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Several years ago we moved into a neighborhood named Sleepy Hollow. The street is canopied by large overhanging trees and has no street lights making it a popular spot for trick-or-treaters every October. Within weeks of moving in our neighbors warned us that hundreds of people come every year on Halloween and not only that … our house was known as “the haunted house of sleepy hollow.”
Unbeknownst to us, the previous owners of our house had cultivated quite a reputation on Halloween. This created quite a dilemma for us as Christians. We were not about to endorse a holiday known for celebrating evil, but we also felt like the reputation of our house was something unique God entrusted to us. On Halloween, hundreds of people would be coming to our door with expectation. Was there a way to capitalize on this opportunity while still distinguishing ourselves from all the darkness associated with Halloween?
After much time in discussion and prayer, my husband and I decided we didn’t want to just shut our doors. Having many friends who are foreign missionaries, we knew that an opportunity like this is something they pray for. We couldn’t waste this opportunity. So instead of “shutting down” the expectations of trick-or-treaters, we decided to change their expectations. We decided to try and redefine the reputation of our house from haunted house to generous house. So on October 31, every person who comes to our home will be greeted by a welcome team from our church, given a king-size candy bar, and asked how we can pray for them.
Many Christians believe that handing out candy on Halloween is not a good idea. They assume, "if I hand out candy, I am advocating all this day stands for and will, therefore, compromise my witness as a Christian." Yes, Halloween can stand for some really wicked things. Yes, it is a day that people worship Satan, demons, and spiritual darkness. Yes, it is an excuse for unrepentant sinning. But we are the light of the world! Light is intended for darkness. "Does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket?" (Matthew 5:15)
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." (Matthew 5:16) Who needs to see the light of Christ? Saints? Or sinners?
In Mark chapter 2 the religious leaders of Jesus’ day accuse Jesus of hanging out with sinners. In defense of their accusations, Jesus responds: “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 2:17)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners. If our Master, Jesus, spent time with sinners in this way, how can we think ourselves too "holy" to do the same? Sure, we have the other 364 days of the year to engage with unbelievers in our neighborhood, but on Halloween they are all eager to come to the door and hear what we have to say. That feels like too great of an opportunity to pass up!
There is a way to engage people on Halloween, without actually celebrating the day itself. We are very careful to not have any traditional Halloween decorations, like ghosts, spiderwebs, monsters, etc. We have signs in our yard that point to God’s generosity in the gospel as our motivation. We train everyone who helps us pull this off to be ready to share the gospel any time someone asks why we do this. And we have a prayer table out front and a prayer room in the house with people praying for requests throughout the night. After being loved, welcomed, and blessed with 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."
Part of what makes our generosity so impactful is how many people show up. This year we bought 1500 candy bars and expect to give almost all of them away. Because people understand what a big expense it is, we’re often asked “why are you doing this?" It's so much fun to answer with: "We love being generous on Halloween because our God has been generous to us. He sent His beloved son, Jesus, to be the payment for our sins, offering us salvation for free! He is SO good to us that we love to imitate His goodness to others. This is just one small way." We’re hopeful that all those gospel seeds over the years will bear fruit one day, whether we know about it or not.
This intentionality over the years has produced a lot of fruit! One year, my husband and some of our team got into a conversation with a high school student about the gospel. He said to them, "This is the first time I've heard this," and he chose to trust Jesus and repent of his sins right there in our front yard! The gospel really is good news! And good news is so fun to share!
Other years we’ve learned about ways we can help people in our community. We were able to supply some neighbors with a fridge and help with their light bill. They have since decided they want to attend church with us. We hear testimony after testimony each year of how God has answered prayers throughout prayer room, including people coming to know Jesus.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says "...that through death [Jesus] rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and freed those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."
These verses have got to be my favorite for Halloween. A reminder that Jesus took Satan's greatest weapon—death—and used it against him! It reminds me of what we do on Halloween. On this day we will use what Satan intends for evil and capitalize on it for good telling hundreds of people about "the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
So will you pray for us this year? That God would save people? That He would free people who have been subject to slavery all their lives? Please pray that this October 31 His Kingdom will come and His will will be done. And ask yourselves, how might you reach your neighborhood and community? In the words of my husband, "One night a year in our neighborhoods the mission field actually knocks on our door." Christians let's not be afraid of Halloween, but redeem Halloween, using every tool we have to showcase the glorious good news of Jesus! We'll be sharing our experience on social media and you can follow along and share your own stories with #redeemhalloween2018.
Kelly Needham is married to popular Christian singer and songwriter Jimmy Needham. She first began writing and speaking to his fan base in 2008 as they traveled together and has since garnered a much wider platform. Kelly is a regular contributor for Revive Our Hearts, and her writing has been featured at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, Eternal Perspectives Ministries, and Crosswalk. She has been on staff at two different churches, serving in youth, college, and women's ministry. Kelly and Jimmy live in the Dallas area with their three children.
Photo credits in order of appearance: ©Unsplash/RawPixel, ©KellyNeedhamPhotos