The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Door to door Jesus salesmen

This weekend my wife and I witnessed a rather curious sight. Probably half a dozen gentlemen in business suits were going door-to-door in the neighborhood. There may have even been a couple of non-descript white vans in the mix. No, it wasn't an FBI operation. While we did not know for sure, it seemed the most likely reason for the canvas was missionary work. This set me to wondering about door-to-door evangelism, both in terms of its efficacy and its biblical backing.

I am not sure how well it works, to be honest. I must admit that I am somewhat skeptical that such a technique would be very successful given the culture of the Pacific Northwest. I don't necessarily think that personalized evangelism is bad. But I think that it probably works better when you already have a relationship with the person you are talking with. In such cases, "door to door" is a neighborly way of doing things. Random doorbell ringers are considered unwanted visitors.

In the New Testament, it seems that the  general pattern of evangelism is in public forums. Jesus taught in the synagogues and the temple, and Paul added to those the various amphitheaters and other public venues. As far as I can recall (and perhaps a systematic study is in order), they never canvassed neighborhoods. They went to where the people were. I'm not sure this can be understood as a mandate, but it seems to have been reasonably effective.

So in our times, should we go to the public forum? My wife raised the objection that there really aren't any public forums in our society to talk about religion. The most common community meeting places are already churches, or are state institutions where religion is out-of-bounds. Beside that, our culture is so fragmented that it is hard to expect "the general public" to gather in any one case.

Seeing as mass media is the forum of our day and age, I stumbled upon the uncomfortable implication that televangelists may be the modern analogue to Paul preaching in the amphitheater. They are the ones who are gathered in the commons and preaching to a large number of people. I do not like televangelists at all, so I will not run too far with this idea.

However, I'm still struck by the dichotomy of door to door v. public evangelism. It's probably not one or the other in terms of efficacy. Perhaps the changes in our culture have invalidated the efficacy of the "broadcast" approach. Still I cannot help but wonder if the internet, being the new nexus of our culture, is where the heart of evangelism efforts should lie.

(Cut to: a post questioning whether the internet should be the nexus of our culture, but conceding that it probably cannot be changed at any rate).