It’s easy to string together a lengthy list of reasons why not to go door-to-door, in some form of evangelistic effort. But, we could also list reasons why most of the lost who hear us preach publicly, who read newspaper articles we publish, who receive tracts we offer, etc. will not be receptive to our efforts. Instead of abandoning these efforts to teach, we usually try to adjust our efforts in these areas in a way that will maximize the potential for good, then we maximize our efforts in those areas, and leave the rest to God (Isa. 55:11). All of us would probably admit that “door-knocking” is not the most productive means of evangelism. Talking with one’s friends, relatives, work associates, etc. (those with whom one has already established a relationship of some kind) is undoubtedly a more fruitful field than door-to-door work. However, door-to-door work is just another, among several, ways to reach out to the community with the gospel. Too many of us seem content to limit all of our preaching to within the walls of the church building and then wonder why we are not reaching the lost in our neighborhoods. If preaching to ourselves is not effectively reaching the community, perhaps you might consider some alternative approaches, including door-to-door evangelism.
Is it possible that there is still good reason for “door knocking” to have a place in our evangelistic efforts? There are many good “methods” of door-knocking, each having its own purpose, advantages, and disadvantages. Some brethren have mapped out the local community, breaking it down into sections so that over time, every house in the area has had a Christian knock on their door and extend a spiritually-helping hand. In this article, I’m going to focus on another method of door-knocking: simply covering the homes in your neighborhood.
What other passage is needed to convict us of the need to do something to teach the lost beside Matthew 7:12? For the sake of space and time, I’ll not review other Scriptures relating to “why” we must be involved in evangelism. Rather, I want to consider some biblical principles and practical suggestions relating to “door-to-door” evangelism.
1. Use common ground to “break the ice.” Jesus used something as simple as a water well as an “ice-breaker” to speak to the Samaritan woman of spiritual things (John 4). The fact that you live on the same street or within the same general neighborhood as others provides a natural opportunity to knock on their door, introduce yourself as a neighbor, and extend a simple invitation to study the Bible, in either a public or private setting. This opportunity is available to every Christian. What fits “common ground” more aptly than the fact that you live on “common ground”?
2. You have at least a small degree of credibility in your neighborhood. In Acts 21:40, when the crowd heard Paul speak in Hebrew, they gave him at least a few minutes of their attention. Because he seemed to be “one of them,” they were willing to listen to him for at least a moment, and Paul made good use of that short window of opportunity.
Similarly, when we can point to our house and people realize that we are a part of the neighborhood, they will usually give us at least a moment of their time—which is all you need to let them know of some spiritual effort you, or the local church, are involved in to which you are inviting them. You have far more credibility than do a pair of unknown, so-called “Elders” who come knocking on their door from time to time.
3. Establish a reputation. Due to the fact that our society has grown more “private” and less community-oriented, it is difficult to know much about your neighbors or for them to know much about you. What message does it send to your neighbors when at least twice a year, they receive a flyer “from that family down the street,” even if they don’t remember your name? Without being showy, you are letting your neighbors know that there is someone on their street who takes spiritual things seriously. This is a small way in which your light can shine before men (Matt. 5:16).
4. Cause your neighbors to consider spiritual things. In our rat-race society, how many households on your street give even a brief moment of thought to spiritual things? Even something simple like a flyer on their door or a two-minute conversation with you, in which you hand them an invitation, forces them to give thought (Rom. 1:28). Will they read the flyer or not? Will they think about the conversation or not? Your effort forces them to choose—something they would not have had to think about at all if you never come to their door.
If you believe that there is some good in trying to influence your neighbors in this way, here are some practical suggestions that can enhance the effectiveness of your efforts:
1. Write your name and address on the material you pass out. By doing this, people can know who and where you are if they have any questions or are interested in spiritual things (remember, their interest may not develop the day that you are on their doorstep).
2. Persistence makes an impression. Do not go to your neighbors’ doorstep thinking that your effort is a failure if they do not respond positively. Simply by making this effort, on a persistent basis (maybe twice a year) you are already accomplishing something—establishing a reputation in your neighborhood. Who knows what doors may be opened when your neighbors can expect some sort of spiritual invitation from you on a regular basis. A convenient time to do this is in conjunction with a gospel meeting at the congregation where you worship.
3. Include a bulletin, tract, or some sort of printed teaching material. If you are distributing invitations to a gospel meeting, then along with that flyer, include some sort of teaching material. If the congregation where you attend publishes a bulletin, select a bulletin that has a variety of articles–some of which your neighbor might agree with and some of which might prick an honest mind. Again, doing this forces people to make a decision (“Will I read this? Will I think about the topic of the article?” etc.). Such efforts will not return void (Isa. 55:11).
You may decide that door-knocking is not an effective way to redeem your time in spreading the gospel (Eph. 5:16). You are entitled to that opinion. My next question is—what are you doing with this time that you’re saving by not door-knocking? If you say that door-knocking is not a good use of the time it requires, but you are spending that same amount of time zoned-out watching television . . . soberly reconsider.
Surely, if door-knocking produced a huge number of conversions, then would you make time to be involved. If so, then you do have time to do this or some other work! Other articles in this series will suggest other ways that you can teach. With prayer and thought, decide what effort you can be most effective in and get to work! “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (John 4:35; Matt. 9:37).