This article presents support for door-to-door evangelism.

Source: The Monthly Record, 1996. 2 pages.

Door-to-Door Visiting

Many people regard door-to-door visiting as a peculiarity of the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Others think it hopelessly outmoded. But there are good reasons for looking again. Here are some of them:

  1. Door-to-door visitation fits the pattern of New Testament evangelismā¤’šŸ”—

New Testament evangelism is obedience to Christ's comĀ­mand, "Go!" (Matthew 28:19).

In contrast to the Old Testament, when Gentiles could experience the benefits of salvation only by coming to Israel and the temple at Jerusalem, the living temple of Christ's church now goes to the Gentiles. By the comĀ­pulsion of the Spirit, the church goes from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, Antioch, and on to the uttermost parts of the earth.

The Church of Jesus Christ is a going concern. It has to be, because unbelievers don't come and won't come. On an average Sunday, 97% of London's population is not inside an evangelical church. That's why our City missionaries must go to the people. Door-to-door visiting is simply one means of going to the people where they are. Paul went to market-places and centres of education; he went to riversides and goverĀ­nors' palaces. He went where the people were and where he could speak to them. If possiĀ­ble, we go to workplaces, to schools, to streets and beaches to do open-air preaching. But we also go from door to door, because that is where the people are.

  1. Door-to-door visitation reflects the incarnationā†ā¤’šŸ”—

Many churches have tried such visiting and seem deĀ­pressed about it. This may be because they visit too many houses and only call on each house once in several years. By the time a second visit is made, the team members have changed and it's a case of starting from scratch again.

You can certainly do a one-off visitation, taking leafĀ­lets or literature to every home in your neighbourhood, or giving every resident an invitaĀ­tion to special meetings or regular activities. This can involve a high proportion of church members and requires little special preparation. But the "Door work" that I am advocating is a different kind. It can be called "District visiting", or "Regular Visiting". It involves getting to know people and building a friendship with them. In this, it reflects the incarnation. As the coming of Christ unfolded, the priest Zacharias said, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited us" (Luke 1:68). Jesus Christ "pitched his tent among us" (John 1:14). He entered our world, our humanity, our life. And the rationale of "Regular Visiting" is to be the same ā€” to get alongside people, to speak to them in their language, to share the experiences of their lives.

What does Regular Visiting involve in practice? The details may vary, but at its heart is a suitable visitor, going to a manageable number of homes, frequently enough to get to know and to be known. A typical volunĀ­teer visitor may be allocated about 30 homes and be asked to call at least once every 8 weeks. The visitors go as open ambassadors of the church ā€” a letter from the church might be used to introduce them the first time. They go as evanĀ­gelists, longing for opportuniĀ­ties to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. But they go as incarnational evangelists, not to ram a pre-packed message down people's throats. InĀ­stead, they will begin a procĀ­ess of getting to know the people, understanding where they stand (see Paul's study of Athens, Acts 17:16-23). As a result, they will hope to be able to tell of the love of God in a way that is intelligible to the people (cf. Acts 17:22-31). They will also be able to show the love of God in a way that is practical. This may involve anything from doing shopping for the housebound to helping recent immigrants to learn English.

Even if people at first show no interest, such Regular Visiting means that you will go back again and again, and one day they may be open to help, perhaps because of a family tragedy or some change in their lives. When you knock this time, they already recognise you. Such recognition and befriending can take a long time. We may be speaking of years, rather than months.

  1. Door-to-door visiting builds on the lessons of our historyā†ā¤’šŸ”—

In case anyone should regard this as farfetched and alien to our Free Church way of doing things, let me remind you of Thomas Chalmers and his ministry in the West Port district of Edinburgh soon after the Disruption of 1843. As his biographers put it, Chalmers was grieved that "the vast bulk of the working population had been allowed to sink into a profound abyss of ignorance and irreligion" and "yearned to see the organised religious resources of every branch of the Christian Church united in a coordinated attack on heathenism, destitution and ignorance." He divided the notorious West Port slums into 20 districts, of about 20 famiĀ­lies each. A visitor was apĀ­pointed, to visit once a week all the families in their district. They were instructed to win goodwill by distributing tracts, entering into conversation, praying and promoting spiritual welfare. Wash-rooms, a day school, evening classes, and a Sunday School were estabĀ­lished. After about six years there was a church with 400 members, and the school had 470 pupils attending.

Today, the outward sympĀ­toms of "heathenism, destituĀ­tion and ignorance" may have changed somewhat. But the root malaise remains. Why should it be thought strange to repeat Chalmers' great exĀ­periment?

  1. Door-to-door visitation exercises and challenges our spiritualityā†ā¤’šŸ”—

Harry Vallance has worked as a door-to-door evangelist with L. C. M. for over 30 years. One day a man opened his door with an axe in his hand. This turned out to be not a deterrent to evangelism, but evidence that the man (called John) was cold, poor and desperate. He was about to chop up a chair for firewood. With commendable generosity, Harry took the axe and chopped up some chairs in his Mission Hall instead! That was the start of six years of regular, weekly visiting. Only gradually did the contact develop, with Harry giving him a Bible and John coming to the Mission Hall once a month. But Harry had no clear idea of what was happening until the last week of John's life, when he indicated his trust in Jesus.

Such a story indicates the need for wisdom, patience and strong faith in those who do regular visiting. While the ultimate aim of the work is "to see people converted", it is wise to recognise that this is the Holy Spirit's work, not ours. "To get people to church" is also a good aim, but we must not underestimate the enormity of the cultural step that is required for the average unbeĀ­liever to fit into our church life, even if the church takes seriĀ­ously Paul's cultural flexibility (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). A good, wise aim as we go out visiting is simply "to make contact with people". That is something that, by God's grace, we can do. It is a start ā€” initiatĀ­ing a patient work of sowing the seed.

Regular visiting gives people the opportunity to raise their doubts and objections, so that, like Paul, visitors can "reason with them", "persuadĀ­ing them". Personal contact and friendship can overcome prejudices. Love in action adds a powerful dimension to the truth that is proclaimed. Are our churches ready to engage in this work? Do we have the members who are mature enough as Christians and human beings to go each month to the homes in our villages, towns and cities? Do we have the necessary faith in the truth of the Gospel, the necessary hope in the promises of God, and (above all) the necessary love for those outside?

Perhaps there is some other, better way of going to our fellow-citizens. But until we find one, door-to-door visiting is worth trying.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.