This week, our culture celebrates Halloween. That means so many different things to so many different people. To some, it means frightening themselves and others to the very core of their being. Having lived in Kansas City for 5 1/2 years, I remember all the HUGE buildings that would transform themselves into impressive places of fright. For others, it means dressing their children up in cute costumes, taking pictures, getting candy, and going to a party or fall festival. For others, it means avoiding this yearly event all together, as a protest and decision to abstain from pagan and satanic practices.
Many people fall into many different places on this topic. To this extent, the purpose of this blog is not to criticize or condemn. The purpose of this blog is to inform and allow people to make informed, Godly decisions. Personally, I do fall on a side of this topic. I fall on the side of redeeming culture for the sake of the Gospel. Meaning-taking something that is important in the culture, redeeming it, and using it to advance the Kingdom. As I read the scriptures, I see both Jesus and Paul doing this all the time. I love how John Piper sums this topic up in the video below.
Here are a few resources I have found or been presented with that will get you to think. I don't agree with them all, as they are from some differing points of view. But the point is not to argue on this issue. It is to make educated decisions-and it's ok if we differ on certain convictions on these issues-if at the end we believe that Jesus is supreme.
Here is a blog entitled "10 Reasons Why I Kissed Halloween Goodbye". The writer uses much scripture to back up her point, and really does a good job of defending her view.
Here is an article entitled "When Jesus Haunts Your Halloween". The writer essentially suggests here that Jesus is bigger than anything Satan can muster up.
Here is an article entitled "Sent Into The Harvest: Halloween On Mission". The writer goes all out, saying that we should use the opportunity in the culture to make the Gospel known.
These are just an example of some of the differing thoughts running out there about Halloween.
For my family-which consists of a husband, wife and dog right now-we are going to use this evening for the Glory of God. We are going to love our neighbors. We are going to give out GOOD candy, and not the cheap stuff. We are going to set up a big screen and pay the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin outside. We are going to interact with our community. We are going to use what's going to happen anyway, and insert Gospel intentionality in it. We are not worshipping Satan, but doing quite the opposite when we do. We are going to love our neighbors, in the face of what some say is an "evil" night, for the glory of God. (and we are going to dress our dog up like a lady bug).
For the Glory of God.
Today is Foundations for the Future Sunday at Second Baptist Church. This is what we have called our church planting efforts for the past several years. Today, we will hear from two men who take the Great Commission seriously, and the strong tug of urgency in church planting is the way they live their lives. Also, today we as a church will make commitments for the next year in how we are going to financially give above and beyond what we usually do, to see the Kingdom advance around the world.
It is a special day at Second Baptist.
For the Glory of God.
This week I find myself in Oaxaca for the second time in a month. Last month, I led a mission team of 15 down to Oaxaca, Mexico to work with our national partners in seeking to reach groups of people that have never heard the Gospel/never had a follower of Jesus. According to IMB guidelines, "Mexico" is reached. However, the board has recently changed their view of this, and understood that there are groups of people living in distinct villages, living in their own distinct culture, speaking their own distinct language, that have zero Jesus followers. According to John Piper in Let the Nations Be Glad (and according to the Bible...), THIS is missions. Pauline missions. Going to where there is no Gospel, and seeing it developed. I am here this week meeting with our national partners, the one's that are absolutely getting the job done. It is an honor to be meeting with them and hearing updates on their efforts and encouraging them.
The wonderful thing about it is that primarily, this effort is not up to caucasians going to a village and taking "the white man's Gospel". It is not about us going on a mission trip a few times a year and feeling good about ourselves, then going back to our normal lives. We partner with indigenous movements, where men and women YOUNGER than myself are risking their lives in villages where evangelical Christians have been driven out of town, and sometimes even killed. This week we have met with our national, indigenous partners, and I continue to be heavily impressed by them. They are sacrificing like we don't understand in America. They are risking safety, comfort, finances and many times putting their very lives at risk for the Gospel. Their stories sound as if i'm reading a letter from Paul.
Many times in America we think of missions as "we go from the West/America with our Gospel" and every other country/culture is inferior. How terrible this is. Many times, such as this case, it does not make a lot of sense for a white, overweight man from America to enter these villages as what we know as being a "traditional missionary". Instead, as God has blessed our church, we MUST support these local believers who have been radically transformed by the Gospel, and support church planting movements in these regions, allow them to flourish under the nationals leadership, and have little visibility. For some churches in America, this is not an interest. They believe they have to do it, and there is a subtle superiority that comes out. I am learning ever more that we must repent of this. I am so glad that I am a part of a church that embraces and supports these local, indigenous missionaries/church planters. Second Baptist is working in unreached people groups in multiple places around the world. It's thrilling to say the least.
At this point, I believe I have more to learn from our national indigenous church planters that I have to offer them. They are teaching me about faith, and advancing the Gospel no matter the circumstance. They are teaching me that the Word of God is where we begin, and where we end. They are teaching me that I can come up with some wonderful new "church missions method" in my American head, but it is a complete waste of time if the scriptures are marginalized at all.
So when we are talking about missions, this is it-crossing cultural and language barriers, taking the Gospel to a place where there is no Gospel presence, and building a sustainable church planting movement/network there.
I contend that this is the most important thing my church is involved in right now. All of our mission effort is important, and I don't play favorites. However, each time I come here, I realize more and more that this is the Great Commission in action. This is the real life, cutting edge of fulfilling the Great Commission.
For the Glory of God.
Fall is here. This past weekend I got some initiative, and built a fire pit on my backyard. I'm proud of myself that I built it, and it has stayed together! And all in all, it looks pretty good. We had our first fire last evening, after heavy rains all day. It was tough to get the fire started, with some damp wood, but that's what half a bottle of lighter fluid is for, right?
Seriously though, I had contemplated on whether to build this fire pit or not. Honestly-I did not want to spend the money on it. There are so many things Leslie and I could have spent the small sum of money we did on. However, I felt as though this was a worthy investment. Why?
This past year I have had the honor to teach a group of young married couples at Second Baptist Church. We have opened the scriptures. I have challenged them and myself to take the Gospel to the exact place God has placed me in. Where do I spend most of my time? In my home. I'm thankful that God has given us a home. I am convicted it needs to be used for the Kingdom. I believe every follower of Jesus has this context that God has given them to serve and love in the name of Christ.
I have encouraged the group of young married couples to connect with their neighbors, for the sake of the Gospel. To love them, care for them, and to "Love your neighbor as yourself". I have gotten to connect to a few people on my street, however, we have lived in our house for almost 10 months, and I had not had one conversation with the couple that lives NEXT DOOR. Confession time. :) Even though I had made a few efforts, some hypocrisy was bleeding through, and it had to be squashed.
Friday afternoon (my usual day off) I was outside doing some lawn work. Out pops the husband of said couple from his garage. I connected with him, and literally apologized for not connecting with him sooner. He was of course gracious and probably never thought about it. However that's not good enough for me. I need to love my neighbor as myself. I wasn't doing my job.
So how does a fire pit play into all of this? Well, my goal is to use the modest little fire pit I built to build community in my neighborhood. To hopefully bring neighbors together (ourselves included) who otherwise would just pull into their garage and close the blinds. Leslie and I went to Lowe's friday night, and bought the materials for this fire pit, and i built it that night. No more talking about it-there has to be some urgency.
Leslie and I literally could have used the resources we spent on building this fire pit on something more pressing. However, in our estimation, this might be more pressing than anything we could conceive. We want to be Godly neighbors, and show Christ to our community.
For The Glory Of God.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.