Why I’m not interested in doorknocking for Jesus

by Anna Blanch on August 8, 2011

When I was in Waco I often had people share their sad stories with me and ask for cash at the door of my second floor apartment. I didn’t like the pushy men who made me feel unsafe and had to learn to be rather forthright about them leaving and keeping my screen-door locked. I was a time-poor, cash-poor grad student who didn’t have time to cook, let alone have any money on me. I felt bad for the women whose eyes glistened if all i had to give were some sliver coins and some food.  I felt so helpless when faced with a woman with children around her ankles who had tears of thankfulness at whatever i could give with directions to those who might be able to offer further food and housing. It was the price/gift of living right off the interstate.

But here in St Andrews, I don’t like it when door to door salesmen, or charity collectors, knock on my door.

I collected for Salvation Army Red Door appeal all through highschool.  Am I just rationalising when I say that an organisation with a good track record holds a one day once a year doorknocking appeal and i’m okay with that. I was always happy when those doorknockers came around…mainly I think that was because I was expecting them.

Why do I feel like this is any different?

Nonetheless, I feel unsettled about having politely told a clean cut gentleman wearing a multi-coloured vest that I’m not interested in hearing more about the organisation he’s collecting for (which I hadn’t heard of) nor did I have an answer for whether they were doing a good job. I don’t like feeling manipulated into either stating plainly that I have a selection of charities which I have commitments toward (which I do) or after saying, “I’m sorry, the only reason I’m home from work today is that I’m unwell” and then having to be more persistent when asked, “well, should I come back later” and feeling terribly mean in saying “No, i’d prefer if you didn’t”. I don’t like it because I feel like my home, my cottage-by-the-sea, is being invaded.

I don’t think I like the sense that i’m being manipulated. I feel the same way whether it’s a doorknocker for charity or a salesman trying to get me to switch telephone or electrity – the last two happen at least once a month.

Maybe it’s that I’m not feeling 100% and so I’m a little grumpy.

Maybe it’s a different set of expectations.

Is this how people feel about door-to-door evangelists or even street evangelism?

Have I ever made anyone feel unsettled? uncomfortable? unsafe?

Even when talking about the best news of all?

Do they feel like I want something from them, as if I’m asking for them to let a stranger in the house?

Do I treat people with the same disdain that some of these collectors and salesmen seem to treat me?

I think I’d much rather live my life faithful in the little things sharing as I’d bidden so that when I knock on that door, it shall be opened to me as a friend, and not as an unbidden stranger. I hope too, by then, that the God I share in my actions and words is also not a strange God about whom blunt questions are replaced by those evidencing a real relationship – the practical as much as the abstract; for the fact finding and the “blind ask” has long been replaced by real relationship and the ups and downs of life alongside one another.

Images: Mine

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  • Alan Rudnick

    Why do churches think this is effective evangelism? Why use bad marketing tactics for the advancement of the Gospel? IVP has a great book on Evangelism: http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3

    • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

      Thanks for your comment Alan. Do you think many churches do still use/think street evangelism or doorknocking is effective? Is there something you particularly liked about the book you linked to?


  • Alan Rudnick

    Sure, churches still use it, but it is now more associated with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. The IVP book is great. It realizes that the Gospel is still truth, but understands that we are in a sea of postmodernism. It gives narrative and ideas for sharing your faith in to postmodern people. I also like, "Celtic Way of Evangelism" by George G. Hunter. Both books see evangelism as process and not centered on conversion only.

  • http://calebwoodbridge.blogspot.com Caleb Woodbridge

    I think there's a place for door-to-door evangelism, if approached in the right way. It shouldn't be the only way or the main way we evangelise, and it's no substitute for living out the Christian life so that people respond to God in our lives. But we need to get the Gospel out to everyone, not just those with whom we have natural social contact. Society and communities are so fragmented these days. but have little contact with Christians in their everyday lives. We cannot assume that people have contact with Christians, an understanding of the Christian faith, or any reason to investigate Christianity further. We need to take the initiative to reach those who may well be spiritually open and hungry, but don't have any point of contact with the Gospel.

    The aim of door-to-door evangelism shouldn't be "hit and run", but to establish meaningful relationships with people who are open to the Gospel. That needs to be done sensitively and respectfully. Some people might find the very fact of you knocking on the door irritating. But accepting or rejecting Jesus is a matter of the utmost urgency and importance. We need to make sure that in so far as is possible, we have given as many people around us the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. If someone's not interested, move on graciously – that's their choice and responsibility. But we need to make sure they've had the chance to make that choice.

    • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

      Caleb, the underlying premise of my post was very similar to your comment – that evangelism shouldn't be "hit and run." In fact I wholeheartedly agree with your first two sentences. Beyond that though, I'm not sure if "door knocking" cold does much more than put up barriers. I'm speaking of door-knocking where the knockers spills with a gospel tract and hands over contextless literature – i think that can actually be pretty selfish and serve only to put up barriers to gospel. It is of the the utmost importance and urgency, but are we creating a version of the deadline when we demand the attention of someone in their own home by knocking when it's convenient for us. Why not instead put energies into loving our communities so we aren't strangers in the first place? It's not my responsibility to make sure anyone has had a chance to make a choice – that's for God. It's my responsibility to be ready with an answer, to love my neighbour and to live faithfully.

      • Andi

        You know what, I’m very much inclined to agree.

  • http://www.simplyjunebug.com Junebug

    I don't care for it. So much so that if my husband is home I make him answer the door. People have the right to do it but I don't like being made to feel bad when I politely say, "No, thank you." Some people don't take no as a final answer. I don't like having a theological discussion with a stranger. I wish there was a sign I could put on my door that would keep them from knocking. Like "Jesus already lives here. Thanks anyway."

    • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

      "Jesus already lives here. Thanks anyway." is an interesting sentiment June. I understand how unsettling it is to have strangers challenging core beliefs on your doorstep. I wonder though, and i say this as gently as i can, whether we can't find another way than just "thankyou, now please leave"? what do you think? when I lived with a couple of housemates and at least two of us were home when people came knocking we would invite them in for a cup of tea. But we would try to get to know them as people. I have a feeling Jesus wouldn't have turned people away. We are not jesus….but i feel like there's some things to think about…
      Thanks so much for your comment. It's lovely to have you here.

  • preachersa2z

    When I was quite new to Christianity door-to-door evangelism felt a bit like a 'rite of passage' – testing the true mettle of your commitment t the Gospel. It felt the same when I did it in Belgium in French. I share your discomfort Anna, and also feel it when encountering preachers on a soapbox in the street. I feel with the passage of years that winning people for the kingdom is kind of wooing rather than a form of declaration.

    Having said that, I also know that a little bit of me would always rather 'hide behind' the actions-speak-louder-than-words mantra to get me off the evangelistic hook. Actions without words to articulate them are…just actions.

  • June

    To bring the Good News in the way God would appoint and, therefore, anoint, would need a constant stream of prayer over each neighbourhood. To ask the Lord's blessing on a street, business, community is, surely, the calling of every disciple.

  • literaryworkshop

    Over here (in the Deepest American South), door-to-door evangelism is still practiced, and even seems to be somewhat effective. For one, people still expect churches to use such methods, and when it comes down to it, no discussion of Christianity is really "cold" or "context-less" here. Even though the majority of folks no longer attend church regularly, almost all of them have had contact with church, and a lot of them still feel vaguely guilty for not attending. Door-to-door evangelism is often used to locate people who are already drawn to Christianity, but are afraid to show up at a church and ask questions. The American South is still very much "Christ-haunted," as Flannery O'Connor put it. For example, a friend of mine randomly encountered a meth addict this week and shared the gospel with him. The addict immediately admitted that his mom prayed for him, and that he was pretty sure God was unhappy with his lifestyle. The conversation went on from there, and the addict is now in a rehab center, but the point is that this "cold" encounter took place within a pre-existing religious context.

    That said, door-to-door evangelism is not something I participate in myself. That's partly because I can unconsciously intimidate people. (Something about the working vocabulary of a Ph.D., I think…) But it's mostly an honest application of the Golden Rule. I don't care for strangers knocking at my door, so it's not fair for me to knock at a stranger's door myself.

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

    I was thinking about this throughout the weekend, coupled with the passage in the Gospels where Jesus sends out the seventy. He tells them clearly that they are to go from town to town and, if finding a person of peace, they are to stay, if not, they rather curtly are to shake the dust off their heels and speak judgement upon the place.

    In thinking about how this fits in with door-to-door evangelism, it can be easy to take the passage and say it argues in favor if taken a bit lightly. But when I consider that where they were sent were Jewish villages where people had a context of faith already and therefore had a context by which to then bridge from where they were to what the kingdom of God was, it's not so easy to say that it's an argument supporting door-to-door. Perhaps what it shows us is that what was done when those men were there was to heal the sick, minister, and to not take anything unless it was offered to them.

    In my own life, I balk at the idea of door-to-door because it leaves little room for context to blossom and relationship to foster. If Holy Ghost speaks and prompts and something needs to happen instantly, then Holy Ghost has spoken. But most times my evangelism is served at my table, cooking for people and just hearing their stories, asking questions, and knowing that because of what I study and who I fundamentally am, God will show up in the conversation sooner or later. So I advocate table-to-table evangelism quite strongly, because the command to make disciples is not as simple as a prayer, a tract, or the sign of the cross. It's sojourning together and accepting that such journeying doesn't always look the same for each person or culture.

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