloween is a goofy holiday. According to the old standby from many years back, Encyclopedia Britannica, “In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic Festival of Samhain was observed on October 31, at the end of summer…. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.”
Since Halloween originated as a pagan holiday, a number of good Christian people refuse to have anything to do with it. Since it was originally a time to call on the devil’s power, Godly parents refuse to let their children dress up in costumes, go trick or treating or carve out jack-o-lanterns. Instead they seek to teach their children the reality of Satan and his demons by boycotting Halloween altogether. Some get frustrated with other believers who don’t join their fight. That’s understandable…and in a sense admirable.
It seems to me, however, that this is not a battle worth fighting. The Bible instructs us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. I’m of the opinion that Christians are wise not to waste spiritual ammunition on insignificant skirmishes. We can expend a lot of energy campaigning against Halloween and our kids eventually get the impression that we’re fun-hating legalists who are against everything.
I think we’re wiser (and just as Scriptural) to use the increasing hoopla around Halloween to our advantage. Instead of boycotting it as a pagan Holiday, let’s turn it around and make it a time of fun, instruction and family get-togethers.
The Bible instructs us, “Don’t be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” For example, Easter once had pagan roots, but Christians have captured that day with the good news of the empty tomb and today when people think of Easter they immediately think of the resurrection of Christ.
I think wise, Godly parents can instruct their children about the origin of Halloween and then say, “That’s why we don’t have you dress up like witches or demons. Demonic power is real. But God’s power is greater and we will fear no evil. You can dress up in other costumes and go to the neighbor’s house and ask for, “Trick or Treat,” because they know why you’re there. We’ll have hot cider and donuts when you get back and have fun. Then afterward, you read to them one of the really good Christian Children’s books like Liz Higgs’ The Pumpkin Patch Parable. The kids have fun, they enjoy carving out a pumpkin and dressing up; they are taught Biblical principles and learn about God’s truth. That just seems a lot wiser than boycotting Halloween altogether.
Many churches are turning Halloween into a positive by having ”Trunk or Treat” events. They invite their young members and other area children to come to the church parking lot for a safe Halloween outing and then invite them into the church building for refreshments and some Christian instruction.
The Apostle Paul was asked if Christians should purchase meat in the marketplace that had at one time been an animal sacrificed to a pagan idol. Did the fact that the source of the meat had been offered in an anti-God ritual contaminate it? If Christians ate it would they be inviting demons into their lives? Paul wrote, “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’” (1 Cor. 10:25-26).
Paul cautioned against exploiting Christian freedom in such a way that believers hurt their Christian testimony and caused a brother to stumble. “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial,” he wrote. But he made it clear that eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols was not participating in demon worship. In the same way having fun on October 31 is not inviting the devil into our lives.
I know of a church in Washington D.C. that outgrew its rented facility. They searched for a practical building they could purchase that would provide adequate space for their needs. They found a building with more than ample space at an ideal location that was available at a reasonable price. There was only one problem. It had originally been a Budweiser beer distribution center. Could they turn a building that had been used to store liquor into a worship center? They did and today it’s an effective house of worship where the gospel is preached and souls are saved almost weekly.
I’d worship in that building with no objection. Most believers would also, knowing it’s not how the building was used in the past that matters: it’s what it’s being used for in the present. I’m reminded of the old preacher who was asked, “If a man made his money in moonshine liquor and he died and left a million dollars to the church would you accept it?” The preacher thought for a moment and said, “Yes I would. The devil has had that money long enough!”
Satan and his minions have tried to occupy October 31 long enough. Instead of us surrendering the day to him, let’s remember that, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Every day belongs to God. Let’s overcome evil with good and use October 31 to enjoy a party with our kids and teach them the truth that, “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
At just twenty-two years of age, Bob Russell became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author books and Bible study videos for use in small groups.