Conquering Fear on Halloween

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.” – @RayComfort

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.

Ray witnessing with his dog

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.” – @RayComfort

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.

Ray street preaching in the 1970s

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.” – @RayComfort

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.

The million dollar Gospel of John

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.” – @RayComfort

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.

For more information on Ray Comfort’s ministry, please visit the Living Waters website and check out the Halloween Outreach Box available in their online store.

Money for Something

[Originally published on AOL Personals in July 2009]

Anna DavidHow much should money factor into your dating decisions?

When it comes to deciding who to spend your life with, how much should money factor into your decision? How important is it that the person you date or marry be wealthy? Would you stay with someone you aren’t attracted to, just because he or she has a lot of money? And wouldn’t that be the same as prostitution?

I recently asked these questions to sex advice expert, journalist, and author Anna David – whose new book, Bought, touches on the topic of high-class prostitution and the ethics behind relationships based on money and gift-giving.

Though the women described in Anna’s book are “high-class” prostitutes (e.g., playmates, models, and actresses), the same issues are applicable to any relationship.

“I don’t think, as women, we know how much men should be providing for us,” Anna admits, “[Growing up], every family I knew…the dad made all the money. So, I grew up being told, ‘you have to pave your own way… But, hey, you should also try to get with a doctor or a lawyer.'”

Even from our youth, the idea of a poor girl finding and marrying a Prince Charming has been romanticized to the point where some women aren’t satisfied with men they perceive as peers, but rather look to ascend to a more prestigious lifestyle by “marrying up.”

It’s not just women who perpetuate this stereotype, however. Many men have an aversion to being in a relationship with a woman who makes more money than them – for the obvious reason that it would make them each feel like “less of a man.” And if most men have this hang up, then women have no choice but to marry up.

In the quest for a man, some women have made money their number one and only goal. An extreme example of this is prostitution. Clearly, the point of this type of “relationship” is to exchange sexual services for money. No confusion here.

Things get a bit hazy when we talk about why a woman is attracted to, dates, marries, and stays with a man. If the top reason for doing so is the man’s wealth and the luxurious gifts and lifestyle he can provide, then there is very little difference between that and prostitution.

If, on the other hand, money is simply a “nice to have” in the relationship – or a trait in the man that forecasts a stable financial future, then money simply acts as evidence of the man’s ability to support her and their potential family.

At our basic cores, we’re all looking for someone who will help us survive and replicate.

Receiving Gifts
When it comes to gift-giving in a relationship, Anna suggests, “It’s wonderful to receive gifts from a guy you’re involved with and you like.” But for those of you men, who use gifts and money to attract women… “That’s only going to work with a certain type of woman, who really wants that. These women will make it clear up-front that that’s what they’re interested in.” But Anna is not one of them. “Somebody like me – like most of my friends – we’re probably not going to be swayed by that. It’s going to look like a bribe.”

Anna did admit, however, that if a guy were to buy a thousand copies of her new book, Bought, she would for sure go on a date with him.

Are You a Prostitute?
So, what are some of the things you do to get what you want? Some women flirt with cops to get out of a traffic ticket. Maybe you’ve come on to guys at a bar just to get them to buy you a drink. Where do you draw the line between casual manipulation and prostitution? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Pickup Evangelism

For three years, I’ve wanted to start or participate in an evangelism program that taught people how to approach strangers, build rapport, and share the Gospel in a non-confrontational way. During these years, I’ve consulted resource material and participated in actual “in the field” training that taught people how to approach strangers, give a good first impression, talk fluently, build comfort and rapport, and finally direct the interaction towards a specific outcome. But all of the training material I consulted was unrelated to evangelism – and the core goal of the teaching was self-serving, rather than outwardly focused.

I wanted there to be similar training that taught Christians how to naturally discuss spiritual matters with friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers – without being confrontational, rude, or insincere (the typical stereotypes of proselytizing Christians).

Approaching a stranger with the purpose of sharing the Gospel with him or her requires the same skills as the art of picking up a woman at a bar. You need an indirect approach, a casual opener, listening skills, escalation in the conversation, and an eventual statement of interest (or objective). Unlike pickup, I think steering the conversation toward spiritual matters would be easy, as it’s an unexpected goal and not something the recipient is actively defending against. But I digress…

The point is that I had been learning so much about networking and approaching strangers, that I knew there had to be a better use of these skills than simply for my own selfish benefit. I hypothesized what this world would be like, if every Christian had the skills and confidence to approach anyone, anywhere, at anytime with the purpose of evangelism.

Two weeks ago, I attended a workshop on “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less.” It was a business-networking workshop based on a book of the same name. We basically learned how to give a good first impression through our body language, tone of voice, and attitude. I had already taken the class and read the book three years ago, so it was more of a refresher for me. After the class was over, the teacher asked me if I would like to take over for her as the teacher of the workshop going forward. I thought it’d be fun, so I said yes.

The next day, I signed up for a “How to Share Your Faith” workshop at McLean Bible Church. This was the first time they offered a training workshop on evangelism, so I didn’t know what to expect. The workshop was held yesterday, and I can quite honestly say that it changed my life.

The majority of the workshop was typical stuff… We discussed the reasons why we don’t engage in evangelism (fear of making things socially awkward with friends and coworkers, etc.), what the Bible had to say about the topic, and ways to turn a conversation towards spiritual topics.

They showed this video of Penn (from Penn & Teller), which I found very powerful…

We participated in an activity where we practiced approaching strangers (note: there were a couple hundred people in the room) and bringing up Christianity naturally in our conversations.

I thought it was all very beneficial, but nothing mind-blowing. Then we had a surprise…

It seemed like the workshop was ending about 2 hours early, when the organizers surprised us with instant field missions – tasks for every table to accomplish out “in the field” (i.e., Tyson’s Corner) in the next two hours. As soon as I heard this, I was totally psyched. This workshop just turned into a boot camp (a la the pickup arts boot camps).

My table was assigned the Bed, Bath, and Beyond shopping center on Rt. 7. My teammates seemed anxious on the drive over, but I didn’t. I’d done this kind of thing before, and sharing the Gospel with strangers seemed like a really easy thing to do compared to the other stuff I’ve had to do on boot camps.

When we arrived at BB&B, I took a walk around the store and thought this really wasn’t going to work for me. Some of my tablemates successfully opened folks in the store, including the manager, so I figured they had the place covered. I went next door to Chic’s and Wings for a beer with one of my teammates, Heidi.

When we entered the bar, nobody looked up, so I didn’t have an immediate “in.” Heidi and I sat at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks. We chatted with each other, then I brought the bartender, Jessica, into our conversation. We talked about the NCAA tournament (of which I knew nothing about), but fortunately Heidi and Jessica connected, as their schools were still in the tournament (or had just lost). After a short while of this, I mentioned to Jessica that we were from a church up the road and had a short questionnaire for her, if she had the time to participate. She said she had to take care of some other stuff, but would come back if she could.

After 5-10 minutes, Heidi sighed and supposed that Jessica was not coming back. I said she had to at least give us the check.

Jessica did return and said she could take our survey. I assured her that if she at anytime didn’t feel comfortable answering any of the questions, she didn’t have to (I honestly hadn’t read the 5 questions prior, as this was Heidi’s challenge). As Heidi asked Jessica the very simple, non-confrontational questions, I noticed Jessica’s boss standing about 10 feet away, looking for some sort of signal from Jessica. I figured they worked out a “safety sign” to trigger a rescue prior to coming over. Thankfully, the manager was never signaled to come over, though she never took her eyes off us.

Heidi finished her questionnaire, and we found out that Jessica was a self-proclaimed Christian, but didn’t really know whether or not she would go to Heaven if she died, or by what criteria that could happen. She also told us that she doesn’t go to church, but that was mostly due to the fact that she had just moved here from Michigan not too long ago. I invited her to attend Frontline on a Sunday night, as there were more people like Heidi and I there, and we’d love to have her. I handed her a little Frontline card with basic information on the services (which was my challenge). Jessica thanked us, and I left her a big tip.

As we were leaving, Heidi grabbed some other material she had with her and approached a two-set of guys sitting at the bar. She told them about Frontline, invited them to come, and gave them the info cards. I couldn’t find the correct words to tell Heidi how proud I was of her boldness – as that kind of cold approach can be really intimidating – but I hope she somehow knows.

After leaving the bar, I realized how much more satisfying it was to do these kinds of social “missions,” than the other kind of challenges I’ve been involved with. And how cool it would be to find a partner who had the same calling.

I went home and “cleaned house” literally and figuratively. All of the ambitions and selfish pursuits I’ve been preoccupied with paled in comparison to this new calling. I want to continue developing my social and conversational skills – not for secular ambitions, but rather for spiritual, eternally significant ambitions.

And not only do I want to continue learning these skills, but I want to start teaching them as well. I want to lead evangelism boot camps. I want to train Christians to do this. And I want to spend my time with people who want to do this.

But I have to be prepared to lose everything else in my life. I’ve spent so much time developing social circles outside of my Christian world… It’ll be hard, but I have to accept the fact that, once I start down this path, I may very likely lose everything else.

With God’s help, and the support of Christian friends and fellow evangelists like Heidi, I’m willing to take that chance.