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Door-to-Door Evangelism Facts
Fact: Flavil Yeakly, Jr. reported in a 1980 to 1995 report that while U.S. population grew 17% the church grew 1.7%. Oklahoma had the largest decline of church members, Missouri had the largest decline of congregations and Tennessee had the largest decline of adherents (Members, children, and visitors). (Evangelism and Church Growth, Clayton Pepper, Vol. 2, No. 4; August, 1999; Clayton Pepper Center for Church Growth)
Fact: Jehovahís Witness numbers in the U.S. have increased from 565,309 in 1980 (1981 Yearbook of Jehovahís Witnesses) to 988,469 in 2000 and number over 6,000,000 worldwide (ibid., 2000).
Fact: The Mormon Church has grown from two million in 1963 (about the number of members of the churches of Christ) to three million in 1971, four million in 1978 and now about 11 million with over 5 million in the United States. During this time the numbers in the churches of Christ have remained essentially the same.
Fact: Recent Mormon Church statistics show that they knock 1000 doors before they typically set up ONE study. (Mormon newsletter for missionaries shown to James Palmer of We Care Ministries by a Mormon Elder)
Fact: We Care Ministries under the direction of Whiteís Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, LA has found that on average, during their campaigns, someone is found home for every six doors knocked. A study is set up for every three doors where someone is found home. When studies are set up, one-half of these studies result in a baptism into Christ. This means that on average a conversion is made, a soul is saved for every 36 doors that are knocked on in We Care Campaigns.
The ratio of doors knocked to studies set up for We Care Ministries (one out of 18) compared1 to that of Mormons (one out of 1000) is striking. What we should see as embarrassing however, is the fact that in spite of their relatively unfruitful door-to-door evangelism, the Mormon Church is one of the fastest growing religious bodies in the U.S. today while churches of Christ have had essentially zero growth in the U.S. for many years. Mormon numbers have more than doubled in just over 20 years; Jehovahís Witness numbers have increased 75% in the U.S. in the last 20 years. To what do the Mormons attribute their growth? Door-to-door evangelism. To what do the Jehovahís Witnesses attribute their growth? Door-to-door evangelism.
Fact: Door-to-door evangelism works in the Memphis/Bartlett area. According to the web site for Central North Church which is located at 5955 Yale Rd, in May of 1982, "John Latimer felt the Lord tugging on his heart and telling him to start an independent, Bible-believing church for Christians living in outlying suburbs north of Memphis, Tennessee." (http://centralnorthchurch.org/history.htm). It goes on to say that he "was then pastor of Oaklawn Baptist Church near Shelby Forest. He approached several members of Oaklawn and the successful Central Church, which had recently relocated from East Memphis to a larger facility on Winchester Road in southeast Shelby County, with the idea of starting a nondenominational church closer to their homes in Bartlett, TN. They felt that he was right on target. As a result, some 35 Christians began meeting in one another's homes for worship. Just three weeks later they rented a storefront in Raleigh Oaks Plaza Shopping Center at Austin Peay and Yale Rd." "Just six months later attendance had grown to 130 people after the church had hosted a successful revival, and members had knocked on the doors of 7,000 residents." It goes on to say that by July of 1992 the church had grown to a membership of 1500.
There has been a lie going around in churches of Christ for the last 20+ years, undoubtedly promoted by Satan, saying that door-to-door evangelism doesnít work. Brothers and sisters, these facts donít lie. They are undeniable. We should be ashamed!
I have actually had it suggested to me, even stated flatly by leaders of some congregations, that they donít want a lot of new babes in Christ. They donít think the church can nurture an influx of new Christians properly. In other words, effective evangelism would be a bad thing! When I hear this, I wonder if they would have asked Peter not to get carried away in his first sermon. How could only a handful of Christians handle an influx of 3000?
Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20). The disciples were commanded to "make disciples . . . baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything . . ." Surely, those who were taught to obey everything the disciples were commanded to do were taught to teach others. Each of these who were taught by the disciples in turn made disciples, baptized them into Christ, and taught them to do likewise wherever and to whomever they could. This command is therefore undoubtedly passed onto us as individual Christians. A common misconception about evangelism seems to be that only certain people are gifted to be evangelists. Most Christians would agree that there are certain members of the church who have the gift of giving, but I know of no one who would say that other Christians are free from any need to obey God's commands in this matter (2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) just because others may be better equipped to do so. Evangelism is much the same. Some may be more gifted in this matter than others, but does that mean the rest of us should feel free to ignore God's commands in this matter (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16)? One thing I have discovered over the last several years is that regardless of what gifts you think you may have, as long as you have the love of Christ in you, including a love for your neighbors (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8) and a desire to share the Gospel of Christ, you can effectively do so. I speak from experience when I say that being shy by nature and/or being a poor speaker will not keep you from being effective in sharing the Gospel as long as you have love and a desire reach the lost. However, you may need some training on what works best. For many years I desired to be an effective personal evangelist, but saw no fruit from my efforts. Over time I learned what really works and God has blessed me with the joy of seeing many people turn to Christ after sharing the Gospel with them during the last two years.
Going from door to door proclaiming the gospel follows the example set by Paul in Acts 20:20 where he says that he did not hesitate "to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house." A similar statement is made that the rest of the apostles also did this in Acts 5:41-42. Many believe that Paul is saying that he was merely preaching in house churches. There is no question that this is where Christians were meeting together (see Acts 2:46) and the same Greek phrase is even used to describe their gathering. Acts 20:20 can be found frequently quoted as a proof text, without comment, for both small group ministry in homes and for door-to-door evangelism. The context should be helpful here. In Acts 20:21, Paul goes on to say that in doing this (house to house teaching) he "declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus." This clearly indicates that he was carrying out a ministry to nonbelievers. However, I would not by any means say that this was to the exclusion of teaching in house churches, either.
Many times I have read statistics and heard them quoted as saying that statistics show that in the churches of Christ most people become members after coming into contact with other members and becoming friends with them and therefore "friendship evangelism" is the most effective way of reaching the lost. I am a great proponent of statistics . . . properly used, as my above research shows. I do not argue with the validity of the statistic at all. What I do state, without reservation, is that THE CONCLUSION IS NOT SUPPORTED BY FACTS!
Causality. I don't think anything has caused as much mischief in research and applied statistics as unclear thinking about causality. Assessing causality is the raison d'Ítre of most statistical analysis, yet its subtleties escape many statistical consumers. --Pitfalls of Data Analysis, Clay Helberg, M.S.; http://my.execpc.com/~helberg/pitfalls/
To conclude that "friendship evangelism" is the most effective method of evangelism because most current members became members that way is like concluding that communism is the best form of government for Christians in China because most current members of the church became Christians under a communist regime. The actual effectiveness of friendship evangelism alone compared to the use of words to explicitly proclaim the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to our neighbors can readily be seen from the numerous statistics cited above. On the other hand, I am a great proponent of friendship evangelism. I believe it should always be practiced and that it is Scriptural (see 1 Peter 2:12), but not to the exclusion of methods that are statistically proven to be more effective. Friendship evangelism is something that can be practiced if no other method is prudent. It can also be used in conjunction with other methods. In fact, door-to-door evangelism for one, is essentially useless without it, but this in no way makes friendship evangelism the most effective method, just the most universally applicable.
Small group ministry is the latest evangelism trend. At Sycamore View (Memphis, TN) we have small groups of many kinds in place. Small group ministry can be a powerful tool. Small groups are wonderful. I am a member of multiple small groups at some level at Sycamore View and I love each one. Some people seem to believe that if you have a small group it is going to automatically be evangelistic. Unfortunately, this has not been proven to be true. Ideally, a small group would be evangelistic. However, small groups essentially run into the same basic problem being evangelistic as individual Christians do. They donít know how to share the gospel, unless they become equipped to do so! However, small groups are perfect environments for nurturing new Christians. We are already perfectly equipped to handle the fruits of door-to-door evangelism. Now we just need to equip interested members to go out because the fields truly "are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35).