Doing Evangelism Differently

I live in a small subdivision in the suburbs. In an effort to stay informed and communicate with one another, our community has a Facebook group. Three times in the past three months there have been posts on our Facebook page about strange people going through our neighborhood. In each case words like “beware” or “heads up” were used to alert us to the danger of these people, letting us know how they were dressed and that they were carrying books that looked like Bibles, and that they were probably “religious.”

 No Soliciting
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight

In the last of these instances, earlier this week, my neighbor politely asked them to leave because our neighborhood has a sign clearly posted at the entrance that says “No Soliciting.” The visitors were, by my neighbor’s account, very rude to him. It turns out that these visitors were Jehovah’s Witnesses canvassing our neighborhood with invitations for an upcoming event.

I have taken away a couple of lessons from these neighborhood experiences. First, my neighbors are very suspicious of anyone going door to door. Security and privacy are concerns for my neighbors, which explains the “no soliciting” rule. There have been many burglaries in the area so safety is important. Honestly, though, some just don’t want to be bothered by uninvited guests to their homes.

Second, my neighbors don’t differentiate between groups. The evangelical Christian, the Mormon, and the Jehovah’s Witness are all “religious” people. They are all met with skepticism and suspicion if they come knocking on doors, uninvited. Furthermore, they see it as hypocritical for anyone who is “religious” to knock on their doors, thereby violating our rule against solicitation. I understand that technically Christians aren’t soliciting when they go door-to-door, but in the eyes of many people they are just selling something like the vacuum salesman.

I told this story to a group of pastors in our state recently and was reminded by one of them that not every neighborhood was like mine and some in his community still welcomed the door-to-door visitor. I suppose he could be right, but I am convinced my type of neighborhood is in the growing majority. Those of us who have a heart for God and for the people who need to know the hope that is in Jesus Christ better understand our context. We don’t need to stop going and telling, but we better pay attention to how we are perceived and received.

Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about my neighbors: They do not mind talking about faith, religion, and the Bible. In fact, most of them have lots of opinions and lots of questions they don’t mind sharing. They just don’t want to share them with strangers. Maybe it’s not the message that is offensive as much as our methods.

 

  • Heath Lloyd

    Thanks Brian. The title of your post makes me think “why do we think going door-to-door, uninvited to wary neighbors is the way to do evangelism?” You are right — most people do not like people at their door, unannounced, uninvited. We have to think differently; perhaps build a relationship with our neighbors.

    • BrianUpshaw

      Great point, Heath. I like your title!

  • Roger Shuford

    I appreciate and agree with your train of thought, but I hear some that say something like, “I’ve lived here for 20 years and nobody from that church has ever even knocked on my door.” As a pastor, I make it a personal goal to personally knock on every door on every street that connects with our church within a half mile. I’m generally recieved well, but have not had anyone visit the church from my cold door visits.