Imagine a method of evangelism where almost everyone enjoyed the encounter. Sounds like heaven. Is there a comfortable manner for a root canal? Asleep. But you've got to be conscious to receive the gospel.
Proponents of Jesus asked why so few were saved? He said they would not strive (agonizomai) to enter the narrow gate. People have to want it. They've got to "find" it. The Apostle Paul said that the truth is suppressed by people in their unrighteousness. 2 Peter says they don't want a boss. This question is also answered by the parable of the sower. The seed is the same, but the problem isn't the technique for how it is flung, but the condition of the soil. People who are ready to receive are, well, ready to receive, and if not, they're not. So who are these people who want to receive it? We don't know, but we will know when we try to give it to them.
In the mid 19th century, Charles Finney proposed "new measures" to allure the lost to salvation. His notion arose from his distorted notion of man's nature. Finney's techniques changed the essence of the gospel, and exponential more perversions have proceeded from them. That tradition continued on December 16, when Christianity Today (CT), what might be better titled "Christianity" Today, published an article, entitled, "The Dangers of Door-to-Door Evangelism," a review of a new book, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing.
The online forum, ShaperIron, started a discussion on the article, and there was overall agreement from readers there who commented. Both the article and the comments on the forum reminded me of the growing femininity of American Christianity. Here is a person of masculine gender, who rejects biblical obedience out of fear, but writes to excuse himself, suave his guilt, and emolliate others like him. He should just say it: he lacks courage, hates rejection, and doesn't want to feel bad about any of it.
All the reasons given in the article and on the forum were actually the same reasons for not evangelizing period. Many would like to evangelize without evangelizing. Both the book and the online forum missed the most important criteria for judging door-to-door: is it a scriptural method? Or, did Jesus and the Apostles practice it?
The gospel, of course, is worth believing, even though the lost think it is foolishness. It's also believable, because it is the truth. It really is a matter of faith. Preaching the gospel won't usually look "effective." But the better question is, do American Christians believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? If it is (and it is), then they should be and actually would be preaching it door-to-door.
In Isaiah 6, God sent Isaiah to preach to a nation, who didn't want to hear the message. King Manasseh of Judah killed the prophets, who came to him. In the end, those prophets had sowed the seed for his conversion (2 Chronicles 33). John the Baptist was killed by Herod. Every apostle but John the disciple died the martyr's death.
The Father sent Jesus and then Jesus sent believers to preach the gospel to every person. We have been left with the task of delivering a message, much like Hezekiah sent out postmen to call on those remaining in the Northern Kingdom to repent. They mocked and ridiculed him, so was his message unbelievable?
We don't need a book to tell us not to evangelize. We don't need so-called preachers discouraging us from preaching the gospel. These preachers want to be relevant. They seek a method, not found in the Bible, that will "work." The gospel works, when you preach it. An unbelievable gospel is one that isn't preached. No one can believe that one, because no one has heard it.
Door-to-door evangelism is in one sense not a method, unless it is a sales pitch or is offering something other than a true gospel. If it is a true gospel preached, it is evangelism. It is loving the world like God so loved the world. It is caring about everyone.
Does door-to-door work? It works at preaching the gospel. It works at giving the opportunity for everyone to hear. It works at obeying the Bible. It works at loving God, loving the world, and loving your neighbor. It works at going. It works at faithfulness with the mysteries of God. It works at being an ambassador of Christ. It works at not having the spirit of fear. It works at a lot of stuff that's good and right.
When the Hebrew spies came back with a bad report, they discouraged the hearts of the people, who then died in the wilderness. Forty years later, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and a half tribe of Manasseh said they didn't want to go in the second time. Moses scorched them (Numbers 32). When they would not participate, he said, "Be sure your sin will find you out." I say the same thing to those discouraging men from evangelizing the world. Be sure your sin fill find you out. Do you believe the gospel or not?
Reviewing the Reasons against Door to Door
From the Author of the Article
In reading the article, there is some overlap here, but I'm going to use direct quotes to provide separate reasons.
One, "the door-to-door method follows a sales model"; "I did not want it to sound like a sales pitch."
Two, "the friendship model attempts first to cultivate a relationship with a non-believer (who might live in your dorm or attend classes with you) and then introduce the gospel in a more casual and natural way."
Three, "(friendship model) better suited my personality and because, well, it 'felt' right."
Four, "I’ve always hated the 'hard sell' and have quickly (if politely) closed the door or hung up the phone whenever a solicitor has tried to sell me something."
Five, "I wanted it to rise up organically from our friendship, or at least from a sense of shared interests and passions."
Six, "our current social-cultural moment has made the door-to-door model not only less effective, but potentially counter-productive."
Seven, "People do not respond well to gospel presentations because they don’t recognize our good news as good news."
Eight, "Our job is not to increase guilt but to relieve it through the message of grace."
Nine, "if it is to touch the hearts of individuals, [it] must be personalized."
Ten, "his central spiritual struggle is to find acceptance."
Eleven, "the good news needs to speak to people where they are."
There may have been more, but there were at least these eleven.
From the Comments
One, "The only time I see door to door anymore is when JW's come around."
Two, " I think that door to door is promoted because it is traditional, visible, and 'easy' to do in terms of scheduling."
Three, "I don't like callers at my door."
Four, "Please respect my right to not be bothered and never visit my house again."
Five, "I abandoned door to door several years ago. I did this because I sensed it was failing in our church."
Six, "Let's face it, when was the last time you were visited by a door-to-door salesman? The technique was abandoned for a reason."
These represent the arguments against door-to-door.
What's Wrong with These "Reasons"
None of them are scriptural. They don't speak as the oracles of God; they don't glorify God (1 Pet 4:11). What are the biblical reasons against door-to-door? None. There are many arguments for, but none against.
The stated reasons above are disgusting. They're repugnant. And sad. They're built upon lies.
What about the so-called "friendship model"? It's not what we see Jesus or the apostles do. We don't have a model in scripture for "making friends" with the lost. The Bible goes the other direction. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Psalm 1:1. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
Christians live in the world with unbelievers, among them. We work with them. We're their neighbors. We're part of this system on this side of eternity. We have relationships. We treat unbelievers as men made in the image of God. We represent God before them, so they will understand Who God is. When we don't, we're a bad testimony. But that is not evangelism. That is how we live.
The world thinks coming to its door is this or that. Maybe so. But if someone is striving to enter in, if someone is trying to find it, the evangelist is there for him with door to door. It's not supposed to make sense, to seem reasonable. It's a supernatural work of God.
If a JW visits you on Christmas morning, preach him the gospel. He's at your door; he's a captive audience.
This year I got a Christmas card photo of a family with grandparents, parents, and grandchildren, 20 to 30 people. Twenty-seven years ago, I visited the grandparents, then just parents of small children, door-to-door. The man and then his wife were converted. I looked at that picture and thought of the parable of the sower again. Some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred. Just one couple, and what a difference it made. If the Lord tarries another 100 years, you have their great grand children and more.
I visited a house, door to door, and a teenaged girl made a profession of faith. The boy she was dating was saved. We discipled them. Since then, they were married and moved away, but he had taken 50 or more through the discipleship I had written in another state. 30, 60, 100.
Just two examples. Let's say that it was only those two and one million others rejected it. If one more was you, would you want me to stop at one million?
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Preach the gospel to every creature.
Here is a thorough scriptural argument for door-to-door evangelism by Thomas Ross, who writes here on Fridays.