Evangelism - Visitation
Paul Young, Maesteg, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Evangelism is engaging with people in an attempt to explain the gospel and show them that they need Christ as their Saviour. Conversing with people in their own homes can be a relaxed and informal way of sharing the good news of the gospel. Such home visitation is a wonderful privilege, but carries great responsibility.
Door to door evangelism, where cold calling takes place, is not always easy and may not be welcomed by many people today. Often, stickers are put on doors to announce that cold callers are unwelcome. In some blocks of flats where I have called some people are too frightened to open their doors, even in daytime! The Jehovah’s Witnesses movement has grown substantially and this method has, until recently, been their main form of evangelism. Door-to-door salespeople with anything from cheaper fuel costs, double glazing and home insulation to charity donations can seem to plague many areas of the country. The result is that suspicion and unease is felt by many householders when unknown people come knocking on their door.
However, there are many lonely, sad, sick, inadequate, and troubled people in our society who would welcome a home visit from someone who offers friendship, kindness, and a sympathetic approach. Sadly, these are very often the people Jehovah’s Witnesses draw into their organization and this should challenge us deeply about our own approach to evangelism.
Some people are clearly and obviously gifted at being able to knock on someone’s door and engage the occupants in conversation about the gospel. Yet it may be that most of us are too shy, too sensitive, or too embarrassed and, lacking the confidence to do this sort of work. We need a great deal of encouragement and help before we can engage in it.
In considering such work we need to be prepared by having a good understanding of the gospel message, and have absolute assurance that the Bible is God’s word. We must hold the deep conviction that the gospel is the only answer that meets everyone’s deepest spiritual need, and have a sincere desire to make this message known.
A second need is to be prayerful. This indicates the complete dependence we must have upon the Lord for this work to succeed, and it helps us to develop the correct motive. We pray that we might say the right words and be in contact with people who are ready for the message of hope found in Jesus Christ. We ‘bathe’ our work with prayer. It is so important to speak to God about the people before we speak to the people about God.
There are various approaches that can be used. I have a very simple approach. I introduce myself by name and as a representative of our church, though experience has shown that it might need a little explanation of where it is located. Then, I say that if we can do anything to help at any time then do let us know and I leave them with a booklet about the gospel, with contact details on it. That might take just one or two minutes, but it can sometimes engender a much fuller conversation.
Interestingly, one man said that I could do something for him and he drew my attention to the back wall of his council house, which had a problem with damp. I thought for one moment he wanted me to do some plastering! However, he had written and spoken with councillors, the Member of Parliament, and the officers of the Local Authority and yet nothing had been done. So I said that I would write to the council and within four days workers came to fix the problem! It was all about timing, and I am sure that my letter made little difference. However, that family were grateful and have, over the years, come to services; the children have attended the children’s meetings and come on camp. They are now grown up, but I still meet with the family, though they have not yet trusted the Lord.
Another man wanted to talk through his sadness of losing his wife and bringing up the youngest son on his own. The result was that he came regularly for many years to our services and made a profession of faith in Christ. When he died his family asked me to take his funeral and I still have strong contact with them.
A second approach is to go out with a survey form of say twelve questions and explain ‘we are doing a survey of religious views in the area’. The first few questions will be factual, such as how many books in the Bible, name a disciple, or an Old Testament king. The final two or three are more opinion type questions which can engender good conversation, such as, ‘Is the Bible relevant today?’, and ‘Does life cease at death?’ Always leave a booklet and encourage people to come to the church and view the survey results.
However, there are a number of factors that need to be remembered in this kind of work
- First impressions are very important and the initial few seconds can make or break the contact. Therefore, we need to give some consideration to our appearance, demeanour, and the first few words we say.
- Don’t be overtly religious by carrying an enormous Bible. I know we are not ashamed of the Bible, but for non-Christians, it can be embarrassing.
- Never engage in argument as this will always produce more heat than light. Simply sowing a few seeds of the gospel, and maybe just one fresh idea into someone’s mind, can be used by the Lord. People rarely become Christians during their first contact with the gospel, but seeds sown in the heart and mind need time to germinate and take root.
- The aim is to leave a good impression and, whatever happens, we must always be polite and show sensitivity towards people.
- Find any areas of common concern or interest, as evangelism is all about relationship building and getting to know people. People need to develop a realization that they can trust our integrity.
- Find any opportunity to make a return visit, but this needs to be done sensitively by not leaving it too long, as they might forget or, returning too soon, we might be perceived as a nuisance.
- If you have opportunity to pray with people take it and always leave with the promise that you will pray for them. Remember to fulfil your promise.
A further type of visitation is to go to the homes of people in our community whom we know are going through difficult times. I have to visit families when I am due to take a funeral, and so often neither the deceased nor the family know the Lord. We need to be natural with them, supportive and sensitive and, as I gain information for the funeral, I always try to end my time with the family in prayer. Prayer reminds people that we are visiting them in our capacity as Christians who believe in a God who hears and answers prayer.
One family gathered thirteen members together the day after the death of a lady I had visited. They wanted me to speak to them with some words of comfort. There was no warning, but it gave me ten minutes to share John chapter 3 verse 16 and pray with them. Since the funeral, which was some years ago, that family has been many times to our services, including the lady’s husband, children and grandchildren.
There are always opportunities to visit and show kindness to people in our community who have problems and difficulties, such as sickness, burglary, redundancy, marriage breakdown, accident, or bereavement. We should make a point of enquiring about them and promising to pray for them. Compassion can be expressed with a card, chocolates, flowers, a cake, or a meal. When people are in need and feel alone, helpless or vulnerable, such tokens of kindness are really appreciated.
A Christian lady, now with the Lord, was having her quiet time one New Year’s Day. As she read her Bible and prayed she felt a compulsion from the Spirit of God to go next door and wish her neighbours a Happy New Year. She had never done such a thing before and on mentioning it to her husband he could not understand why she was doing it. She knocked next door and the gentleman answered and she wished him and his wife a Happy New Year and said that she was praying for them. He opened the door wide and welcomed her in and said, ‘How did you know?’ It turned out that they had just been discussing his wife’s imminent surgery and had asked the question, ‘Who can we turn to?’ That faithful Christian had turned up and promised to pray, and then had the great opportunity of sharing her faith and pointing them to the Saviour. The old saying is still true: ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much your care’. The New Testament says, that without love it profits nothing. We must show genuine love toward people, because unless we love them it is a waste of time.
Ultimately, salvation is the work of the Spirit of God, but He uses human speech from the mouths of His people to make the gospel message known. Let us take up the challenge of being serious about evangelism, especially in our society that sadly turns its back upon the Lord by rejecting the wonderful love He has shown at Calvary.