Paul Gould in his thought-provoking book Cultural Apologetics describes how his journey to faith began in college with two students he didn’t know knocking on his dormitory door and asking if he had a minute to talk with them about “spiritual things”. In the course of the conversation, they shared the gospel, and then asked him, “What do you make of Jesus Christ?”
Though he had grown up in church and thought that Jesus was “fine and dandy”, religion was the farthest thing from his mind until those students knocked on his door. Though he didn’t cross the line of faith at that moment, Gould writes, “That episode stuck with me. There were two things that nagged me, like a stubborn pebble in my shoes. First, why were these guys so excited about something I had always thought irrelevant? Second, what if Christianity was true? I knew that something had shifted in my thoughts. I wasn’t yet a Christian, but I was considering things I had never considered before.”
His conversion came a bit later, after a friend invited him to attend an apologetics class at a nearby church, where he was “shocked at the cumulative case for Christianity.” Shortly afterwards, he gave his life to Christ. And where did it begin?
When two strangers came and knocked at his door.
If that hadn’t happened, then his thinking wouldn’t have been knocked off its comfortable axis, and if that hadn’t happened, he probably wouldn’t have been nearly as eager to attend that apologetics class, and nearly as receptive to its implications.
The next couple of Saturdays we’re going to give anyone who’s game to try, an opportunity for a couple hours to go and hand out invitation flyers. Door to door. To strangers.
The case against talking to strangers is clear enough.
- I don’t like strangers coming to my door, so why would I do it to someone else?
- It’s weird.
- I’m in to relationship evangelism. Not cold-calling on people.
- Culture discourages it. Maybe a generation ago, it was okay. Everyone had front porches, and waved at neighbors walking by, and door-to-door salesmen and milkmen, were a thing. Now everyone has a back deck. In other words, Vamoose. Leave me alone.
- I don’t want to be confused with a Jehovah Witness or Mormon. They’re probably one of the reasons why front porches disappeared.
But what about the case for talking to strangers.
Is it really weird? Delivery people come to our door all the time. Politicians and their supporters canvas their neighborhoods with flyers. I had a meat salesmen of all things come to my door the other day. We had a pleasant conversation. I didn’t wake up that morning thinking about meat, but he gave me pause to wonder if that might not be a good thing. If you believe in something, you’ll want to get the word out.
The JW’s and Mormons do annoy people with their scripted speels, their funny clothes, and not knowing when to walk away. But who says we have to act and dress and talk like that? Why can’t we just be normal? And respectful?
For the purposes of this outreach, we are simply inviting people to consider coming to check out Bridgeway. All we’re saying is something along these lines: “Hi, I’m from Bridgeway church. We’ve started meeting on Sundays down at the Holiday Inn. We’re out meeting some of our new neighbors, and we’re inviting anyone who doesn’t have a church family to come and join us during the holidays. Can I give you this flyer?”
If they say, “No,” well no harm, no foul. Smile and be on your way. If they say, “Sure,” and they want to talk further, then go where the conversation leads. Be yourself. Answer their questions. Be normal. No speels required.
But here’s the best part. And Paul Gould’s story makes the point. What if there’s someone out there who’s at a -1 right now, spiritually speaking (if you recall that ‘spectrum of faith’ we’ve talked about, where a -5 is a person who couldn’t be any further from Christ, but a -1 is right there peering in the doorway of the kingdom of God.)
Here’s a person who, for any number of reasons, is thinking seriously about spiritual things. Then lo and behold, you come along ringing the doorbell. You have a short, pleasant conversation with them. They take the flyer. Maybe they check out the website. Maybe they don’t come to church that Sunday, but a seed is planted and a month later, they work up the courage to pay us a visit, where they receive a warm, genuine welcome, then experience joy in the service, and encouragement from the message. And bit by bit, faith and love for Jesus Christ awakens in them.
Yet even if the person you meet is at a -5, and they’re annoyed with you, and they “reject you” (though they’re not really rejecting you), what if, as with Paul Gould, that becomes the moment where your visit gets in their craw. Then one thing leads to another, and months later, maybe even years, they also come and bow before Christ. Later on, when they tell a 1 Minute Story in their church, they’ll begin by saying, “I was just minding my own business one day, when an annoying person came to my door with a flyer in their hand.”
And where did all these things begin? With you knocking at their door. Wouldn’t you say that visit was worth it?
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. He’s latest book is “Living Under The Cross: A 40-Day Devotional Journey”, a series of devotionals based on the Beatitudes. His blogs and writing can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.