By Webb Harris, Jr.
I am in no wise an expert on the field of door-to-door evangelism. No doubt, some who will read this article were knocking doors many years before I was born. However, I feel that I have some invaluable information to impart to any and all who are seeking effective ways to take the gospel of Christ into their community.
The practice of knocking doors is an oft-maligned art. Many brethren are convinced that the only fruits door-knocking will ever bear are slamming doors and sore feet. Who hasn’t been exposed to the horror stories of cruel and unusual persecution inflicted on personal-workers who roused the neighborhood atheist from his afternoon nap? “We shouldn’t bother folks,” “it doesn’t work,” and “we tried it once without success” are familiar Phrases. Question: Is door,-to-door evangelism really a waste of time?
Here is a parable: When Jim-Bob was a little boy, he plucked an unripe orange from a tree, bit into it without peeling it and wore a grimace until bedtime. He wondered how anybody could cat an orange. He marveled that people actually send whole crates to their northern relatives as gifts. He promised himself that he would never touch another orange so long as he lived. Today Jim-Bob is 58 years old and still insists that oranges are the most wretched fruit found south of the Yukon. Can you diagnose Jim-Bob’s problem? He ate the orange incorrectly and blamed the orange! Accordingly, it is not impossible that some brethren who have knocked doors in the past to no avail, have knocked “incorrectly.”
Knocking On Doors In Umatilla
I am convinced that door-to-door work is far from a “waste of time.” Quite to the contrary, I believe it is a highly effective way of finding honest and sincere hearts in our cities. Brethren, even if you knocked for five years without one response, you would have accomplished much. You would have been fulfilling the great commission of Mark 16 “go” and “preach.” While many of us are calling to the world to “come” and “hem,” door-knockers are busy going and preaching. Likewise, you would be building a reputation of militance and unashamedness for the church of Christ in your community. People remember who knocks on their door! And remember, that is what would be accomplished even if you never set up one Bible-study.
We have tested door-knocking in Umatilla. About five Christians get together twice a month to go out into the community to knock doors. None of these saints has had any experience whatsoever with door-to-door speaking. But they have committed themselves to do it, and to do it right.
Brethren, we hadn’t been knocking doors for two months before we were invited to show the Jule Miller filmstrips to the Thursday evening gathering of the Church of God in town. We’d knocked on the door of one of the “deacons.”
On one occasion we set up four home-studies in 45 minutes. On another outing a middle-aged couple invited us to study with them one evening per week. In a month’s time, we baptized the wife. Three months after that, we baptized the husband. Both remain faithful and are budding personal workers. On yet another occasion a family of Pentecostals, who were just starting their own “church” in town, asked us to show the aforementioned filmstrips to their. group. These studies are underway right now. And, believe it or not, we have not yet had to cope with our first slammed door.
Having heard nothing but disdain for door-knocking for as long as I can remember, I never cease to be bowled over by the wonderful responses we are met with. Friends, God blesses His children’s efforts to share the truth.
There are four very important things that I have learned in my door-knocking efforts that I would share with anyone who is contemplating such work. Again, I do not claim to be an expert, but I write from my personal experiences.
(1) Two is enough. Sometimes a preacher wants to start knocking doors, so he asks for all interested members to meet at the building at 11:00 Saturday morning. That morning only two show up. And instead of going out into the community with the tiny number they have, they conclude that there isn’t enough interest on the part of the brethren to keep up the “program.”
Brethren, don’t expect 9/10 of the church to be enthusiastic about door-to-door work. Most people think it’s a waste of time! If only two members are interested, then two will have to be enough. With God’s blessing, you’ll soon make believers out of more members.
(2) You must get inside peoples’ houses. When I write about door-knocking, I am not writing about leaving tracts on the door-mats of the community. I believe that is to blame for much of our disenchantment. We’ve hung tracts and meeting announcements on door-knobs for years, with no response. And then we cry that people aren’t interested in the truth. Come on, brethren! That which I find on my door is usually read flippantly and then disposed of; and I am not about to accuse my neighbor of apathy and/or worldliness when he does the same.
We have got to get inside peoples’ houses. We’ve got to sit down with them at the kitchen table. We’ve got to talk with them in the living room. It’s impossible to preach an effective sermon to a nose sticking out through a crack in the front door. Get inside! But how do we get inside? Read on.
(3) You do not need a spiel, you have the gospel. Somewhere along the line we -got the idea that we had to have a “sales-pitch” to get people to listen to us. We memorize speeches and spiels and then fire away as soon as the door opens. Do you know what the fellow at the door thinks? He thinks you’re selling something. And he’s not interested.
Friend, get yourself the first lesson of a Bible correspondence course, or the Jule Miller filmstrip brochure, or a printed invitation to services, or what have you. Take along your pocket New Testament. Ask God’s blessing and go knock doors. You’re not a high-pressure encyclopedia salesman, you’re a Christian concerned about souls and looking for an honest heart. When someone opens the door, tell them who you are and where you’re from and ask them if you can come in and talk with them about the course, the filmstrips, etc. Ask them if and where they go to church and how often they study their Bible. And listen to them! They are tired of the Watchtower’s Witnesses, who come to their doors and treat them like utter imbeciles.
(4) Lower-income families and minority groups are most receptive. The less affluent and white the area, the more receptive and friendly the people seem to be. I always assumed that blacks would be a little hostile to a couple of white door-knockers in their community. How wrong they’ve proven me to be! Brethren, I don’t ask them if I can “come in”; they tell me to “come in” before I can open my mouth. Mark 12:37 says, “and the common people heard Him gladly.” Jesus said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matt. 11:25). It is frightening that the Lord’s church can exist in a town for 50 years and neglect an entire section of the populace (blacks, hispanics, the poor, etc.); and all the while, that neglected portion would be the most receptive of all!
Undoubtedly, there are many other things that can be written and points that can be made on this topic. I am interested in the thoughts and experiences of others and am eager to learn more effective ways of taking the good news door-to-door. If you have helpful comments, submit an article. If you are moved to try this type of work, write me about your efforts. We are fellow-workers in the kingdom of God.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 3, pp. 76-77
February 6, 1986