On Door-to-Door Evangelists, and What They’ve Taught Me About Myself

Door-to-Door Evangelists (And What They Taught Me About Myself): Thoughts on Evangelism

Note: this post is an edited version of an earlier post from my first blog that has since been deleted.

As I’m turning from my computer to my writing table, I catch a glimpse of the bronze car parked at the side of the road through my window.

I look up and my stomach drops. Oh crap. Yes: there it is. I know that car. Crap crap crap. After a moment of temporary stupor, I recollect myself and quickly take two steps to the wall to click off the light switch. I survey the other rooms. Are any other lights on? No. Good. I tiptoe to the computer and turn down the music that’s playing. I breathe out. I sneak to the window. I don’t see them anywhere — just the car. I back away from the window slowly and think. How can I go on with my work without allowing them to see or hear me? I can’t let them know I’m here. I decide to hide out in the upper level of the house until they’re gone.

I’m just creeping up the stairs when I hear the doorbell ring. A shock sparks through my body and I take in a sharp breath. Then I slowly continue up the stairs. On the landing I begin to pace. Are they still there? Are they going to try again, are they going to wait? The doorbell rings again. I hold my breath. Then I tiptoe toward the window in the spare bedroom to peek out. AUGH! It’s the woman, and she’s coming around to the side door! I jump back from the window. I hear her knocking now. My heart thumps and I pace quickly. I strain to look out the window again from where I’m standing by the stairs. Nothing. Then I catch a glimpse of movement — she seems to be heading back to the car. I let out a sigh. Ahhhh . . . my heart slows. I approach the window again to watch her climb back into the driver’s side of the car. I have escaped again.

Door-to-door evangelists.

I get a lot of them in this neighbourhood — I’m not sure why. I guess because I’m one of the few adults home at this time of day. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other enthusiastic gospel-bearers — I get them all the time. I often get several visitors a week; once I got two in one day. I confess I quite dislike it. So I’ve gotten into the habit of locking the door and hiding when I see them coming around.

I don’t know why I loathe their visits so much.

Most of them are very friendly and nice. I tell myself that I’m just too busy to stand around on my porch in the middle of the afternoon chatting with middle-aged spiritual busybodies about my salvation. They don’t want to hear a word of what I have to say. I’m already “saved,” for heaven’s sake, and I have things to do!

But in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I spend just as much time hiding from them as it would take for me to listen to them read me John 3:3 and then accept a booklet and an invitation from them.

It’s not that they take up so much of my time. It’s that I simply don’t like their visits. I don’t feel like being proselytized to. It makes me uncomfortable.

It’s a very strange feeling, being on the receiving end of evangelism as a church-attending Christian myself. Heck, we call ourselves evangelicals! That’s what we do!

But it has been extremely educational, having those visitors stop by my house. I have been forced to think long and hard and frequently about the whole issue of evangelism. These gospel-bearers have helped me to see and feel what it’s like to be the victim — er, beneficiary — of such evangelical zeal. These experiences have been unspeakably valuable for me, as a person of faith myself and as an individual who has tried her own hand at evangelism one too many times.

In the next few posts, I’ll be sharing a couple of personal stories that helped shaped my understanding of evangelism. It wasn’t that long ago when I was not that different from these door-to-door evangelists. My feelings about evangelism have changed profoundly since my early days as a new evangelical in my teens and early twenties, and these fellow evangelists have helped me to understand myself.

Note: This is the first installment in my series on evangelism. You can find my introduction here.

As I mentioned, I first wrote this several years ago when I was still in grad school. Honestly, I don’t think that much about evangelism anymore, and I don’t often find myself in many situations anymore where traditional evangelism might take place; but I thought it might still be worth revisiting and discussing.

Image by Benny Mazur.
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  1. I’m curious to read more. I’m also hoping you’ll articulate more about why you find these visits so terrifying. Do you think its beyond an extroverted-introverted thing? I for one, am always super sad when I see the missionaries in the neighborhood and think, “darn, I missed them again!” Ask my husband! I must be an odd duck, but for some reason I like that they exist, that they’re out there doing their thing, while that might not be what I’m called to do. They’re willing to put it out there and keep getting rejected. I don’t think their strategies are always effective and I admit I’d love to ask a few of them (mostly Mormons and JWs) a few more questions about how they believe what they do, but I also want to give them a little encouragement from a fellow Christian. Although in person communication is so much more difficult, I think its so needed in these digital, anonymous times.
    alison recently posted..The funk of not creating and the Age of Information OverloadMy Profile

    • Dang! We DO feel differently about these visits! I can’t believe you feel disappointed when you miss them! :)

      For me, I think it’s mostly my extreme introvertedness. I don’t like meeting new people in general, and especially under such inconvenient terms. It just seems so RUDE and INVASIVE to have someone knock on my door while I’m the middle of making supper or whatever and start prying into my personal life. And so PRESUMPTUOUS to assume I need saving.

      But I do admire their boldness and perseverance. I know that they believe they’re doing the right thing, and I applaud their willingness to do something uncomfortable in the name of their beliefs.

      • As I got to think about it more, 1 to more than 1 missionary every day is pretty intense…I think I would start to get a little bothered by that. Especially after having a child, when nap time is my only “free” time. But I’ve found the missionaries are the easy ones to have a chat with or dismiss with a “god bless you”, it was all the environmentalists that would really put up a fight! (At least in California, we don’t get those here! Do you only get religious visitors?) And there should be limitations as to the time of the day they should knock, we got some persistent ones at 9:30pm that were WAY too late. And I definitely agree with the commenter below about relationship. In Mexico outside of the metro once I really wanted to talk more with a Jehovah’s witness more but they were pretty content to just give me a paper and leave. I remember thinking, gee, if you’re going to be a missionary like this, you need to at least TRY to have a relationship with someone! I couldn’t help but think they were a little reluctant to be doing it in the first place but trying to do it anyway.
        alison recently posted..The funk of not creating and the Age of Information OverloadMy Profile

        • Also, what I think is at the crux of what we’re talking about is the different beliefs on salvation to begin with, but I’m not entirely sure you’ll get in to that here, and why you only see missionaries of certain denominations. Perhaps the funniest door to door encounter I had was a “Jewish missionary” during September that was going around the neighborhood “giving gifts to Jewish people” with what I guess was the intent to get them practicing and back in temple (instead of just culturally identifying). So the exchange was “This is what I’m doing. Are you Jewish?” “No.” “Ok, thanks! Have a great day!”. Hilarious.
          alison recently posted..The funk of not creating and the Age of Information OverloadMy Profile

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily an introverted/extroverted thing. I’m very much an extrovert, and I also hate being proselytized to. It feels rude to have my day interrupted by a total stranger. I understand *why* missionaries go door-to-door, but I think it’s one of the worst ways of evangelizing. I think that sometimes (maybe more often than not, I can’t say) their hearts are in the right place, but…still. Blegh.

      Personally, I think that change happens best in relationships. That’s another part of why I don’t like door-to-door evangelism. Why should I care about what this person has to say? They’re a total stranger. Rather, it is my friends and family who have an impact on my life. They’re the ones who encourage me to be a better person, to be more like the person God made me to be. I feel that the best form of evangelism is one in which we form relationships with people, and we do so on the basis that they are a beloved child of God, not that they need saving. It’s not our job to save. That’s God’s job.

  2. I used to love getting door-to-door visits when I was a kid, I was so proud when the moment came that I could say that “yes” I did know Jesus, and yes, I would like a free devotional book. However, as an adult I have had enough experiences interacting with evangelists to develop the sense that *no matter what* I say, I cannot convince an evangelist that I am already “saved.” The ones I have encountered, like you say, do *not* want to hear what I believe or think, but are at the ready to tell me their truth and correct my doctrine. This is very offensive, and it feels like some type of conflict situation with a cordial veneer. Now I get nervous just seeing them on the same block as me (no more door-to-door now that I’m in an apartment). I try to cross the street or go in a store. I hate conflict!

  3. I told you I’d enjoy the post :) Looking forward to the upcoming ones as well.

    Rebecca recently posted..The Diva Cup ExperimentMy Profile

  4. Oooh. I LOVE when they visit. Unfortunately my house now seems to be blacklisted. They skip me :(
    The JWs got really upset when I brought out my Greek NT to have them show me what they were claiming and I was easily able to refute them (my M.A. Is in exegetical theology). I don’t think it helped that one of the guys was a new convert and trainie. Bummer. It was so fun discussing theology. I hope to get to do it again if we wet move to another location.
    Michele recently posted..Motherhood with a Toddler, while ExpectingMy Profile

    • Love this. I’ll have completed my Master of Divinity by the end of the year. I should keep this in mind for future encounters. :-)

  5. Living in the bible belt, I’m surprised we don’t get more of this, but other than one or two around Easter, I haven’t had this experience. It really is a conflicting experience for a follower, since, on one hand, I want to be proud of them for bearing some discomfort/awkwardness (or, perhaps, worse) for the sake of sharing the Gospel (or as much as one can in such a short time). On the other hand, I can’t help but feel anxious every time I might be confronted with such an occasion, and I’m a very extroverted person! I guess, in a way, I feel awkward because I’m “wasting their time” already being saved (no one has ever tried to argue with me about that fact, though). My other issue with it is I wonder if it’s really an effective way to advance the kingdom. Most people today who are not followers will overwhelmingly feel acosted and not cared for, and how is that supposed to bring faith? When we are called to be beacons of love, making people feel outside seldom seems to help, but maybe this is just my experience with such encounters. God can work all things for good, and we can never tell if any one action we do is the seed that might grow to faith for them. So, I guess, in the end, if you feel God calling you, then go forth…. just don’t be surprised when I avoid the converstaion lol :)

  6. Haha. I do the same thing if ANYONE comes to the door. And if they see me and I have to answer it, I make sure to let my loudly barking Labrador peek through the door first. Conversations seem to be shorter when I have to talk while holding the collar of an eighty pound black bundle of muscles and teeth that keeps lunging at my unwelcome visitor. ;-)

    Also: coming around to a door other than the front one? NOT ACCEPTABLE. How rude! Not that I have a side door. And I don’t know that I’ve ever had missionaries come to this house.

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