Friday, 29 February 2008

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Door to Door evangelism & 'Friendship' evangelism

This is an excerpt of a conversation on a blog between a few young ministers & church workers in England:

A friend of mine recently posed this statement for discussion

“Five sessions of 5 pairs spending two hours door-knocking is better spent having 5 pairs having neighbours round five times in a season” Discuss.

Some responses:

  • Good thought! See especially here where Rory Shiner discusses Gospel intentionality as a good ‘third way’ between cold-contact and friendship evangelism. He (like my friend) has been very impressed by the Crowded House churches.
  • The personal investment involved in such hospitality is often far greater than the fear factor involved in door-to-door. In this sense door-knocking, though appearing to be the more impressive, can often be more of a cop-out.
  • A deep sharing of life is surely a far superior context for sharing the faith!

But having said that

  • The context for sharing my faith is, fundamentally, not my friendships down here (though clearly that is ideal). More fundamentally though, the context for sharing the faith is resurrection, pentecost and second coming. Christ is risen - this is my authority to speak of Christ. The Spirit has been poured out - this is the power to do so. He is coming - this is the urgency. I realise my friend would not wish to disagree with this but it’s still good to remember what is at root my authorisation for my speaking.
  • There are millions in this country alone who don’t have Christian friends (at least Christian friends who are willing to share their faith). Friendship evangelism will not reach them. (Rory’s proposal linked above speaks to this - gospel intentionality seeks to reach a wider network of people than those we already know).
  • If it’s a question of ‘effectiveness’ - stranger evangelism ‘works’. I will post figures from Bridge Builders when I have them confirmed. But I know also from personal experience that people are converted through these efforts - this is precisely what we expect given the point above regarding resurrection, pentecost and second coming.
  • Think of the beginnings of the Salvation Army or David Wilkerson (Cross and Switchblade) - there was no bridge upon which they built their ministry apart from the declaration of the word. Now they committed themselves to those who responded and very meaningful relationships blossomed (along with ministries that often lost their confidence with the power of the word proclaimed plainly!). But the footing on which those relationships were placed was the proclamation of the gospel to strangers. (But again perhaps this is closer to the ‘gospel intentionality’ model than to ’stranger evangelism’)
  • Jesus did both - He did blow into town and speak to strangers. And He also went to dinner parties and built into very significant relationships.
  • We are to sow on all the soils (Mark 4).

In all I think I agree with the statement in terms of priorities. I’d want to make sure that those we invite are not simply our friends (Luke 14:12-14) and that we target those who are not only beyond the walls of the church but beyond our friendship groups and comfort zones. Door to door is never to be an end in itself but the basis on which a relationship will ensue. It should never be “Gospel apart from relationship.” But if it were ever a choice between “Gospel => relationship” or “Relationship => Gospel” then there should certainly be no theologically decisive preference for the latter!

Therefore I would certainly not want to abandon door-to-door but seek for all evangelism to involve relationship building. In short, let’s sow on all the soils.

What say you?



  1. B - I agree with you. I’ve been involved in quite a lot of evangelistic ministry, and it has been both. I don’t agree with the premiss of friendship evangelism, as THE method of evangelism . . . in my view this does not view the proclamation of the gospel as URGENT (you know getting on the house-tops and yelling kind of urgency). The President emeritus of my alma mater, Joe Aldrich, actually spear-headed, at least in the States, a movement oriented toward “Friendship Evangelism” . . . and I simply disagree–if anything, and I don’t know the motives, I see this as a cop-out (i.e. not urgent proclaiming). I don’t think “our” statistics can actually measure the efficiency of one kind of evangelism over the other . . . only heaven can tell.

    Good one.

  2. Y - have to admit.. friendship evangelism is a weird thing
    seems to me Jesus based friendships on them being willing to listen to the gospel?

    usually it ends up to a denial of the gospel.. or a state of hopeful spiritual osmosis…

  3. G - B, great points. An urgent message ought to be reflected in an urgent method. I would add that a message of *summons* must be reflected in the method of it’s delivery. And good reminder about statistics!

    Y, yes yes. I keep thinking of Mark 6 - Jesus completely reverses the way *we* do evangelism. He didn’t put on a meal and then do a talk!! He preached and *then* fed those who wanted to hang around. He did do both, but notice the order.

    I will stick up for my friend though - no mere osmosis going on here! I think the context of his comment is the issue of prioritising time and that’s a very practical concern that must be addressed. We do only have so many hours in the week. If we spend 5 hours a week door-knocking (that’s what the JWs require!) might that time be better spent? I think there are pros and cons that need weighing.

    Door-to-door has these advantages:

    * it mirrors the urgency of the message
    * it mirrors the summoning nature of the message
    * it more closely reflects the profligacy of the gospel offer (none are disenfranchised, you go after *everyone* in your area!)
    * it gets down to brass tacks fast

    Dinner table evangelism has these advantages:

    * it’s more corporate
    * church life is modelled in front of the unbeliever
    * the gospel’s less likely to be seen by the unbeliever as a gnostic, disembodied teaching.
    * it models 1 Thes 2:8 and 2 Cor 4:5 - sharing life and serving those we evangelise.

    This doesn’t mean you can’t have life-sharing, serving door-knocking nor a dinner party that quickly gets down to brass tacks but these seem to be the considerations. Any more people want to add?

    Is it all to Anglican to suggest everybody’s right and we press on with both?

  4. M - funny thing this article. I was just working on my testimony this weekend, and had decided to leave it off the blog. I wasn’t sure it would be useful. Well, I’ve put it up now. I happen to be the product of a door-to-door evangelism that evolved into dinner table evangelism. Many of these people are now closer to me than any other of the relationships in my life, being founded wholly on the gospel.

    My opinion, and I am open to correction, is that whatever gets someone in the scripture - listening to the very breathe of God - is a method that will be effective.

  5. Y-yea i’m all for ‘fellowship-evangelism’ - i.e. give them a taste at what it means to be the body then keep the gospel coming

    but what usually seems to happen is - let me spend 1-2 years getting to know someone, then when i’ve finally earned their trust - tell them the gospel
    the ‘vacuum cleaner salesman’ approach…

  6. G - M, That is so encouraging to me. Seriously. Thank you. And praise God!

    Y, ‘Vacuum cleaner salesman approach’ ;-) Man, that’s it isn’t it?

    Have you ever seen the picture of the friendship bridge? I don’t know where it comes from (Willow Creek? Dunno) but there’s this model of evangelism where you build a friendship bridge and then send the gospel across it. Now most friendship bridges won’t take the whole gospel truck so you have to parcel out the gospel into smaller mini-vans over the course of time, but eventually, if you make the bridge strong enough, they’ll get the whole load!

    Isn’t that awful!? It really brings home all the stuff Barth says about Christ Himself being the point of contact. That’s not an abstract theological point, it’s central to how we live our lives. The only bridge is Christ HImself and He’s strong enough on His own terms and by His own power to bring Himself to the other person.

  7. Y - yea.. exactly it’s is a friendship based without Christ that will almost certainly fail.. or at least feel like a betrayal

    so how about you redefine friendship-based evangelism for us

    because apparently youth workers are trained to do the equivalent of spiritual osmosis these days…
    and a large portion of the church still assumes their selling vacuum cleaners…

  8. G -A re-definition of ‘friendship-based evangelism’?

    I think M's experience is exemplary:

    “…door-to-door evangelism that evolved into dinner table evangelism. Many of these people are now closer to me than any other of the relationships in my life, being founded wholly on the gospel.”

    I think to speak of ‘friendship-based evangelism’ is to put the cart before the horse. Surely it should be ‘gospel-based friendship.’ It is friendship ‘founded wholly on the gospel’ but it’s not for that reason conditional on the friend accepting Christ. The friend must know you’re committed to them as they are (and not simply as an evangelistic scalp). Of course that is itself gospel-shaped - Christ’s love is unconditional - He shared bread with Judas to the end. So it’s genuine friendship - not as a means to some other end (conversion).

    But once we say it’s ‘gospel-based friendship’ then it becomes clear that friendship is just one more context in which we work out the gospel in our lives. We let the gospel shape our preaching, our door-knocking, our meal-times, our playing football, our gong to the pub etc etc.

    And once we say that we see that the real issue is not so much that people don’t bring the gospel into their friendships, it’s that we don’t live sufficiently integrated gospel lives. My speaking and acting in friendships is a key area of my life that needs to be transformed by the gospel - but so does my thinking and acting in every area.

    I just know when I say to people ‘you *are* witnesses of Christ’ (Acts 1:8) they hear me say “You need to *do* more evangelism.” And of course what people ordinarily think of as “evangelism” is “a very narrow range of conversation topics that roughly equate to the Two Ways to Live outline.” They therefore hear me saying: “Drop the bombshell of Two Ways to Live into every conversation.” Now when people fail according to this definition of evangelism, is the problem a reluctance to speak for Christ? It might be - but is it not more probably a failure to understand the all-pervasive relevance (can’t think of a better word) of the gospel.

    Evangelism is gospeling - but the gospel is not a narrow subject. The gospel is about *everything*. Solomon spoke of everything from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. (1 Kings 4:33) A beer with Solomon would be fascinating but you’d always be confronted by gospel, because the gospel is about everything.

    Anyway, was going to write more, but now I think bed might be a good idea…

  9. M -G, I think Christ did send us out with purpose and there are times when we “go forth in pairs” so to speak with the message. Yet, your comment is so very true when you look a Jesus. He just seemed to talk, and the words flowed from the heart. And maybe when your heart is full of the gospel, everything you do will flow from that heart - striking a target without really trying. We all know the Word is not really from the speaker. {c; Good words!

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