How did you come to faith? At some point in everyone’s testimony, we were invited. The invite may have been from a friend to go along to a church service, special event or maybe a parent and toddlers group. Some of us were “invited” (in the loosest sense of the word) to go along with our parents to Church. For others, the invite was to ask questions, take a Gospel, look at the Bible 1-1.
The point is, that somewhere along the line, somebody took the trouble to invite us to consider the good news about Jesus. Now for many (maybe most) of us that person was a friend or family member. That’s why friendship evangelism plays such a predominant part in our Gospel witness.
But given that the vast majority of people in our neighbourhoods don’t have Christian friend or family, how will they hear the good news. At some point, we are going to engage in, for want of a better phrase, cold contact evangelism.
I find it really encouraging to hear testimonies from people who came to Christ after a “cold contact invitation.” For example
A student at University who was invited along to a Christian Union event
A young mum beginning to think about Christian faith when people from her local church visited with an invite to an Alpha course
A school girl given an invite to a Gospel concert by one of the other girls who used to sell the school newsletter.
A lady who had not been in church for many years being visited by the local vicar and invited to join the church choir.
In two of those cases, the invite came from door to door contact. And that’s ironic because door to door is deeply unfashionable these days. It’s considered a little outdated in the internet age and treated with a little suspicion. I think the suspicion comes from
– Bad experiences we have had of doing door to door work -maybe there was lot of pressure to get results and disappointment resulted. Maybe some responses were hostile.
– Association with cults
– Belief that people regard callers as a nuisance. Maybe we do too.
I’ve had those thoughts and experiences too in the past. However, over the years I’ve generally and increasingly found that door to door evangelism can be a very positive way of making contact with people.
Here are some tips.
1. People who definitely don’t want a cold call visit tend to make it very obvious. Watch out for stickers in their doors/windows explaining this.
2. Many people feel isolated and lonely. They appreciate a friendly face visiting
3. Have clear expectations – the aim is to simply make contact. Don’t try to get into a debate, don’t expect immediate results and don’t be disappointed if people don’t immediately come to church.
Some approaches we’ve found helpful include
1. Produce a church newsletter. The newsletter can include information about church activities plus a short gospel article. When you knock the door, explain that you are visiting from the local church with the newsletter. Whilst you sometimes post the newsletter, it’s sometimes nice to give this in person
2. Take around copies of a Gospel or a good quality gospel booklet (not a tract). Explain that you are giving a copy free to each household in the community and that this is their free copy.
3. Visit in conjunction with a special event such as Christmas/Easter services, family fun day, arts day, Christianity Explored or Rooted course. Take around invites and say that you wanted to visit and invite them personally.
Be observant. You will learn to get a feel for whether the person is just responding politely but wants to keep the conversation short or whether or not they might want to talk further. Look out for clues. Do they have children? Are they older? Point them to the part of the newsletter with information about activities that might be of special interest to them. You may want to ask a gentle question “Do you know where we are?” “Have you lived here long?” “Have you ever been to church?” “Do you ever think about God …the meaning to life…. Etc?” Take time to listen. Respond to the direction they take the conversation. It may just be a chat about the weather, football, what’s happening locally but you are building up a relationship.
I find the benefits are as follows.
1. It helps you to build up links in the community. Although we don’t expect an instant response, people are more aware of the church and this can be helpful when they do start to think about life, encounter problems or consider attending an event.
2. The benefit is as much for me/us. By getting out and about in the community I get to see what is really happening and meet people where they live. I’m more aware of the people living in my community, their concerns, needs, hopes and fears. This encourages me to love them more and to pray for them.