An Interview with Evangelist Ray Comfort
By Michael Tolosa
Halloween is a time when our culture revels in the supernatural and embraces its fear of the darkness, monsters, and the dead. But while the world gets goosebumps watching scary movies and donning horrific costumes, some Christians get squeamish about something else entirely…evangelism.
Is it okay for me to participate in Halloween? What if someone asks me why I’m refraining? Should I tell them I’m a Christian? Should I hand out Gospel tracts instead of candy?
As Christians, we want to know how to engage in Halloween activities in a God-honoring way. We don’t want to come off as legalistic prudes, but we also don’t want to celebrate evil.
For more insight on this topic, I turned to Ray Comfort – a renowned Christian evangelist in California who has dedicated his life to street witnessing and teaching others to overcome their fear of evangelism. Ray is the founder and CEO of Living Waters, an organization that provides evangelism training and supplies to Christians who need help in this area of spiritual growth.
In the following interview, Ray attempts to explain the culture’s fascination with fear and provides helpful tips on how Christians can overcome their fear of evangelism and make use of Halloween as an opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus Christ:
Halloween is a time when the world is fascinated with death and monsters and creepy things. Why do you think people enjoy being afraid?
Because they’re dumb! I mean seriously, my dad took me to a murder movie when I was about seven or eight, and I don’t know if I’ve ever recovered from that. I had nightmares for years. It’s silly to pour things into your soul – into your heart – that aren’t wholesome and good, because they’re gonna come back at you. Modern horror movies are horrific. Also the masks! When we give out tracts at our door at Halloween, it’s just horrible to see how people are delighted in that which is an absolute perversion of everything pure and good and nice and wonderful. But it’s just the way the world is.
The Bible speaks of us as being lovers of violence, loving darkness more than light, of drinking iniquity like water. So it really shouldn’t surprise us that the nature of man loves that which is evil.
I’ve often heard actors confess how they’re best at acting when they’re playing somebody evil. It’s like something they can boast about – being an axe murderer just comes naturally! And it certainly does, because the nature of man is evil, and we gravitate towards evil. And I find Halloween absolutely repulsive.
“The nature of man is evil, and we gravitate towards evil.” – @RayComfortTweet
You talked about being afraid as a kid. What were some of the things that you were scared of as a child?
Well I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of heights. I’m fearful of death (when I was a kid). I was fearful of monsters, of nightmares, fearful of pain. I think when you start thinking about life, life really is very very fearful. We don’t know what’s coming up tomorrow. We don’t know when death is gonna come for us.
But we should never be afraid of fear, because fear is actually good. It’s a protector. I’m fearful of heights, so guess what? I don’t climb cliffs. I don’t climb mountains. And I say, “Thank you, Lord, for that fear.” It’s a common sensible fear. I’m fearful of monsters. I’m fearful of pit bulls that wanna rip me into shreds. Most of our fears are for our benefit. There are fears that have torment – that hinder us from doing what we should do for God. But I’m pleased that God has given us fear, because it is a great protector.
When I watch you share the Gospel – whether in one-on-one conversations or open air preaching – you seem so comfortable. As a seasoned evangelist do you ever get scared before engaging people with the Gospel?
Always. But when I’m weak then I’m strong. If I wasn’t fearful, I wouldn’t pray. I’d be confident. I’ve got the skills; I don’t need God’s help. When I get on my bike with my dog, he’s the best ever bait when I go fishing for men. Strangers come up to me and say, “Oh, I love your dog!” And suddenly I’ve got a friend because of the dog. Whenever I approach people, having my dog really helps.
But every Zacheus becomes a Goliath in a split second to me. I’ve got this fertile imagination. I can see a guy and I immediately know that he hates Christians. I can tell by his fists he just wants to kill a Christian. And it’s all imagination, so I have to push those thoughts aside like a firefighter. When he goes to a fire, he doesn’t listen to his fears. He thinks of the fate of those around him in the burning building. That’s my strong confidence – not to look to my fears, but to look to the fate of the ungodly – that drives me to reach out. I’ve gotta have confidence. I’ve gotta be like a firefighter. I’ve gotta have this courage that I muster. And that’s what we need to do as Christians. We have the power to do that, because of love. Perfect love casts out all fear. So when we get a grip of God’s love, then we can control our fears, and that’s what I have to do. I have to get a grip of myself everyday and say, “I will not fear. I will do what God’s called me to do.”
“If I wasn’t fearful, I wouldn’t pray.” – @RayComfortTweet
Is fear ever a good thing for a Christian? What should Christians fear?
Christians should most of all fear God – and I don’t mean a reverential fear. The Bible speaks of a fear that causes trembling. When God gave his law to Moses, the Bible says so terrible was the site that Moses was exceedingly fearful and quaked – he shook. I know what that is ’cause I live in California and know what a good shake is. We should tremble at the fear of God. Scripture says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Now let me tell you what sort of fear I’m talking about. Jesus said, “Fear not him who has power to kill your body and afterwards do no more, but fear Him who has power to kill your body and cast your soul into hell.”
When I lived in New Zealand thirty-something years ago, the police didn’t have guns – they had sticks, batons. When someone was naughty, they would hit them rather than shoot them. When I came over here [to the States], I remember I was in Waikiki standing on a trash bin, preaching to a crowd of people. A police officer walked up to me, and the first thing I said to myself as I looked at him was, he’s got a gun. It’s all I could see. It was like he was approaching me with this great big cannon and, as a New Zealander, I didn’t say, “Hey, buddy – First Amendment rights. Do you want me to stand beside the trash bin or in the trash bin? But I’m gonna preach ’cause it’s my First Amendment right. You’re a servant of the people.” No, I didn’t say that. I just said, “Officer, want me to stop? Want me to move? What would you like? You’ve got a gun, and I don’t wanna be killed.” That’s more than a reverence for the police; that is a fear of what the police officer can do to me. He can put a bullet through my head if he so desires. If I move quickly – gonna give him a tract – he could just kill me ’cause he wants to get home at night.
So as I said that’s more than a reverential fear. It’s a fear of what he can do, and that’s what Jesus is saying: “Fear not him who has power to kill the body and afterwards do no more, but fear Him who has power to kill your body and cast your soul into hell.” That is a good fear. That is a fear of God which causes us to depart from evil, as Scripture says. That’s what keeps me keeps me from pornography. Pornography has an incredible attraction for every guy. We’re like moths to a flame. It’s instant pleasure. But I dare not, because I fear God. I know the eye of the Lord is in every place beholding the evil and the good, so I thank God for fear.
Let me give you a little quick story, if I may, about how fear did me a favor before I was a Christian. This was the fear of God. At 16 years old (I was saved at 22), I found myself in long grass at night with a pretty, young 16-year-old girl. She was gorgeous. I was behind a dancehall, and as I laid there, my intentions were not honorable. She said something to me that was like a bucket of ice water thrown from the heavens. She said 4 words – this is all she said – it put the fear of God in me. She said, “God is watching us.” I hadn’t been thinking about God; I’d been thinking about her. And immediately I just stood up and said, “Well, let’s go back inside to the dance.” I look back and I say thank God for your fear! Even six years before I was a Christian, I felt the fear of God, and it caused me to depart from doing something evil – from getting her pregnant, from shaming her family, from perhaps instigating an abortion. I don’t know what would have happened, but I look back and say thank you, Lord, for that fear and may I always have the fear of God that causes me to tremble at Your presence, to know your eye is in every place beholding the evil and the good.
So that fear is good. It’s wholesome. It’s great.
Getting back to Halloween, you called Halloween the International Day of Evangelism. Can you explain?
Yeah, when we came to the U.S. back in 1989, suddenly people are knocking on our door, wearing horrific occultic masks. What we did as a little family was turn the lights down, sit on the floor and just wait till it was all over. Then, one day, I got the revelation that I’m to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature – and strangers are coming to my door, knocking on it and wanting me to give them anything. So we got a whole stack of candy and a whole stack of tracts. I think 80 or 90 people came to our door that night and knocked. We opened our door to them. We didn’t go door knocking on their houses. So we put tracts and stuff into their little bag. I thought, what a wonderful opportunity that the world comes to us. I encourage every Christian to not partake in the evil of Halloween, but to use it as an evangelistic springboard to get the Gospel to those who mostly need it. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and so it’s International Evangelism Day.
“I encourage every Christian to not partake in the evil of #Halloween, but to use it as an evangelistic springboard to get the Gospel to those who mostly need it.” – @RayComfortTweet
How do you engage the parents of the kids that come to your door?
I don’t usually engage them, because there’s people lining up to come to our door behind them. But we’ve got million dollar Gospels of John that look like a bundle of a million dollars. You could always give one of those to the parents and say, “When you’ve got a minute, you might like to read this.”
How would you recommend Christians incorporate these tracts – not just at Halloween but in their everyday lives?
If you can see the value of a tract, it’ll spur you to use it. A tract will speak only when the person wants to be spoken to. Often you’ll share the Gospel with someone, and they’ll be distracted and be looking around – their body language says they’re not interested – but they’ll read a tract when they’re interested.
Our tracts are so engaging; they’re so different. I remember when I first saw tracts back in the early 1970s, they were incredibly boring. It looked like someone had gone out of their way to have them put you to sleep. So what we try to do is make tracts attractive – make it so people can’t put them down. The million dollar bill is a great example. It looks like a million dollar bill. When we did the million dollar Gospel of John, I called my graphic artist and said, “Are you trying to get me put in jail? It looks too realistic!” And he said nothing in the artwork is real; it’s all just put together to look like it’s genuine. So our tracts look interesting. [When we give them out], people often come back and ask for more.
We’ve got the optical illusions where you actually see something that just doesn’t look real – one looks bigger than the other. We’ve got 101 of the World’s Funniest One Liners. Who’s not gonna want that? When someone’s standing in a store looking bored while they wait for a customer, you say, “Hey, this will break your boredom. It’s a hundred and one of the world’s funniest one liners.” And they really are funny, you know. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try skydiving. They really are witty little one liners, and the Gospel is right in the middle, so you have plenty of getaway time if you’re like me. They’re different. They’re wonderful. And we should make tracts part of our life. Always carry tracts. If I’d been God, I would have designed us like the kangaroo so we had a tract pouch. Always.
“A tract will speak only when the person wants to be spoken to.” – @RayComfortTweet
You’re espousing the benefit of giving a tract even if you don’t have time to actually engage the person in conversation.
Sometimes we don’t. You’ve got bus stop evangelism. The bus is coming. This person is standing there. And you’re thinking, man, they’re going to hell if they die in their sins. You got 10 seconds, so what do you do? You say, “Did you get one of these? It’s a million dollar bill.” They’ll say, oh thank you; I can’t wait to get the change from this – or some witty little thing.
So tracts can be very beneficial. When you’re at the supermarket, give one to the checkout lady or checkout man, or just leave one on a shelf. There’s no law against leaving a tract on a shelf. You’re not stealing something. You’re giving something, and it’s incredibly beneficial.