Mike Oakes, Redcar, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
We have to recognize that we no longer live in a society where people go regularly to church. In our experience at Redcar, England, attendance at our weekly gospel service is on the decline. We do not have either a Sunday School or Children’s Meeting to teach the next generation the things of God. So how are we going to reach the local population with the gospel?
Some assemblies have re-arranged their Sunday programme, so that after the breaking of bread service they have a Family Service, and then a ministry meeting on a Sunday evening. This has worked well in some situations, but in others it has not made any real difference. Other assemblies now have their Gospel Service on the Sunday afternoon, but again the response from the local population has been very varied. Other ideas that are being tried include an informal Coffee Morning (see Precious Seed International, August 2013; Volume 68 / Number 3), and visits to retirement and care homes, as well as the regular distribution of tracts. Others have an open air witness during the summer months or school visitation, special evangelistic efforts, etc. This particular article concentrates on one method of taking the gospel to the general population – door-to-door visitation.
Why visit door-to-door?
It does fulfil in its own way the Lord’s command to take the gospel to every creature. If the gospel gives offence we should not be surprised.
It gives an insight into the way people in our neighbourhood think about spiritual matters, and this can help in the preaching of the gospel.
It gives an indication of who God might be talking to. We know that no man comes to the Saviour unless the Father draws him, John 6. 44, so we are visiting some with whom God might be dealing. It is through the scriptures that God draws people to the Saviour. The sinner hears the word, learns its meaning, and comes as the Father draws him.
Many of us dread Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc., ringing our door bell wanting to talk to us. They often have a Bible under their arm and literature which they would encourage us to take. We have perhaps seen them visiting houses a few doors away, and we anxiously wait knowing that our turn will soon be coming; we might even pretend not to be at home! If you feel like this you are not alone. Some, however, gladly embrace the opportunity to challenge them with the gospel.
But with the above in mind, of many not liking ‘religious people’ knocking on their doors, how are we, whom the Lord has commanded, ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’, going to approach people on their doorstep with the good news of a Saviour? We too may have a Bible with us, and literature to leave, so how can we avoid the same reaction to us as some might give to a visit from ‘religious people’? This article provides one method that has been used by the author on many occasions during the last thirty years.
The first step is to put a letter through the door a few days ahead of the planned visit. This letter, if possible, should be headed with the name of the assembly (ideally with a picture of the building which the recipients might recognize, even though they don’t know its name), give brief details of who is planning to call on them, stating that they wish to discuss some basic questions about Christianity. The approximate time of the visit should be stated, e.g., between 2:00 and 4:00 pm on the Sunday afternoon. We should carry a copy of the same letter with us, and show it to the resident. If they don’t want to talk to us that wish should be fully respected.
To start, state in the letter a number of questions that could be discussed, e.g.:
- Do you believe that there is a God?
- Why do you think the world is in such a mess?
- Do you think the Bible can help you in your everyday life?
- What is your opinion about Jesus Christ?
- What do you think the gospel is?
Not all the above subjects need to be raised, but each one gives a starter for discussion, and an opportunity to share our beliefs. The reader might think of other questions that could be raised and be more appropriate.
The point of the letter-posting is to avoid any deception about why we are visiting, and then, as opportunity allows, through the different suggested topics, share the gospel. It might be that the householder will want to ask other questions and talk about quite different subjects, and we should be pleased to have a go at answering their questions, or trying to get the answers.
At the conclusion of the visit, it would be good to offer an invitation to the gospel service (or coffee morning, etc.) and leave an appropriate tract. Whether the visit is successful or otherwise, it is worthwhile to try and finish up by saying something like, ‘Just remember, God loves us and sent His Son to die for us on the cross’. If we achieve that, then whatever has been discussed (or not) previously, we have left a basic gospel message. It is suggested a few notes be made of the meeting, and kept as a private record for reference at a future date.
The purpose of the above procedure is: (a) residents have been informed that we are calling; (b) they have had a few days to reflect upon the type of questions that we wish to discuss and; (c) if they don’t want to talk to us then they don’t have to.
I limit myself to visiting a maximum of twenty homes at a time, and usually on a Sunday because in England that is still seen as a ‘religious’ day. However, even that timing is not without its difficulties, because now people go shopping on a Sunday, and there is also, in the winter months, competition from watching sport on a Sunday afternoon. It is also the day ‘family’ might be visiting. If we are visiting senior citizen bungalows, then possibly another day would be equally appropriate, but do take into account that the elderly don’t always get up too early, and often have a nap in an afternoon. Late morning for them seems the best time.
Why only twenty homes? I find door-to-door work quite demanding. I never know what response I’m going to get. In spite of the precautions I’ve taken to let people know of the visit, perhaps half of them will not be in, or just don’t open the door. Of the remaining, half will not be interested, and we might finish up with just two fruitful discussions, i.e., an opportunity to answer queries and to share the gospel fully. There is a need to be alert to comments such as, ‘We were watching this nature programme on TV last night talking about how creatures have evolved’. The subject of evolution is one that is regularly brought up to justify people’s feelings that there is no God! Having had, say, up to twenty minutes of what might be difficult discussion with the householder, one could well feel a bit exhausted, and ready to call it a day and go home, and yet one might have to face some other tricky discussion at the next house. It can be difficult work, not knowing how each family will react to the visit!
Some general observations
Generally speaking, the vast majority of people are polite and friendly. They are not sure if there is a God, don’t know much about Jesus Christ, and are not familiar with the Bible. One needs to be gentle with such people, listen to what they say, and, as opportunity allows, share with them God’s love in sending the Saviour to save them from sin.
Today, in England, many people still do have some ‘religious’ background – they were sent to Sunday school, or children’s meetings, when they were young, but now don’t seem to have any beliefs. Some, who now never attend any place of worship, nevertheless seem to definitely think that there is a God because they believe He is looking after their mother, (for example), in heaven.
A number of elderly people pray, believe there is a God, but don’t know why Jesus came. Some state that their beliefs are private between them and God.
A very small number might make comments about the people who attend the Gospel Hall. One can also visit a whole estate of 150 houses, not only finding no Christians, but not even any church-goers.
In the north-east of England, those who do attend church are largely Church of England, Roman Catholics, or Methodists. Some Roman Catholics could know the gospel as well as ourselves, but regrettably add to it customs and practices that are not biblically based. Methodists often like to talk about Charles Wesley’s hymns, and discussion on a hymn such as, ‘And can it be’, gives a lot of opportunity to discuss the gospel.
If you would like to see a typical introductory letter, or discuss more fully this suggested method for ‘door-to-door’ work, then e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Mike with his wife Lillian, has been in fellowship at Redcar Gospel Hall, England, since 1969. They have two married children and six grandchildren. Mike is now retired, having spent his working life in the chemical industry.