14 May 2012
Door Knocking - is it still worth it?
by Dr Mark Keown
My church is Glenfield Presbyterian, a small church on the North Shore of Auckland. We are like most suburban evangelical family churches, with robust enthusiastic worship, great biblical preaching, modest children’s and youth ministries, some small groups, a traditional and contemporary service, and a real desire to see people healed, helped, and come to Christ.
In recent times we have reflected that we have become a church that is just waiting for people to come to us, and we are not going to “them” enough. Well, we have woken up to something; “they” aren’t really coming – well, at a trickle at best. We have realised that if we simply sit and wait, they likely won’t come. The definition of madness is to continue to do the same thing expecting a different result! So, we resolved to look more outward and go to them.
First, a thoughtful Christian in our church, Mauray Ganter, came up with the idea of putting a repainted post office box outside of the church, painted green, with “Letters to God” on it (LTG). We then went out and started telling people that they could put prayers in the box, and we would pray for them. Two things happened. First, people started bringing prayers which is great. Secondly, something happened in the service in which it was launched. There was a fresh sense of excitement, of God’s presence, and since then, this sense has remained and we have started growing. Perhaps the enhanced sense of God’s presence relates to us becoming missional as we should be, or is it the other way around; we have become missional because God is urging us to be and we have finally heard. Either way – it is interesting!
Secondly, this year, feeling impelled by the Spirit, I ran an evangelistic training program in preparation to go door-knocking. I wrote a manual, which I hope to publish eventually, and we trained in “everyday evangelism” for work and life, and prepared to go out visiting people. As part of the preparation, Julian Batchelor came and ran his DNA conference. Julian and I have the same passion with different approaches and emphases, but his day with us was extremely helpful in getting people to think evangelistically again.
After six weeks of “classroom” time, including sharing our testimonies with each other and role playing etc, we have started going out. We are going on Sunday afternoons, every fortnight. We go with open hearts. Without going into details, we simply introduce ourselves warmly, say that we are from Glenfield Presbyterian Church, and that we are just going out to say hi to people in the community, and we go where the conversation leads. We record the results and are creating a database of our community. The results are most interesting. We have not seen anyone come to Christ on the spot yet, but we are finding ourselves warmly received. In a one or two hours of visiting, most of us are finding on average one very uptight European Kiwi who gives us the shift – although no-one has been rude. We find people of non-European backgrounds universally warm, welcoming and open. We are finding a surprising number of Europeans open as well. When I meet someone from another Christian or Roman Catholic church I usually ask something like, “so you are a believer and follower of Jesus?” They usually enthusiastically say, “yes” in some way. I then switch to encouraging them and always ask to pray for them and their family – they love it! Interesting stuff.
We are finding people who need material help or prayer, or are lonely; we are also finding interesting people doing good things in the community like the Charity Pirates who raise money for kids in NZ, great chat with that guy – an Anglican. We are finding people of other faiths. Many know the church or people from it, and it leads to great conversations. We are also giving out a heap of literature about the church and its programs, and my little booklet, What’s God Up To, which summarises the faith (email me at mkeown/laidlaw.ac.nz if you want to get copies).
As God leads, we share about other initiatives in terms of the usual church stuff, holiday programs, ecology (A Rocha), an open-arts night once a month, a community trust, a food bank and Opshop which we can tell them about. We feel like we are reconnecting with our community, because we are – and it is good! I heartily recommend it, as long as you do it well out of love and compassion! Our approach is to make the connection and be led by the Spirit.
I think it shows that our mission is inadequate if we simply sit and wait for people to come. Every church has a community and I believe we are charged to take Christ to it – not to “wait for them to come,” but to “go to them and, as God does his stuff, often despite us, make disciples.” So is door knocking worth it? Hang yeah! We are going to keep doing it! At the least it is changing us! At the most, I sense it will change lives and who knows, the community.