Article Oct 30, 2015

Redeeming Halloween: Being missional in the midst of darkness

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them" (Luke 15:2).

We will turn on our porch lights on Halloween, set out a sign and hand out king-sized candy bars to hundreds of kids, moms, dads and teens. Some will grumble that we receive sinners . . . but they said this of Jesus too.

Light of the world

Many Christians believe that handing out candy on Halloween is not a good idea. They assume that if they hand out candy on Halloween, they are advocating all it stands for and will therefore compromise their witness as a Christian. Yes, Halloween, as a whole, stands for some really wicked things. It is a day when people worship Satan, demons and spiritual darkness. It can be an excuse for unrepentant sinning. But we are the light of the world, and light is intended for darkness. “Does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket?”

The darker the day, the more the light stands out. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Who needs to see the Light of Christ more? Saints or sinners?

"And it happened that he was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and his disciples . . . When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, 'Why is he eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?' And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" (Mark 2:15-17).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners. And how did Jesus, the physician, engage those who were sick? He hung out with them, ate with them, talked to them. If our Master, Jesus, spent time with sinners in this way, how can we think ourselves too “holy” to do the same? Instead, the Pharisees, who Jesus rebuked, refused to interact with sinners on the ground level.

Missional Halloween

For a moment, let’s imagine my husband and I are missionaries in a foreign country. We have just moved in and are getting a feel for the culture and daily life of this country’s inhabitants. Few know about Jesus, and ancestral worship is the most common religious practice. We have been praying about a way to get to know more people and for opportunities to share about Jesus. Then, we hear about a large ancestral worship festival in which all of the city will be out. All you have to do is turn on your porch light, and they will come to your door singing songs of praise to their ancestors.

As missionaries, we’d thank God for such a great opportunity!  Instead of spending our days looking for a single moment to get to know someone and talk about faith, we now have many who will come to our door with their mind already on spiritual things. I can’t imagine a more perfect opportunity.

This is exactly what Halloween can be for Christians in this country. We should already be missional in our neighborhoods, seeking to reach our neighbors with the good news of Jesus—and what a perfect day to help us get to know the families that live around us. In addition, there is already an air of spirituality. It may have an evil spiritual feel, but it’s a springboard to bring up the topic of life, death, hell, heaven and a great God who has defeated Satan on the cross through the amazing sacrifice of his Son for sinners like us. Jesus received sinners, so let’s receive sinners as they come to our door, too.

Turn it for good

You can even participate in Halloween without actually celebrating the day itself. We are careful to not have any traditional Halloween decorations like ghosts, spiderwebs, monsters, etc. Instead, we try to brand ourselves as the “crazy-generous” house on our street, making a statement about the gracious nature of our God through sending his Son.

How are we doing that? We give out the good candy—king-sized candy bars! And when you're giving out over 800 of those candy bars, people start asking, "Why?"—which leads to an open door for the gospel. "Because we serve a generous God who gave his Son to pay the penalty of our sin and give us new life. We didn't deserve it, and we long to be a small expression of his generosity toward us." I've already been able to share my testimony and the good news of Jesus several times just by buying the candy.

Not only that, we are hoping to love people well. With the help of our college homegroup, we have a welcome team that interacts with people at the foot of the steps, looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus and ask for prayer requests. Those requests are texted to a team in our guest-room-turned-prayer-room. After being loved, welcomed and treated to king-sized bars, each person will be pointed to Jesus through signs on the way out proclaiming Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Halloween is a day that Satan has intended for evil, but God working in us is leveraging it for the good of others and for his glory.

We are sinners, too

We can’t be quick to forget that the only reason we are saved is because Jesus condescended into the filth of our life, met us where we were, and extended grace and love to us there.  We are no less sinners than those we seek to reach.  As John Newton said, we are simply great sinners with a greater Savior. Let’s not fall into the well-worn path of the Pharisees, thinking, in our religious arrogance, that we are better than those who don’t know Him. For Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you [religious leaders]” (Matt. 21:31).

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15).

We can remember and embody our Lord’s command to us on nights like Halloween, not running from darkness but charging toward it with the loving light of the gospel. “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

You can follow our journey to #RedeemHalloween2015 by watching for pictures and posts on our instagram accounts (@kellyneedham and @jimmyneedham) on October 31.

ERLC2018