By / Oct 30

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.

By / Oct 30

It’s Halloween and parents everywhere are finalizing their plans. Candy is purchased and placed in the requisite pumpkin bucket near the front door. Costumes are selected and purchased. And evangelical car trunks stand ready to be decorated for the church parking lot. It’s go time.

But before you venture out, make sure you are ready, as a parent, for the holiday. To get you ready I’m here with some important things not to do.

1. Don’t be that parent who judges what other parents do

Regardless of your parenting posture on Halloween (and if you need help, here’s a helpful guide from Russell Moore), don’t be the parent who either self-righteously talks about how you shield your kids from the devil’s holiday or how you are so much more enlightened than the parents who shield their kids from the devil’s holiday. Follow 1 Corinthians 8.

2. Don’t be a candy killjoy

There are several ways to be a candy killjoy. Maybe you are the healthy parent (not that there’s anything wrong with that) who will only accept gluten-free, free-range, grass-fed, no-hormone candy. I’m exempting parents who have kids with allergies. Those are serious and we should do whatever we can to make those kids get candy they can enjoy that doesn’t make them sick. With that caveat out of the way, don’t be the parent who lectures on “all the chemicals in the candy” and “how kids are so obese these days.” Those are important discussions, but can we let the kids have some fun and save those discussion for another day? And, for the sake of all that is good and holy, don’t put carrot sticks in some poor kid’s candy bag. Just don’t do it.

The other way to be a Halloween candy killjoy is to not allow your kids to indulge the candy on the first night. Our rule of thumb is that we allow them to go a little bit crazy the night of collection, then my wife Angela rations the candy. This allows them to enjoy the rest in moderation.

3. Don’t be a gospel killjoy

When we grew up, we didn’t trick or treat (that was my parent’s conviction), but we did give out candy to those who did. We also handed out gospel tracts. I think gospel tracts are great evangelism tools during this season. I know of several people who came to faith in Christ after receiving a gospel tract. However, don’t make the really big evangelistic fail of handing out tracts without candy. First of all it’s cruel and unusual punishment for kids who are coming to the door for candy and not pamphlets. Secondly, it says all kinds of unintentional things about the God whose love you are trying to communicate.

Another way to be a gospel killjoy is to work a “light and darkness” Bible reference into every other sentence when you are trick or treating with your kids or discussing Halloween with friends. Yes, this is a great moment to talk about spiritual warfare. We do this with our kids every year at this time. But don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be a killjoy. Have fun and let your kids have fun.

4. Don’t let your daughters wear sexy costumes 

Somewhere along the line Halloween grew from a holiday where kids dress up and go get candy from neighbors to a holiday where adults dress up in increasingly inappropriate and creepy costumes. I’m amazed when I look at the sales fliers at how these sexy costumes are increasingly being marketed to young girls. I have three young daughters and this disturbs me on many levels. As parents, we need to resist the culture and make sure we practice modesty. As a father I feel a weighty responsibility to protect my kids’ innocence.

5. Don’t be too cool for your church’s events

I’ve noticed a kind of elitism when it comes to church’s attempts to do outreach on Halloween. Judgement Houses are a colossally bad idea. But don’t be too cool for your church’s Trunk or Treat or Harvest Fest. Yes, you are missional and will do trick or treating to meet your neighbors for gospel conversations, but you can also do your church’s events as well. Participate, encourage the body of Christ and, if you are smart, set up two nights of candy for your kid’s consumption.

6. Don’t be too churchy to not use Halloween to build relationships in your community

On the flipside, I think Halloween presents a wonderful opportunity to get to know your neighbors. It’s hard to reach people with the gospel if you don’t actually know them. And you should attempt to get to know them in a long-term friendship kind of way, not in a “I’m being nice to you so I can get you to my church” kind of way. Be genuine. Be friendly. Be human. Your unchurched neighbor probably doesn’t really need to hear about the supposed Satanic origins of Halloween the first time you meet him or her.

7. Don’t forget the 10 percent “daddy tax”

I saved my best tip for last. A universal rule of parenting is the 10 percent daddy tax. In exchange for wandering around dark streets with plastic pumpkin buckets with your kids, you have the right to skim at least 10 percent of the candy they collect. The best time to do this is after they are in bed and will not notice a few missing 100 Grand bars or Kit Kats. You shouldn’t feel bad about this. This is how the world works. Your parents took 10 percent of the candy you collected when you were a kid and now this is you completing the cycle. Plus, they really aren’t old enough to appreciate the rich chocolate and caramel of a Rolo.

This article was originally published here.

Image Credit: B Smith