Monday, December 29, 2014

Door-to-Door Evangelism: Are There Better Ways to Evangelize than Evangelizing?

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.


19 comments:

Kent Brandenburg said...

Two things I would add to this, but decided not to change the post.

One, evangelism isn't binary, either/or -- what I call salt/light evangelism or circle of influence evangelism, evangelizing people in your natural circle of influence: family, neighbor, school, work, etc., and then door-to-door. Both are taught. One shouldn't assume that someone doing door-to-door isn't doing the other. I believe the door-to-door person is better prepared to do the second. However, you won't evangelize everyone with just circle of influence. And so you are disobedient Disobedient. Faithless.

The second is that you can cover preaching the gospel to everyone with a billboard or a mailing. I'm for doing a billboard or a mailing, but it does not replace preaching. Preaching is a person dealing with another person, and the gospel coming out of his mouth. That is different. Please do not equate the two. One is not the other.

Bobby Mitchell said...

I read the article and the comments you referred to in your post. I can't figure out how we are to preach the Gospel to every creature if we don't... preach the Gospel to every creature.

When I hear, "Pray for opportunities," I think, THERE ARE ABOUT 7 BILLION OPPORTUNITIES OUT THERE. Go talk to them.

It is not complicated. All of the "reasons" against door-to-door preaching in the article and in the SI comments have no Scripture to lean on. None. At. All. Sad.

KJB1611 said...

Great post. In addition to the glory of God and obedience to the Great Commission, the entire focus of a church is changed when house to house evangelism is abandoned. Those who are no longer going out to everybody to preach the gospel eventually change the worship in the church to be "seeker sensitive," etc. Nor can they effectively pray for doors of utterance with the lost, for they are no longer able to lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting, but instead are lifting up bloody hands. They also, because of lack of practice, are less effective in evangelizing their family and friends.

Then again, Christianity Today is very open to all kinds of false gospels, so it is probably not surprising that they are not very happy with someone preaching the true gospel house to house.

Farmer Brown said...

I agree with what you have said in several areas:

1. The article you cite is a wonderful example of the estrogentification of American men. It is endemic.

2. The reasons to not go are based on subjective ideals and feelings, but not on the Bible.

3. Going door to door does not preclude other methods of evangelism.

However, that leaves me with two questions:

1. What is the basis for the initial assumption? The post is based on the given that door to door is a Biblically necessary method. Where is the example for that? The reasons against are indeed unbiblical, but what are the Biblical reasons for?

It seems that Biblically, street preaching would be more the example than door to door for bringing the gospel to every creature, not that it is either\or. I know Acts 2:46 is cited, but that is clearly a meeting of that assembly as it involves the Lord's supper. Acts 20:20 is apparently teaching believers. Neither of these set the example for going door to door to unbelievers.

2. What are you presenting door to door? If we reject the Hyles method, and we do, what are you doing at that person's door? What can be done that is of substance in 30 seconds? Invite them to church? Where is the example of the church inviting lost in? Ask them if they want to be saved? That is premature in this day and age; they do not even know who God is.

Peter's 4 or 5 messages to unbelievers recorded in Acts were very consistent. Condemn the sin of the hearers. Preach the resurrection. Preach the Judge. Preach repentance and belief in the name of Jesus Christ. If you are going to follow Peter, when they answer the door, it is time to condemn sin.

Peter never said, "Hi I'm Peter from Jerusalem Baptist Church and we are in the neighborhood talking to folks about the Bible\inviting people to church." That may be charming, but it is not exemplified in the Bible.

3. Isn't fear necessary for repentance? It is the beginning of wisdom. The people in Peter's time at least knew who God is and feared him. So did people in our country 30 years ago. However, where we are now, we meet people who do not even know who Jesus is. How can you condemn sin? They need to know who God is to know they should fear him. That fear has been completely and systematically erased from our society, but is the beginning of knowledge.

Unbelievers know God exists, from creation. However people have to fear God to be willing to repent. How can you preach fear within the constraints of door to door? I am not saying you can not or should not, but asking how you can?

Tyler Robbins said...

Kent:

I knew I could count on you to veil your opinions in polite tones! I'll respond to some of your points (and to some points in Bro. Ross' linked article) before the end of the week.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Bobby, Agreed. Maybe commands like that don't make any difference to believers any more. Jesus preached to everyone in Galilee and Judea, and went to Samaria, Tyre, Caesaria, and Perea, preaching everywhere, but we will limit it to relationship building. Just wow.

Thomas, Thanks.

Farmer Brown, I'll get to your comment...I will. Thanks though.

Tyler,

Thanks. (ha)

KJB1611 said...

Dear Farmer Brown,

If you read the study linked to at the bottom of the post, you will see the clear Biblical basis for house to house evangelism as a necessary method. Acts 20 and Acts 5 both refer to house to house evangelism. Street preaching is also wonderful, as the study that is linked to also demonstrates. As to what you can say, I believe that the video resource here:

http://faithsaves.net/evangelism-video-proclaim-gospel/

and the written resources on the same webpage provide good answers to that question.

Your professed desire to obey Scripture in your evangelistic methodology is appreciated.

Farmer Brown said...

KJB1611

I disagree on Acts 20, but I guess it is really moot. You either have one or two sort of oblique references to house to house evangelism, and 20+ to street preaching. At best, public speaking is emphasized in the Bible 10 times as much as house to house. By volume of scripture it is probably 500 times as emphasized. I wonder if the house to house people (of which I am one) would agree that public preaching should have 10 times the emphasis?

The arguments against public preaching are the same as against house to house. Not culturally sound, offensive, specific to first century, not effective, etc. My experience is that even among the most fundamental of us, house to house is the holy grail while public preaching is seen as uncouth.

I am leading a small Baptist church plant in New England. We are trying to fulfill the NT emphasis on public evangelism by having public lectures. We rent a public space and advertise door to door, by direct mail, and word of mouth. The lectures last two weeks, and usually run two out of every eight weeks. The content is similar to Peter. We condemn specific sin (drunkenness, fornication, rebellion, loving the world) preach the resurrection, preach repentance, and call on people to believe on the name of Christ.

I guess the method borrowed from Peter is, prove you should be afraid (condemn sin), prove who God is (resurrection), show he will judge, call to believe. All that takes several hours. Unless the person knows and fears God, it seems impossible to present that door to door.

The other door to door we do is simply to condemn sin. That is awkward. We knock on doors and give people verses about specific sins. We have our own tracts that say things like "God calls all intimacy outside of marriage fornication and will send you to hell for it." then gives the verses and how to contact us. If that creates fear and a desire for repentance, we will invite them to talk more, but if they couldn't care less about sin, we do not try to push believing.

Anonymous said...

Farmer Brown is absolutely correct in all that he says. Evangelism is the church or house to house is the exception, but open air public preaching is the rule and the church is negligent in doing that, therefore, with all its "evangelistic efforts" it has not come close to "turning America up side down" as the 1st century evangelists (a small number) accomplished in the known world of that day!

You see, the church has failed at Christ's only commandment which is to "Go into the world and preach the gospel". Preaching, as Farmer Brown pointed out, cannot be done door-to-door. You can engage a person and speak to him, but when you preach, it has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks, or what they might do, but it is rather one standing and preaching the word of God, in power of the Holy Ghost, "no man forbidding"! The only way to be stopped is by jail, beating or the Lord God himself.

That preaching, as Farmer Brown pointed out is 100 times more prevalent throughout the "whole council of God".

Therefore, Kent, why is it that you did not even mention it?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown and Anonymous (George),

I think preaching the gospel, streetwise or door to door, are the same. To say that the Bible doesn't teach preaching the gospel to one person is fairly amazing. In Mark 16:15, "creature" is singular. If every creature doesn't mean door to door, then I'd be happy to hear some other way of accomplishing that. Street preaching does not. You will not be able to fulfill getting it to everyone, just the people who are there at your particular location.

Why do I not write so much on street preaching? I think door to door is a form of street preaching. I'll leave it at that for now, but door to door accomplishes everything street preaching would be meant to do. Just like with "friendship evangelism," it isn't an either/or. We've done street preaching. But you can't be happy unless all that we're left with is street preaching? That seems very odd.

Anonymous said...

Kent,

Have you ever stood before a large crowd of potentially unsaved people, with voice lifted up, and preached the gospel? You live in a very populated area, and the opportunities to preach are many, in one afternoon you could preach to more people than you might speak to in a year door to door.

Not trying to minimize house to house.. both could and should be done,, but to proclaim the gospel to multitudes the public forum is a great oportunity and it is a biblical method .

thanks T. James

Anonymous said...

Kent , I think acts 20:20 says publicly and hose to house for a reason, publicly is in my mind out in the market, or down in the city, at the bus stop, at the civic center, at the university, on the boardwalk, Santa Monica blvd , {good place to preach} there are multitudes of public places to preach, . but that's not house to house,,.. my thoughts anyway ..

thanks T. James

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi T. James,

Yes, I've done what you are saying. And I agree that someone should do it publically. My argument is this one that is against door-to-door, vis a vis, getting it to everyone. Preach it to everyone works like a big umbrella over all the evangelism that we do: door-to-door, family, acquaintances, work, street preaching, etc. But you disagree?

Anonymous said...

Kent ,

I am glad you have done this. Many of the door to door baptists I've met have never publicly proclaimed the gospel {preached on the street}. Door to door seems to be their main way of confronting people with the gospel,
I think a man living in a large metro area is neglecting a great opportunity to reach hundreds and even thousands with the gospel in one afternoon,...

that being said, I do agree,there are many ways to reach the lost, and door to door ought to be at the top of the list.
I guess I was kind of responding to your equating door to door with public proclamation of the gospel. there again two different things . going door to door puts you on someones private property, and puts you on their turf, as an uninvited guest. Publicly you are out where your not on someones private property, and exercising your right to proclaim the gospel in the public arena . ... not looking to argue, but they are not the same..

Thanks, T. James

Michael Alford said...

I have preached on the strreet for almost 20 years, and mostof the time my street work has been accompanied by door-knocking, because I beleive they are both equally valid and scriptural methods in accordance with Acts 20:20. To my dear street preaching brothers who tend to be overly critical of people who simply knock doors, let me put a thought out there; when Phillip was dealing with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, he was having a conversation with a single individual, and the Bible describes that as him having "preached " unto him in verse 35.
I do maintain that, for a church to have a true New testament, Pauline ministry, both public ministry and door knocking need to be deployed.

Michael Alford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Farmer Brown said...

I Don't know about anonymous (George), he and I may not be in the same boat. Door to door and preaching publicly are not the same, but I agree they are accomplishing the same thing (going into all the world).

I asked my original question in sincerity. What do you present when you go door to door? In our area, most younger people (15-40) do not know who God is or have any fear. What do you present to someone like that in the door to door setting? You cannot present salvation in that setting.

I do agree that publicly should be the primary method with door to door functioning as a supplement, but only because that is what Paul and Peter demonstrated. I think that is a minority position amount our circles; minority and in error because is changes the Biblical emphasis.

Michael Alford said...

Farmer Brown,
I'm certain everybody has their own way of doing it, but here's my basic approach. Keep in mind that I have knocked many of these same doors more than once, as we live in a small-ish town.
We knock on the door and we introduce ourselves as being from the church. I tell them that we are out giving out gospel tracts, and I offer them. Sometimes that's as far as we get before they snatch the tract, mumble a thank you and shut the door.
If there is a hesitation , I ask them "are you saved?" If they say they are, I press them for details to make sure it's biblical salvation. If they say 'no' (a rarety in the South' I say "Has anyone ever old you what Jesus Christ did for you?" From there on, I control the conversation for as long as they will allow me. I give them the gospel as clearly and succinctly as I can.
Some people are rude, some people get irritated, some people wish they had never answered the door. I don't press people for decisions because ours is a ministry of sowing, not reaping.
I'm certain there are methods I cloud employ that would get more 'results', but the truth is , my partner and I have looked thousands of our neighbors in their face over the years and asked them about their souls and told them as much about Jesus as they would let us. It's a fine endeavor to be part of.

Anonymous said...

I have just a few questions, which maybe you might answer.

1. What is the content of the Gospel to be given?
2. What is the main theme in the Gospel to be given (this can be answered by saying what the first question you ask is)?
3. The all-important question is if evangelism equals or causes communion, or lack thereof hinders communion?

Thanks for answering -- J.