Monday, June 04, 2012

Do You Have to Do Door-to-Door Evangelism?

Ignore your teeth, they'll go away.   Ignore door-to-door evangelism and you won't preach the gospel to everyone.  Does it matter if you don't preach to everyone?  If it doesn't, then go ahead and ignore door-to-door.

Churches ignore door-to-door.  They are either defying what God said or they don't believe it matters if you preach the gospel to everyone.

If churches don't believe that God wants them to preach the gospel to everyone, then what is it that He does want with that regard?  Does He want them to preach it to some people?  If some, how many?  And if we're not to preach to everyone where we live, then why go to some foreign field to preach it?

The problem, as I see it, is a lack of boldness.  And that lack of boldness comes because of a lack of the Holy Spirit or at least submission to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works toward boldness.  If we don't see boldness, then He isn't there to work or someone is quenching His work.

The no door-to-door people, however, usually never will say it is because of a lack of boldness.  What do they say?  The following is what I've heard recently right here.

1.    Jesus didn't preach to everyone because not everyone wanted to hear.

The full argument here, I guess, is something like this.  If Jesus went to a community and they didn't want to listen, He didn't preach to them, so that means that we don't have to preach to everyone.  Therefore, we won't preach to everyone.

I would think that "preach to everyone" would be obvious.  We preach to everyone that will listen to us.  You're not avoiding anyone when you do it that way.  But your intention, your approach, and your actions are toward preaching to everyone.

2.    Door-to-door isn't the best way to preach the gospel to everyone.

I don't understand this one.  The best way to preach the gospel to everyone is to preach the gospel to everyone.  Someone says that door-to-door isn't the best way.  But if you don't go to everyone, you won't preach it to everyone.  If people didn't have doors, only windows, I would say "window-to-window."  If people lived out of doors, with no doors or windows, I would say, "person-to-person."  The best way to preach to everyone must include preaching to everyone.  If the best way to preach to everyone doesn't include preaching to everyone, then it can't be the best way.

For instance, let's test some of the other ideas that someone might float as better.  "I talk to people who happen to be on their porches."  That is preaching to everyone who is on their porch.  What about those not on their porches?  It doesn't attempt to preach to them.  Or, "we invite everyone in the community to our building to hear."  That is inviting.  That is not "going."  It is staying and inviting.  Going means that you leave your location and go to their location.  Get it?  It's tough, but I think you can understand it.

3.    People have gated communities and you can't get into them.

This would be akin to, "there are people who live on tiny islands that have no airports and so they are tough to get to."  I'm thinking of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.  They have lots of little islands.  If they have gates around their communities, you are going to have to find a different way to get to those people.  However, not being able to get to them doesn't mean that you don't go ahead and go to people who don't live behind gates.  Go to the gateless places and then find a way to get the gospel to the gated.  Some people are in maximum security isolation.  They're even tougher to get to.  Since I can't get it to them, do I just not go to everyone else?  Get it?  It's tough, but I think you can understand it.

4.    I've found door-to-door to be off-putting and ineffective.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  If you preach it to someone, it only seems off-putting and ineffective.  Some people don't receive it.  I know of nowhere in Scripture that says that if you preach the gospel, everyone is always going to like it.  What I read is that the broad road leads to destruction.  I read that people have to want it when they hear it.  The method of going to people and preaching it to them will be unpopular always.

Going to a person to preach to him is effective at having the gospel preached to him.  Not going to him and preaching to him is very ineffective at having it preached to him.   When you do preach it to him, and he doesn't want to listen (he's "off-put"), it might be because he thinks that preaching is foolishness, that he's proud, that he doesn't see his desperate condition---those sorts of things.

When someone says he thinks it's ineffective, what he means, I believe, is:  "my church doesn't get bigger in numbers that way."  There are reasons door-to-door will hurt bigger numbers.  I've written about that here other times.  They will know your church goes door-to-door, and they don't want to be associated with that kind of boldness or fanaticism.  They want a church where you won't be expected to preach.  In other words, they aren't denying themselves.  They aren't taking up their cross.  And they aren't following Jesus.  But they still want to be saved, go to heaven, and have other neat stuff the church has to offer.  To promote the church through non-preaching is to misrepresent Christianity and the New Testament.  It will tend toward false professions.

5.    Door-to-door associates us with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Let's say Satan had a plan to stop the gospel from being preached to everyone.  What could he do?  I know.  He could have another group do door-to-door that preached a false gospel and make true gospel preaching look bad.  Christians who didn't want to look like the false preachers would stop preaching it to everyone.

Lots of false religions have similar practices to true churches.  They have choirs.  They have the Lord's Table. They baptize.  They preach.  That doesn't mean we should stop obeying the New Testament.

6.    People who go door-to-door are just going through the motions, putting in their time, and thinking they are better than other people because they punch the time-clock every week and do their hour or two of door-to-door---it's legalistic.

You might not think that's an actual reason, but it really is a common one.  Of course, anything we do in the Christian life can be merely ritual.  That's a warning for everything in the Christian life.  It doesn't mean we should stop doing what's right out of love for God.

7.    There are other ways to preach to people besides door-to-door.

That's true.  If I say, "eat with a fork," that doesn't mean you can't eat with a spoon or even use your fingers.  Come on, folks.  Of course there are other ways to preach.  But there isn't another way to preach it to everyone that I know of.  And I've never had anyone tell me how you could do it without actually going to everyone.  And since they live behind doors, and they usually come to the door when they want to talk to you, then you'll need to go to the door.  If they're in the front yard, you won't have to go to their door.  Yah!  Hip-hip hooray!  You didn't go door-to-door to the one who was in his yard.

The Greeks like wisdom.  The Jews signs.  Americans like other things.  That doesn't mean that we should use strategies that take advantage of what people like.  We should preach.  They won't like it for the most part.  We already know it.  We should just do it anyway by faith and depend on God for the results.  That's what pleases and glorifies Him.


Joshua said...

I think the 7 above are used because of number 8, which is the honest answer:

8. I, along with most people, am deathly afraid of accosting people at their door with an unpopular message.

I remember talking with a street preacher who had spent years of his life in the city centre preaching on Saturday nights, getting attacked by drunks and ridiculed by many, and he said something to the effect of "one day I'm going to have to find the courage to go door-to-door". It is a terrifying prospect to people.

I think cold fear is at the heart of the matter, and is the great generator of the other reasons.

Micah said...

"Churches ignore door-to-door. They are either defying what God said or they don't believe it matters if you preach the gospel to everyone."

C'mon Kent, that's a whopper of a false dichotomy. Door to door is a methodology. It is not an element of absolute truth. It is not a revelation of God's glory. It's not an affirmation of OT teaching. It is not the gospel. And it is not related to the future kingdom. So to elevate it to such is to risk sewing tradition into the quilt of orthodoxy. The rest of your counterpoints flow from the false assumption that "door to door" evangelism is somehow the pinnacle of spiritual boldness or the sole essence of the term evangelism. So, there are theological errors in your assumption.

Practically, it can be quite off putting and not simply for the offensiveness of the gospel. My home is a place of safety and haven for my family. I do not want strangers there uninvited...period. And many people feel that way. You can rant against the cultural shifts that have created a guarded society, but it won't change the secluded disposition so prevalent among much of suburbia. So if the unsolicited presence is so intrusive and overbearing as to prevent the sharing of the gospel, then there's no point to it.

There is a lack of boldness and spirit led witnessing on the part of much of the church. But to declare door to door methodology a criteria for truly following Jesus is eisegesis at best.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You never answered the main proposition of the entire post, and you didn't, I imagine, because you don't have an answer. There isn't one. You just won't say that you don't have one.

Anonymous said...

I see what you mean. "Every creature" means something.

Are you assuming this must be fulfilled by face-to-face encounters? Facebook, Skype, Telephone, Radio, etc would not suffice?

How about street preaching? If I could account for each and every person in my community being confronted with the gospel would that fulfill the Lord's command? Must each presentation of the gospel be one-on-one, or at least to no more than one household?

Right now I can't imagine a more thorough way to see that everyone is preached to and personally confronted with the truth, than house-to-house visiting. That is the method that I have always been a part of. I am just curious if there are other ways to preach the gospel to every creature.


Micah said...

Your proposition as I understand it: Door to door evangelism is the only technique that preaches to everyone. Ignoring it means you can't preach to everyone.

Perhaps mathematically you could conclude it is a statistically comprehensive methodology, i.e. we spoke with 97% of the people on this block. We'll return to the missed 3% next week.

But you're relying on an assumption that it is THE biblical method for evangelism. Can't those same people be reached in a different manner?

You're also assuming that we're required to preach to every individual. The apostle Paul didn't always use D2D in his missional plan nor talk to every person. Neither did Jesus. Why would we be required to do more than Jesus or Paul?

So, please clarify if I have misunderstood your proposition, not trying to dodge it. Simply trying to counter it respectfully.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You got it (and so do you Chris and Joshua) :-D . The pattern I see with Jesus and the Apostles is that they went everywhere, to every town and village preaching. They stopped preaching only to those who didn't want to hear it, but they found that out by going to them. They didn't assume people didn't want it because those people wouldn't come to them.

Paul didn't preach to everyone in the world but he did have a strategy or method or policy of "preach[ing] to every creature which is under heaven whereof I paul am made a minister." That fits with Mark 16:15, "preach the gospel to every creature."

I'll probably write about my experience with door-to-door, which I've been doing for 25 years here in Northern California in what most would say is the most liberal and maybe, therefore, the hardest area in the country. We have a good, strong church, but we didn't come here to start a church, but we came here to preach the gospel to everyone. We're still here because we still haven't done that and people move here faster than what we can preach the gospel to even the new move-ins. And then we have the people who are born and grow up not having heard, which are added to those numbers every year.