Defending Door-to-Door and Open Air Evangelism

A rejoinder to the article on “City to City Evangelism” that appeared on Ref21.

I take exception, however, with Nick’s assessment that door-to-door evangelism is not for today, that it was probably not taught by Jesus, and that open air preaching was unique, reserved for “the intertestamental period which was a transitional period during which the New Covenant church was being established among unreached people…”

 

I first met Nick Batzig in 1993 when I became the pastor of Golden Isles Presbyterian Church (PCA) on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Nick and his family were members of the church. Nick was sixteen years old and a member of our church youth group. I have always loved Nick and consider him a dear brother in the gospel ministry. Nick is very bright and an excellent writer and I have benefitted from a number of his posts.

However, after reading Nick’s post, “City to City Evangelism“–which recently appeared on Ref21–I believed that I needed to respond to it and defend the use of door-to-door evangelism and open air preaching. First, at the end of Nick’s post he gives his “take” on how he believes a church can be most faithful and effective in evangelism. He mentions “equipping the congregation to be outward focused, intentional about inviting unbelievers into their homes and ultimately to sit under the preaching of the Gospel in the local church.” He says this might look like a Christianity Explored course. . . hosting a Mother’s of Preschoolers group. . . inviting friends to local church Bible studies. . .” And to all of these suggestions I say, “Amen. Wonderful.” I have always said that I am in favor of any method of evangelism as long as it is doctrinally sound. By all means, we must equip our people with a desire to reach out to their neighbors, to have them in our homes, and hopefully to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to them.

I take exception, however, with Nick’s assessment that door-to-door evangelism is not for today, that it was probably not taught by Jesus, and that open air preaching was unique, reserved for “the intertestamental period which was a transitional period during which the New Covenant church was being established among unreached people…”

Nick objects to the notion that door-to-door and open air proponents use Jesus and the apostles as the paradigm for such ministry. He says, “The same line of reasoning is, interestingly, made by Charismatics with regard to many of the supernatural practices descriptively outlined in the book of Acts. Anyone reading the Gospels or the book of Acts must surely recognize that these were no ordinary times.”

First of all, to compare Charismatic supernatural gifts with open air preaching and door- to-door evangelism is like comparing apples to oranges. Most of us would agree that the manifestation of the supernatural gifts at the time of the apostles were revelatory in nature and thus limited to the Apostolic era, whereas their practice of Apostolic evangelism was their way of “doing business.” As Roland Allen states in his classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, a Study of the Church in Four Provinces all pastors, missionaries, church planters must decide which paradigm of ministry they will choose to use. They may use what seems right to them, what the latest missiological studies may tell us, or they can use the paradigm of Jesus and His apostles. 1 I believe we should and must choose the method of Jesus and His apostles. Allen clearly lays out for us how the apostles and Jesus “got it done.” The question is not, “What would Jesus do?” Rather it is, “What did Jesus and His apostles do?”

Both Allen and Ray (The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary) are very quick to admit that the only explanation for the success of the early church was not their methodology, as important as that was, but rather the vibrant ministry of the Holy Spirit. While I am a strong proponent of door-to-door evangelism and open air preaching I am also very cognizant of the fact that if the Holy Spirit does not “show up” then our labors are absolutely and completely in vain. But the promised Spirit was poured out at Pentecost and every believer is baptized with the Spirit upon regeneration and every believer can and should seek the filling of the Spirit every day in their lives (Ephesians 5:18, Luke 11:1-13). May I state the obvious, the task of evangelizing the lost in any day, and that certainly includes today’s post-modern western world, is impossible without the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It goes without saying, that such a truth must drive us to fervent, revival prayer.

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  1. Roland Allen, a missionary in Uganda around 1925, wrote both Missionary Methods and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Both are must reads for any missionary, church planter, or pastor. May I also recommend another book which goes into even more detail, The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary, written in 1947 by Alex Rattray Hay, a missionary in Buenos Aires.