It’s that time of the year again.
Ok, it’s probably been that time for a couple of weeks now, but all across the country churches are doing their best to literally scare the hell out of people.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I am not a fan of so-called “hell houses” or “Christian haunted houses” or “judgment houses” or whatever you want to call them.
I’m just not interested in scaring people into heaven…if that’s even possible.
No matter how we want to spin it, or the number of on the spot conversions we want to claim as souls saved, forcing people to watch graphic scenes of rape, murder, drunk driving deaths, and gang violence isn’t evangelism.
Obviously, it’s not the sexual stuff we usually associate with porn, but as Merriam-Webster’s defines it pornography is “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.”
Jesus calls his follower to “go and make disciples,” not pander to their baser instincts in order to A) scare them into an emotionally charged, unreflected decision and then B) get them coming back for more.
What Christian haunted houses evoke is really no different than the reaction somebody gets from watching regular porn. It’s exciting, it’s stimulating, it gets your emotions revved up…and then it’s over.
Just like regular porn, evangelism porn gets people addicted, but once the high runs out and the things that once got them stimulated finally go stale, then Jesus gets boring, the faith becomes irrelevant, and people move on to the next high.
The problem is we’ve confused making converts with making disciples.
Christian haunted houses can definitely make converts because all that takes is a moment of intellectual assent. But Jesus said “go and make disciples,” not “go and make converts” and those are two very different things.
Making converts give us numbers to brag about.
Making disciples changes lives and together those lives can change the world.
I know the people behind these things probably have their hearts in the right place, but Christian haunted houses don’t change lives and they’re certainly not the sort of world changing work we’ve been called to do as the church.
If you really want to change the world, and you should because there are plenty of people in desperate need of help, then befriend the widow who lives next door who’s too frail to mow her lawn or drive to a doctor’s appointment. Reach out to your co-worker that’s going through crisis and doesn’t know where to turn. Donate your money to one of the countless charities trying to end the famines which claim tens of thousands of children every month. Donate your time to your local soup kitchen or food pantry. They always need volunteers. Next time don’t ignore the beggar on the street, but instead find a way to offer them hope and healing or just a bite to eat. Or simply learn to love and care for your neighbor, even your enemy, as if the fate of the world depended on it.
Because it does.
Loving people changes the world. Hell houses don’t.
The church doesn’t need evangelism porn to win people to Jesus. It needs people bold enough to embody love, grace, forgiveness, and hope to a world that would rather have porn.
Grace and peace,
FROM THE VAULT: As I’m always welcoming new people to the blog I sometimes like to revisit an old post or two that sparked a good conversation, but may have been missed by those who weren’t around when it was originally posted. This post originally appeared a couple of years ago, but with Halloween just around the corner it felt like a good time to share it once more.