Whenever door-to-door evangelism is mentioned, people invariably think of Jehovah’s Witness and, to a lesser extent, Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Whereas only a tiny proportion of Mormons undertake two years’ missionary work, all Jehovah’s Witnesses (whether baptized or not) are expected to take part in the door-to-door work. They are referred to as “publishers.” They have to report their activity, which includes the number of hours spent each month going from house to house and in conducting Bible studies with interested people.
In 2012, with 7.5 million publishers, the Jehovah’s Witnesses saw over 260,000 people baptized into their organization. On average, it takes 6,500 hours’ activity to generate one new baptism. On that basis, door-to-door evangelism is a hugely time-consuming activity.
Jesus commissioned His followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). The Great Commission is not an option – it’s a mandate. If only more Christians were as prepared to share the gospel as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are to promote their teachings! But is door-to-door evangelism the way?
How did Jesus and His disciples go about their work? It does not seem they went from door to door, uninvited. Yes, Jesus sent out His followers in pairs to prepare the way for Him to preach in outlying towns and villages, but He did not instruct them to go door-knocking. In Luke 10:5-7 Jesus issues these instructions: “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” Jesus’ disciples did not go from house to house, uninvited, but they could enter a house where they were welcomed and stay with that family, telling them about Christ.
After Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, she was so impressed by what Jesus told her that she went back to her town and persuaded many to come back with her to meet this Jesus of Nazareth. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” They persuaded Jesus to stay with them for two days, and many more became believers (John 4:1-31, 39-42). Jesus and His disciples did not canvass the Samaritan village first.
The first Christians did not go from door to door, either, as far as we know. The early Jewish Christians in Jerusalem spoke in the temple every day (Acts 2:46) and taught in each other’s houses as often as possible (Acts 5:42). The apostle Paul certainly spoke to strangers in the marketplace about Christ (Acts 17:17), but that’s about as close to door-knocking as we see in Scripture.
There is nothing wrong with going from door to door. It might produce results, and we are grateful for any soul who comes to Christ. But there is no explicit biblical precedent for that particular method.
Probably the most effective method of evangelism is to speak personally to friends, neighbors and co-workers. This is the type of evangelism Philip models in John 1:45-46. When Christians befriend others and develop a trusting relationship with them, they earn the right to be listened to. Inviting others to come to church or attend weekly Bible studies in the homes of other Christians is another good way to share the gospel. The way we live is important, too. A life of godliness speaks volumes to non-believers about the transforming power of the love of God.
A good biblical example of evangelism is the young Jewish girl captured and taken to Syria as a servant for Naaman’s wife. The little girl’s faith in the God of Elisha prompted her to spontaneously speak of his miracles. Her faith and her concern for Naaman’s health resulted not only in Naaman being healed, but also coming to faith in Yahweh (2 Kings 5:1-19).
All Christians need to be equipped to share the good news with others (1 Peter 3:15). We might not all be teachers and preachers, but we should all be so grateful that we have been saved that we want to tell others and explain what God has done for sinners such as us. Whether we’re going door to door, leaving tracts at a restaurant, or engaging in friendship evangelism, we should be sharing the gospel. Jesus commands it, duty demands it and gratitude prompts it.