The Great Commission Didn't Include "Programs"
Growing up as a Pastor's Kid, I participated in every event at church -- every time the doors were open. Over the years, we belonged to churches in rural, urban and suburban settings. I invited countless friends and neighbors to activities such as Vacation Bible School, holiday ("Harvest", Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day) celebrations, and youth group retreats. However, I can't remember a single person who encountered the Gospel at one of these events and subsequently chose to pursue a lifelong relationship with Christ. This. Is. Heartbreaking.
As we prepare to move abroad, my thoughts have naturally been on the differences between American church culture and the way Christianity is practiced in other parts of the world. And I find myself asking: why do we (American Christians) waste so much money, time, and effort establishing and executing programs and activities that are not prescribed by Scripture? Especially (and sadly) when they don't seem to make a long-term difference in the lives of those we are trying to reach?
Jesus commanded us to make disciples, which could theoretically happen in the context of a church-executed event or program. But far more often, the relationships required for this kind of change neither begin nor continue amid such frenzied, themed operations. Instead, church members often end up wearing themselves out in preparation and performance of ineffective "ministries". We don't have time for personal or corporate worship -- much less relational discipleship -- because we are too busy trying to accomplish things that don't matter. Quite possibly, this is a brilliant scheme that the Enemy of God uses to assure Christians remain both distracted and ineffective in outreach.
The model for church growth is the book of Acts, where we see people encountering and embracing the Gospel in their every-day routines: at work, in travel, in places of worship, in homes. There is no mention of "relevant" lead-ins or productions (with the possible exception of sermons given in public gatherings at Pentecost or in the Areopagus, which seem pretty far removed from "Trunk or Treat").
Bottom line: what could be more relevant than the Gospel, a message that changes every aspect of our lives? Unless, of course, it hasn't. And in that case, we should be holding prayer meetings to encounter God and be changed, rather than trying to drum up business and converts according to secular models.