(Rylie dressed as Merida holding her invite cards)
I have been thinking a lot lately about what it looks like to be missional in the midst of my everyday life. Asking myself the question of how I can reach more people for Jesus by investing myself in my community. In this vain as I considered Halloween and the normal response of the church I wondered if maybe somewhere along the way we had missed the boat.
My daughter Rylie’s children’s choir had been cancelled since Halloween fell on Wednesday and as Minister to Students at my church Southmont Baptist Church (www.southmont.org) I was given the choice on whether to meet on Halloween or cancel. I made the decision to cancel honestly because I did not know how many students would show up to church that night and selfishly I wanted to spend time with Rylie and Macee and take them trick or treating. A few days after the decision though God began to move in me a deeper reason. What if Halloween, often the most frowned upon holiday by the Christian faith, was actually the best opportunity to reach our neighbors?
There are few times if any in a year (outside of Halloween) that neighbors invite each other to knock on their door and have conversation. The typical response has always been as the church to do an alternative, safe activity… mine included. We had our fall festival on Sunday this year previous to Halloween. We invite the masses to enter our territory without ever engaging them in their world.
The people who needed to be reached might have come to the trunk or treat or to the fall festival, but the ones God laid on my heart were the ones opening their doors to hand out candy, drinking a beer with a neighbor or seeking to scare a kid into tears. Real people who may never feel a comfort level to set foot on a church property.
I discussed my heart with my seven year old daughter Rylie and she agreed that we should pass out cards and invite those who gave us candy to join us for church on Sunday. We both wanted to use this day for more than the accumulation of ammunition for future teeth rotting. I knew Rylie would be on board because her heart for people and the gospel is extremely soft, but I did not know the level of boldness my daughter would show as she invited family after family to visit our church. She did not hesitate a second, often waiting as the person read it and even reading it to one family. She reached out to people with compassion, joy and fearlessness.
Last night on the most missional day of the year my daughter set an example for all believers and most of all for her pastor dad of what it means to make the most of every opportunity and to extend the hand of Jesus to your neighbors. When I told her I was proud and saw in her the heart to be a missionary one day, she corrected me and said,” Daddy, I am a missionary right now.” Another lesson learned from a seven year old.
What if our Christian events and formulating a Christian version of every aspect of our lives has distanced us from our neighbors and led us on a path of missed opportunities? It is a question worth asking. All I know is I sit humbled today by a little girl who was more concerned that every card was passed out than if her candy bucket was full. These cards opened up multiple conversations. While it is still called today look for your opportunity to love people well.