Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is door-to-door evangelism still effective?

Ed Stetzer has released some new research on how unchurched people feel about door-to-door evangelism in the 21st century. The results might surprise you.

After showing the chart, Stetzer writes,

These stats tell an important story--many people are open to an invitation to your church and some are open to hearing about heaven. Even 40 percent of the most unchurched are open to an invitation to your church, which is something that the whole church can do-- something that's much less scary for the typical believer and takes less training. It is helpful to know that many people are open to a church event invitation where, perhaps, they can hear the gospel in an understandable way. Imagine how many more houses your church group could visit if every person could be convinced to make one visit and one simple invitation.

But this method still has its shortcomings:

The fact remains the unchurched are far less interested in being invited to church by someone they don't know knocking on their door. Only 39 percent of those surveyed who attend church rarely, on holidays, or never would be okay with someone coming to their door and inviting them to church, according to the survey. The numbers are consistently worse when asked about "counseling" for "heaven," or what we would call personal witnessing. In other words, the very people we say we want to get into our churches the most are the people least likely to be impacted by one of our favorite outreach strategies.

While door-to-door evangelism may have its place, our most effective strategy for evangelism is still to build personal relationships with unbelievers, to repeatedly sow and water the gospel into their lives, and to pray for God to bring them to repentance and a saving knowledge of the truth.

On a personal note, I can remember a few years ago being part of a team that canvassed a whole neighborhood and passed out over a thousand flyers inviting them to a 6-week Christianity Explained Bible Study at a home in their area. Not a single person responded. Perhaps this was due to a couple reasons: (1) it was in a very upscale part of Valencia, California, where people love their privacy and have little time for religion. (2) the length of the study and sense of commitment involved may have put some people off.

Our church is currently targeting an area in our neighborhood to focus our prayer and outreach over the next year, and we do plan to designate some days for door-to-door outreach. Stetzer's research confirms there is still value in this method. It may not work for everyone, but it is still one of the best ways of reaching people who live close to the church, and who we would otherwise never meet personally.


Monique said...

I have been offended my Mormons and JW's who come to our door or stop me on a nice walk with my children. Though I use the opportunity to share the real gospel with them, I still am annoyed that they are bothering me. I actually see it as being rude. It is a very uncomfortable feeling for me... not only because they are false teachers but usually because I'm caught off guard and/or its not good timing for me. I personally never want to be the one imposing on a non-believer in that way. On the other hand I certainly try to talk with people I come in contact with should the doors of communication be opened.

Just my opinion. Hope you don't mind! :) Maybe I feel this way because I'm a California native! Ha! In other states, if a neighbor brings you tasty treats you say thank you and enjoy them. Here in Ca. we say thank you and when they leave throw them away because they might have put something bad in them! Can you tell I grew up in the ghetto! Ha! Sorry for the long comment and rabbit trail! :)

Stephen Jones said...

Monique, thanks for the comment. I really appreciate your input on these kinds of issues. I think your sentiments are shared by many.

Just curious, how would you feel if a stranger came to the door and...

1) said their church would like to pray for you?

2) Or, gave you a flyer and said they would like to invite you to an upcoming service/event?

Would these also make you uncomfortable? Just curious.

Monique said...

Let see well, 1)I would most likely wonder why they chose me to pray for (did I look funny,etc.) and also when they say "the church" would that mean the whole congregation would know about me? As a believer I totally understand the power of prayer and love when other believers who I do not know pray for me. That is such a blessing but putting myself in a non-believers shoes I would say yes, it would make me uncomfortable. I would find it a little awkward. 2) No I would not be uncomfortable if given a flier/invite to attend something at the church, if it was in the mail... if it was done in person I would feel uncomfortable because I would need to respond. You see, if it were in the mail, I could read it and think about it without ever having to feel the in your presence pressure. This is me thinking like a non-believer. Some non-believers may actually think differently. They may like the fact that this church invited them face to face but people with my personality would not. I suppose as a believer I'd be fine with all of it if it was coming from a church that I new preached God's word truthfully.

I know that your church would do a fantastic job at door-to-door evangelism but many do not and so I'm a little leery of it all.

Stephen Jones said...

Those are some very helpful thoughts. I had assumed face-to-face contact would be far superior to an impersonal invitation in the mailbox, but I see your point.

I like your desire to "put yourself in an unbelievers shoes." That's really important as we seek to love our neighbor and bring the gospel to them in a way that is sensitive to their culture.

Phamilyof6 said...

This is a tremendous post! In light of the fact that part of my "job" as a missionary is evangelism, this really makes me think. It becomes much more complicated here in Peru (and all of Latin America) where the Mormons and especially the JW's do an amazing job canvasing, and we as Baptists (as well as all evangelicals) are lumped into the same group as the M's and JW's.

I absolutely agree that the witness and eventual invitation and possible sharing of the Gospel from a neighbor is by far the MOST effective way.

I too have thought how uncomfortable it would be to have someone come to my door and try to strike up a deep spiritual conversation. And that's coming from the mind of a missionary.

Thanks for the post!