‘Scary’ Halloween evangelism falls short

How foolish it is for Christians to participate in a bad holiday such as Halloween, and contribute to its wicked effects, confusing our children about matters of good and evil, and life and death. Have you heard of some churches that erect evangelistic “haunted houses” or “hell-” or “judgment houses” — trying to scare people into trusting Christ? Such foolishness falls short on too many counts.

Dr Russell Moore is on the mark with this article: Seven Reasons Halloween Judgment Houses Often Miss the Mark(I personally think reason #7 below plays the largest part in these misguided endeavors).

1. They’re not scary enough. To speak of hell, Jesus used the imagery of a garbage dump overun with worms, a place where babies were once sacrified to demons (Mark 9:43-48). Teenagers in plastic red devil masks and styrofoam pitchforks usually don’t convey what it means to “fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). The answer isn’t better technology, though, since nothing we could conjure up can convey the anguish of the damned walled off from relationship with God.

2. They assume people’s problem is that they don’t know about judgment. But the Bible says they do. All of us have embedded within us a conscience that points us to the Day of Judgment (Rom 2:15-16). We have a “fearful expectation of judgment” (Heb 10:27). The problem is we block it out of our minds, diverting ourselves with other things. The problem isn’t that lost people don’t hate hell enough. It’s that they don’t love Christ. Hell is the Abyss they run into in their flight from him.

3. They abstract judgment from the love of God. I know most “Judgment Houses” present the gospel at the end. But in the Bible the good news doesn’t come at the end. The prodigal son leaves the father’s house, but the father is eager to receive him back (Luke 16:11-31). The awful news of God’s judgment is always intertwined in Scripture with the message of the gospel of a loving, merciful God. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

4. They abstract judgment from the glory of God. The prophet Isaiah doesn’t see that he’s “undone” first by the horror of judgment. He sees it in light of the glory of God’s presence (Isa 6:1-6). The Apostle John tells us the glory Isaiah saw was Jesus of Nazareth (12:47). When we preach Jesus, the glory of God breaks through (2 Cor 4:6). Some people recoil at that light; some people run to it (John 3:19-21).

5. It’s hard to cry at a Judgment House. But Jesus does when thinking about judgment (Matt 23:37). And so does the Apostle Paul, pleading with sinners to be saved (2 Cor 5:20). These evangelistic tools though are meant to take on the feel of a “haunted house,” a place of thrill-seeking and festivity. It’s hard to convey the gravity of the moment in such a way.

6. The Holy Spirit doesn’t usually like to work that way. Pop quiz: How many people do you know who came to know Christ through the witness of a friend? How many do you know who came to know Christ through faithful parents? How many are in Christ due to the week-to-week preaching of Christ in a local church? Probably a lot, right?

Okay, now answer this: How many people do you know who came to know Christ through a Halloween “Judgment House” or “Hell House”? If you know one, you’re outpacing me, and everyone I’ve ever talked to about this. The Holy Spirit tends to work through the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:17). That’s how he points the world to sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

7. They’re easier to pull off than talking to people. Can people be saved through Judgment Houses? Sure. I have a colleague who was saved at a Stryper heavy metal concert in the 1980s. Are the intentions behind them good? Absolutely. …..

But the fact remains that most lost people in your neighborhood are going to be saved the same way people have always been saved, by Christian people loving them enough to build relationships, invite them to church, share the gospel, and witness to Christ. The problem is that for many Christian’s that’s scarier than a haunted house.

One of Dr Moore’s readers (Ben Simpson) comments, adding two more reasons:

1) They get you scared at the wrong being. They usually communicate that salvation by faith in Christ is ultimately about being saved from the devil. No doubt, once in Christ, we have personal victory over Satan, but we must get the biblical perspective concerning from whom we are saved. Ultimately, God, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, saves us from God Himself. It’s not the devil that unrepentant sinners should fear. It’s God. It’s God who can destroy both body and soul in hell. It’s God who will pour out His wrath forevermore on unrepentant sinners, including the devil and his demons. We should fear God way more than the devil.

2) They get you to answer the wrong question. Like similar minitries such as “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames,” they try to get you to answer this question: do I want to go to hell? I’ve certainly heard a few in my day say that they do want to go to hell, but 99% say that they don’t want to go to hell. Then Judgment House leaders will usually say something like this, “If you don’t want to go to hell, pray this prayer, and ask Jesus into your heart.” If you do so, they’ll then pronounce you saved from the fires of hell. The only problem is that they’ve gotten you to answer the wrong question. The question of the gospel is not “Do I want to go to hell?” The question of the gospel is “Do I want Jesus as my Savior and Lord?” Almost everybody wants to avoid to hell. They want Jesus as Savior for “fire insurance,” but few want Jesus as Lord. The only problem is that if Jesus is not your Lord, He is not your Savior. Judgment Houses almost always miss this part of the gospel.

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