Many questions arise when you plan to go door-to-door to bring the gospel to a lost world. How do I begin? Where do I start? What should I say? What shouldn’t I say? The structure outlined below is one way to go about the business of the King as you navigate your neighborhoods in love for your neighbor.
Disclaimer: This is just a template for getting started. Door-to-door evangelism is like any other discipline—your skill will grow with experience.
While the ultimate success of each outing will be determined by the Lord, it is important to consider certain aspects of preparation before you begin. First, it is helpful to know the specific number of people who will attend. Knowing how many people are committed to each outing will help you determine how many houses that you can reach in an allotted time period. It also ensures that believers can be sent out in pairs or small groups. When sending his disciples to spread the news of the kingdom, Jesus did not send them out as individuals, but in twos (Luke 10:1). Accountability, protection, and more than one source of counsel are some of the benefits of this practice.
Second, it is important to have a definite location and plan. Ideally, believers should be sent to houses near the church or home. Once the location is determined, draw up maps with a definite number of homes so that every house in the area is reached.
Third, it is important to have informational handouts with details about your church. This information could be contained on a postcard, door hanger, brochure, etc. Ideally, this handout will also have a brief, but complete, summary of the gospel message in the event that they never come and visit your church. The reason a handout is so important is because door-to-door evangelism encounters people in the midst of their daily lives at home. There are countless things that they could be engaged in when you arrive, and they should not be punished for being busy with the real concerns of life. Having a handout allows you to leave important information with them regardless if they have a pressing need that requires their attention.
Finally, it is important to engage in prayer before heading out. Seeking the Holy Spirit’s aid in proclaiming the good news permeates every ministry of the word in the church. Door-to-door outreach should be no exception.
While the general structure below can be helpful in navigating the discussion towards the gospel, I cannot emphasize enough that each encounter requires wisdom. There is no formula for success. Some people will thank you. Others will ask questions. Some may chase you off their property. In everything, you need wisdom from God to navigate each encounter (Prov 2:1-8). I will emphasize again the wisdom of bringing another brother or sister along when it’s time to knock on the door.
Approaching the House
When you approach the house, there are a few general ground rules to follow. Respect their property. Don’t touch their cars. Stay off their grass. Use the designated path to get to their front door. Knock appropriately. Give them a generous period to respond without knocking again. Keep your eyes on the door. If windows allow you to see into the house, don’t look inside and stare at them. Don’t wave and motion them to the door. Courtesy in these small areas goes a long way to promote a pleasant encounter.
Navigating the Discussion
After much practice, I have found that door-to-door evangelism is much like being a salesman. You don’t have much time to engage them and let them know that your presence is important. Therefore, I recommend the following process:
- Introduction — Begin by introducing yourself. “Good morning! My name is Austin.” The person starting the encounter should also introduce the others who are there. Remember, you have limited time to grab their attention. Allowing everyone in your group to introduce themselves could kill the momentum and derail an encounter before it begins.
- Orientation — After you give your name, the best way to communicate that your presence is relevant to their life is by explaining your connection to their community. “Good morning! My name is Austin, and this is Derek. We are members of the local church on Miller and Creekside.” Giving the location of the church (or your house, if you start there) helps orient them in the conversation. This shows them you are not a distant group seeking money, but a nearby group seeking them!
- Question — In all my experience, this is the most important step. I typically continue by saying, “We are going through the neighborhood asking people an important question, and that is, ‘If I were to ask you what the gospel is, what would you say?’” A couple of things happen here. First, you skip over the request for their time. When faced with this situation, almost everyone will decline to speak with you if given an option, such as, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Now, you might say that this appears to be a bit rude, but hear me out. When he gave the great commission, Jesus said that all authority had been given to him and that very same authority goes with his disciples as they pursue the task of making disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Therefore, motivated by the urgency of the reality that men and women will spend eternity in hell if they don’t hear and believe the good news, I am compelled to trump their right to decline with my right from the King to proclaim the truth to them. The second crucial aspect of this step is to get to the question: “If I were to ask you what the gospel is, what would you say?” This question has been crafted with precision. What this seeks to accomplish is to get them on record with what they believe the gospel to be. I can’t tell you how many times I have shared the gospel and asked afterward if they had ever heard that, only to hear, “Oh yes, I believe that.” The follow up conversation in almost every one of those cases proved the opposite reality.
- Importance — Whatever their answer, before I tell them the gospel, I tell them from Scripture why the gospel is important. I will say something like, “Thank you for sharing! The Bible says in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. So in order to be saved, in order to go to heaven, a person must know and believe the gospel.” By showing them the importance of the gospel, and that they can’t be saved without it, they are now accountable to what they have said the gospel to be. They are on the record, and it can’t be changed. There are witnesses.
- The Gospel — It is at this point that I will provide a very short presentation of the gospel, typically from 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, namely, “The gospel is that Jesus died for sin according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the Scriptures.” (For more on the content of the gospel, please see here.)
- The Conversation — At this point, this conversation can go many directions. You can ask them if they have heard that message before. You can ask if they have any questions. You can ask if they have a religious background. At this point, those engaged in the outreach are dependent upon the Spirit of God and their personal knowledge of the Bible to shape the conversation.
A few more important things could be said here. It is good to take notes while you are out so that you are aware of areas you have already covered and the responses you received at each house so that any necessary follow-up can occur. Without a system of tracking where you’ve been, you might miss someone who is in need of the gospel. Another important aspect is to do a whole team debrief when you are back at home base. Hearing stories of how others shared the eternal truths of the gospel are encouraging to the soul, build momentum within the team, and provide opportunity for further prayer on behalf of those who heard the good news of Christ.
Here I want to highlight some of the most common interactions I have been involved in and propose some solutions if you find yourself in that situation.
- People who are busy — It is important to remember that as visitors, our presence is unexpected. As a result, most people will be involved in some activity when you arrive. For example, in my last outing we encountered a man who was exercising with his whole family, a woman who was trying to corral her child, and someone who chose not to answer the door. When someone lets you know that they are busy, this is when you are ready to hand them the information card so that they at least have the option to hear the message at a later time.
- People who are believers — It is exciting when you encounter someone who professes to be a believer. While love hopes the best of people, and you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, it is still good to ask them if they would be willing to articulate the gospel. When they are able to articulate the gospel correctly, I typically follow up by asking where they are going to church. When they are not able to articulate the gospel correctly, it is a possible opening for the true gospel message to be heard. In the end, you don’t want to assume that because someone professes to be saved that it’s time to leave their house and move on. The eternal riches of Christ are valuable enough for us to be extra diligent and ask some follow up questions.
- People who like to argue — In the course of your outing, you may come across someone that is all the more willing to talk to you. Yet in some of these cases, this specific person has no interest in what you have to say and instead desires to show you why you are wrong. It is to be expected that we will encounter different world views in the field. When that happens, try to judge if someone is genuinely interested in the differences between biblical Christianity and what they ascribe to. If you discern they are not interested, it is time to look for the earliest way out so that they don’t monopolize all your time with no intention of changing.
- People who are angry — It is always possible that you will meet someone who is angry that you are there. We’ve had doors slammed in our face. We’ve had people say unkind things. We’ve had people tell us to get off their property. Be aware that you might have this type of interaction, and follow the example of the Savior. Refuse to revile in return, and be respectful as you make your exit.
- Debriefing with your team — It is natural to want to discuss the most recent interaction with your team, whether good or bad. My recommendation is to wait until you reach the next house and are out of distance of hearing before recapping what just occurred. It does not help your witness if, when immediately turned down, you turn around and proclaim to your friend, “Well that was a waste of time!” You will have a chance to discuss, so take the extra step of being well enough removed from the situation before engaging in it. This is also a great time to pray over the interaction before moving on to the next.
Door-to-door evangelism is just one of many ways that we can share the gospel. Especially in the wake of a pandemic that kept many people home-bound, it is one way to ensure that those who may not venture outside their home on a regular basis will hear the gospel. It is my hope that these basic principles will get you started in your own neighborhood and that they will serve you well as you develop your own system for reaching the lost in your community.