We Christians like to speak of our churches as lighthouses. It’s not a bad metaphor, especially since it was more or less coined by Christ in Matthew 5:14. But a lighthouse has to be shining to be of any use. I know that this is the desire of every Christian, but the big question is, “How do we go about that?”
When the Lord Jesus sent out the twelve, Luke 9:6 says they went “through the towns, preaching the gospel.” Paul followed a similar pattern of engaging whole cities and areas so that he could say towards the end of his ministry, “From Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19).
Reaching every door
Today there simply isn’t a better way to systematically reach every neighbor in your community than door to door visiting. It can be a little daunting at first, but it gets easier with some practice. This ministry isn’t for everyone. Some believers are just too timid to try and that’s alright, there is still room for everyone on the team.
Of course you can go door to door with another believer any time, and this is a healthy practice if you want to reach the lost, do follow up and lead others in evangelism. But going out door to door as a group does at least three things for a local church:
- It encourages the believers by letting them know of people in their community they can pray for. Too often the only souls we ever pray for are those in foreign countries and our own families. Reminding the believers that there are needy souls within hundreds of feet of where they are sitting can transform their prayer lives.
- It provides a training ground for Christians in evangelism. Once a believer has had a few opportunities to talk to people they don’t know about the gospel, they will become more willing to witness to the people they see every day. Being involved in an evangelistic activity will transform the way they see people all around them, instead of grouping people into the world’s categories of “liberal” or “conservative.” They will start to see people as lost sinners in need of a Savior.
- It will build the church. People will get saved, you will disciple them and then they will come into fellowship in your assembly. This was what Christ promised when He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). This is what the Great Commission is all about. Some believers say door to door doesn’t work, but don’t tell that to my friend Henry. He was saved a couple of years ago when two sisters from Grace and Truth Christian Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Michigan knocked on his door.
Ways to get involved
A good way to get others in your assembly involved is to have a packet stuffing or tract folding activity after a meeting. You can also organize a lunch for those going door to door on a Saturday and invite some saints to come help prepare it. Having a prayer meeting going on while others are going out is another way to involve everyone, not to mention the Lord!
To state the painfully obvious, when planning it is important to be organized. Having an organization committee for this can be helpful. Have the materials and maps ready, the area you want to go to outlined on a master map and sections allocated to teams that can go to specific streets.
Once the teams know where they are to go, they will need some way to record the names and contact information of the people they speak to. A simple note pad and pen will do for this. Whoever is organizing should meet with everyone after the door to door time to record information and pray for the people they talked to. That information can then be used for a prayer list and follow up visits.
What do we talk about at the door?
It can be helpful to have an event to invite people to when going door to door, although this is not essential. A kids club, Bible study or special event at the church building like an ice cream social, community supper etc. will often be a good talking point to explain what you are all about and what you believe. One caution would be to make sure people know that you are not simply interested in getting more people in the doors of your building, but are actually interested in their spiritual well-being.
People at the door will often say “I go to XYZ church” or “I’m an XYZ denomination or religion.” I often put them at ease by replying, “We’re not about getting people into church. We want to get people into Heaven.”
Training is important
Having a training session before going door to door is also important. There will probably be some in your assembly that have experience in evangelism and others that have never done any. A good training session should include some practical tips about talking to people and allowing those with experience to share some of their stories. There also needs to be some clear discussion and teaching about the basics of the Gospel and how to communicate it.
Inviting an evangelist to come and lead one of these sessions is really helpful. They can help plan and participate in your first corporate door to door event. Chances are you probably know someone who would be able to do this in your general area.
My first door to door experience was when my home assembly, North West Gospel Hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan invited Warren Henderson, who lived a few states away, to come and lead a Saturday door to door excursion. After a lot more experience, I eventually started planning the activities with some of the elders and my friend Rob who is way more organized than I will ever be.
What if my elders say no?
Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten about this was that whenever I have an idea about outreach I should present it to the elders in such a way that I would assume full responsibility. It’s easy for Christians to have great ideas about what the elders should be doing. The elders often have to get used to saying “no” to people simply because they don’t have the time or energy to invest in one more activity.
I’m not saying elders don’t have a responsibility to be involved in evangelism, but that is often not their gift and their schedules are usually pretty packed. So when you go to present the door to door idea, make sure that you present it as something you want to take responsibility for and advice is welcome. Also make clear that any involvement from others in the assembly will be strictly optional.
Pray, Pray, Pray!
The secret to successful evangelism is prayer. If you read the biographies of any evangelist who has seen God move in the saving of souls, you will quickly notice that prayer was prominent in their ministry. We need to seek God’s help. After all, it is His message and His power that will save souls. Our job is simply to be faithful and unashamed in our presentation of the Gospel and rely solely on Him for the results (Romans 1:16).