‘. . .teaching you publicly and from house to house’
I know what many church pundits are saying, ‘Intentional, “drive by” evangelism does not work any more. People are too secular for this kind of thing. What we need to do is to develop relationships with people by joining a local workout facility, spend time with the people, and then eventually earn the right to tell them about Jesus.’ Of course we are to build relationships with people, and of course we should be good, kind neighbors who bring in our neighbor’s trash cans and mail when they are on vacation. But so-called friendship and intentional evangelism are not mutually exclusive. Why can’t we do both?
Besides, ask yourself this question–is that what you see in the ministry of the Lord Jesus and His apostles? Did Jesus or the apostles sit in Starbucks waiting for people to ask them questions about their faith? Even a cursory reading of the gospels and Acts makes clear that they were always moving, always engaging people in the gospel. Paul went to the local market and spoke daily to the people there in Athens. He told the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink from declaring to them anything profitable, that he was teaching them publicly and from house to house.
So, every church, every pastor ought to have a plan to visit regularly and systematically every household within a two to three mile radius of the church building. Here’s what I am after–a church setting aside two hours per week to go door to door and seek to engage people with the gospel.
But you may object, ‘I am a busy pastor or elder. I don’t have the time.’ Answer: make the time. You do want to have an apostolic ministry don’t you? Then do what the apostles did.
You may further object, ‘People in my community are hard hearted, affluent, and secular. I will never get a hearing from them by knocking on their door. They will simply dismiss me as a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon.’ Answer: who cares what people think? Besides, the model is Jesus sending out the seventy in Luke 10, telling them to look for people of peace, people who are willing to receive them into their homes. When I work with churches which ask me to help them with their evangelism, I always stress door to door evangelism. I say, ‘When we go out today we are looking for the one out of ten, one out of one hundred who are open to hear about Jesus.’ We know that the Holy Spirit must open people up to the gospel, that left to their own devices they are not buying what we are selling. But we have prayed, asking God to lead us to people who are open. And without fail, I always find at least one good contact from each session of door to door witnessing.
Jeb Blount, in his book Fanatical Prospecting, is speaking to salesmen of all kinds, and he tells them that they must make cold calls every day. He says that nobody wants to do this, that he himself hates doing it, but it still is the most effective way to get prospects into one’s pipeline. Every salesman has quarterly or yearly sales numbers he is expected to reach. To be successful he must work daily to get potential sales prospects. Why? Because it takes a long time to complete a sale. If the salesman has no one in his pipeline, then he will not sell anything and his family will starve. If he waits to the last week of the quarter or year to make contacts, then he is in big trouble. There is not enough time or prospects to make the necessary sales. Why is evangelism any different? Let’s not over spiritualize this.
Here’s my challenge–give two hours per week to go into the surrounding community of your church and knock on doors. Take no more than two other people with you. At least one needs to be a woman. Two or three men at one’s door makes many people very nervous. Map the streets, keep meticulous records and go. What do you say?
There are two approaches which I like. First, introduce yourself and those with you, telling them your church’s name and location. You can say, ‘We are seeking to get to know more people in our community and we would like to invite you to our church next Sunday. May I give you some information about our church? We hope you will visit us soon. By the way, is there anything we can pray for you about today?’ If the person says yes, then write down the request and offer to pray a very short prayer at their door. If no one is home, then leave a flier about your church at the front door, and keep moving. If people are rude or will not engage with you, don’t worry about it. Don’t be discouraged. Remember, you are looking for the one out ten, the one out of a hundred. Or two, you can say, ‘Our church is very interested in serving our community and we are interested in knowing people’s spiritual or religious interests. Would you please help us out by giving three minutes to answer five questions? (See the questionnaire at the bottom of the page) If the person shows interest in knowing more about Jesus Christ, then you can go back again, or follow up with a call or text message. Or if the person calls on the name of the Lord to save him, then you can tell him that he is a hopeful convert, that only time will tell if he is truly born again, that the evidence for new life is a hunger for God’s word, a desire to assemble in public worship, a changed life of forsaking sin and growing in holiness, etc.
Think about it–if a church spent only two hours per week and found one person of peace each week, then by the end of the year the church may have forty or fifty ‘gospel prospects’ in their pipeline. And then the various gifts of the church could work together to minister to the various people. Mercy ministry needs may be identified. For example, your church may find a family in temporary financial duress, or be able to encourage a father with job training, or be able to help a single mom once a week with her children as she works. Certainly the new convert will need discipleship training. Teachers in the church could begin a Bible study in the home with the family, encouraging the folks to invite their neighbors. The possibilities are endless. Eventually, some of these in the pipeline will become Christians. Some may even join your church, but even if they join another church, at least you are doing your part to build the church universal. At the very least, the entire culture of your church will change. You will have an outward focus. Your people will be more engaged with the needs of others and less preoccupied with themselves and that’s a good thing.
A Little Practical Help
Below are the five questions I find very helpful. The plan is to use these questions as a transition into the gospel.
Hi, my name is ___ and we are from ___ Church here in ___. We worship on Sundays at ___ a.m. We invite you to attend at your convenience.
We are out in the community today seeking to get a better feel for people’s spiritual thinking and opinions. May we have two minutes to ask you five questions? May I ask your name? ___
- According to USA Today and CNN there has been in America a marked rise in the last ten years in people’s spiritual interest. Would you say you are more interested in spiritual matters today than you were one year ago?
[For those who live in the UK, according to the BBC and the Office for National Statistics, there has been a decline in the religious interest of the nation but according to the Guardian, a rise of interest in ‘alternate spirituality’. You could ask if they have found this in their own lives and why they think that things are moving this way. Why do they think that interest in religion is in decline but interest in spirituality is not?]
- Do you believe in the existence of a supernatural being or God who watches over this planet and takes an interest in our personal lives?
- Do you have a spiritual meeting place-like a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple which you attend?
- I hope you live a long and productive life, but let’s face it, we could die tomorrow, couldn’t we? If you died tomorrow, what do you think would happen to you? Where would you go?
- If you did die tomorrow and you stood before God, and He said, “___, why should I let you into My heaven? What do you think you would say?
If the person gave a ‘works oriented’ answer to the fifth question, then say, ‘Most people I speak with answer that last question the same way you did, and I surely did too a number of years ago, but if you wish I can take a few more minutes and tell you what Jesus would say? In John 6:47 He says, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”‘ If she/he says ‘Okay, go ahead,’ then proceed into the gospel. If he/she says no, then offer the person a tract and thank him/her for the time.