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Cold Contact Evangelism? [Thawed out Thursday]

I first wrote this 2 years ago.  The comments here are well worth reading - especially Missy's, for whom door-to-door was her way into the Christian life.  I've slightly updated the post.

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A friend of mine recently asked which was better - 5 sessions of 5 pairs spending two hours door-knocking; or those 5 pairs having neighbours round five times in a season?

Some responses:

  • Good thought!  See especially here where Rory Shiner discusses Gospel intentionality as a good 'third way' between cold-contact and friendship evangelism.  He (like my friend) has been very impressed by the Crowded House churches.
  • The personal investment involved in such hospitality is often far greater than the fear factor involved in door-to-door.  In this sense door-knocking, though appearing to be the more impressive, can often be more of a cop-out.
  • A deep sharing of life is surely a far superior context for sharing the faith!

But having said that

  • The context for sharing my faith is, fundamentally, not my friendships (though clearly that is ideal).  More fundamentally the context for sharing the faith is resurrection, pentecost and second coming. Christ is risen - this is my authority to speak of Christ.  The Spirit has been poured out - this is the power to do so.  He is coming - this is the urgency.  I realise my friend would not wish to disagree with this but it's still good to remember what is, at root, my authority for speaking.
  • There are millions in this country alone who don't have Christian friends (at least Christian friends who are willing to share their faith).  Friendship evangelism will not reach them.
  • If it's a question of 'effectiveness' - stranger evangelism 'works'. I have prayed with people on the street to receive Christ.  I have seen them continue on with the Lord.  And this is precisely what we should expect given the point above regarding resurrection, pentecost and second coming.
  • Think of the beginnings of the Salvation Army or David Wilkerson (Cross and Switchblade) - there was no bridge upon which they built their ministry apart from the declaration of the word.  Now they committed themselves to those who responded and very meaningful relationships blossomed (along with ministries that often lost their confidence with the power of the word proclaimed plainly!).  But the footing on which those relationships were placed was the proclamation of the gospel to strangers.
  • Jesus did both - He did blow into town and speak to strangers.  And He also went to dinner parties and built into very significant relationships.
  • We are to sow on all the soils (Mark 4).

The advantages of cold-contact evangelism seem to be:

  • It mirrors the urgency of the message.  To me, this is absolutely vital.  Will people really understand the nature of our message if we don't communicate it in a 'Wisdom cries aloud in the streets' kind of way?
  • It mirrors the summoning nature of the message.  We communicate the gospel powerfully when we call people to Christ.  Immediately it becomes apparent that we're not discussing a moral philosophy or religious programme but summoning people to a Person.
  • It more closely reflects the profligacy of the gospel offer.  None are disenfranchised, you go after everyone in your area!
  • It gets down to brass tacks fast.

Dinner-table evangelism has these advantages:

  • It’s more corporate.
  • Church life is modelled in front of the unbeliever.  (John 13:34-35)
  • The gospel’s less likely to be seen by the unbeliever as a gnostic, disembodied teaching.
  • It models 1 Thes 2:8 and 2 Cor 4:5 – sharing life and serving those we evangelise.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have life-sharing, serving, door-knocking nor a dinner party that quickly gets down to brass tacks but these seem to be the considerations.

We need to make sure that those who we invite are not simply our friends (Luke 14:12-14!) and that we target those who are not only beyond the walls of the church but beyond our friendship groups and comfort zones.  Door to door is never to be an end in itself but the basis on which a relationship will ensue.  It should never be "Gospel apart from relationship."  But if it were ever a choice between "Gospel => relationship" or "Relationship => Gospel" (and many people want to make it a choice) then I can't imagine how, theologically, we could ever justify the latter over the former!

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