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old-door-knocker“Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8).

I do door-to-door evangelism. And I actually believe in it – in 2018. In making that admission, I suppose I should feel like Sarah Sanders trying to tap-dance around a newly minted presidential tweet. But actually, I don’t. At all.

I’m not a JW or a Mormon. Nor am I a Fundamentalist Baptist. I’m a confessional Presbyterian, relatively well educated, and (somewhat) comfortably middle-class. So why embrace what many Reformed and evangelicals consider pointless at best and counterproductive at worst?

Since I was converted back in the early 90s, I’ve practiced a number of methods of evangelism. I do not consider any one of them ‘the’ silver-bullet, nor do I think that door-to-door is always and in every case the most ideal method. But for the last thirteen years, I’ve engaged in regular, door-to-door evangelism as key part of my overall outreach effort. I do not presume to have the final answer on all questions, nor can I boast impressive success. Do I do this perfectly? Not at all. I’m always going to be on a learning curve. And consequently, I’m open to other suggestions and critiques. But after these many years and after many, many discouragements, I still keep coming back. I still plod. In hope.

Here are a number of reasons why I believe it’s worth a serious re-think.
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16th century lawn bowls“We show and teach daily in our sermons, that God took upon him our nature: but how do men hear them? Who is there that troubleth himself much to read the scripture? There are very few that attend to these things; every man is occupied with his own business. If there be one day in the week reserved for religious instruction, when they have spent six days in their own business, they are apt to spend the day which is set apart for worship, in play and pastime; Some rove about the fields, others go to the taverns to quaff: and there are undoubtedly at this time as many at the last mentioned place, as are here assembled in the name of God. Therefore, when we see so many shun and flee from this doctrine, can we marvel that there is such a brutishness, that we know not the rudiments of Christianity?”

– John Calvin, sermon on 1 Tim. 3:16

Here’s a great article in New Horizons featuring Pr. Lowell Ivey, OPC minister in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on his efforts at neighborhood, door-to-door evangelization.

 

“Some Highland Evangelicals (in the 18th century) resorted to coercive tactics to compel people to hear their message. A mild example was Walter Ross’ confiscation of the cooking utensils in a fishing village that repeatedly emptied of its suspicious inhabitants when he approached. He returned the pots and pans after entertaining the villagers at a meal two days later. At that time they promised to receive his visits and to attend church.”

-Stephen A. Woodruff, The Pastoral Ministry in the Church of Scotland, p. 242

X. Sess. 13 et ult., April 27, 1708.—Act and Recommendation concerning Ministerial Visitation of Families.

“. . . Seeing, for the faithful discharge of ministers’ work, they ought, besides what is incumbent to them in the public congregation, to take special care and inspection of the particular persons and families under their oversight and charge, in order to which, it hath been the laudable custom of this Church, at least once a year, if the largeness of the parish, bodily inability in the minister, or other such like causes, do not hinder, for ministers to visit all the families in their parish, and oftener, if the parish be small, and they be able to set about it.

“For the more uniform and successful management of which work, although in regard of the different circumstances of some parishes, families, and persons, much of this work, and the management thereof, must be left to the discretion and prudence of ministers in their respective oversights, yet these following advices are offered and overtured as helps in the management thereof, that it may not be done in a slight and overly manner.

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A choice morsel from Puritan Thomas Brooks from his classic, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (1652). Here he gives a remedy to Satan’s attempt to distract the Christian with vain thoughts while he is seeking the face of God.

Rem. 5. Labour more and more to be filled with the fulness of God, and to be enriched with all spiritual and heavenly things. What is the reason that the angels in heaven have not so much as an idle thought? It is because they are filled with the fulness of God. Take it for an experienced truth—the more the soul is filled with the fulness of God and enriched with spiritual and heavenly things, the less room there is in that soul for vain thoughts. The fuller the vessel is of wine, the less room there is for water. O then lay up much of God, of Christ, of precious promises and choice experiences in your hearts, and then you will be less troubled with vain thoughts. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things, Matt. xii. 35.”

How many different masters will the next century follow? The confusion will reach new heights. None of them will be willing to be governed by the opinion or authority of the others. Each will want to set up as his own rabbi: look at how Osiander and Agricola are already behaving. . . And what terrible scandals there will be! What excesses! The best course would be for the princes to avert such evils by means of a council. But the Papists would avoid this: they are so afraid of the light!

– Martin Luther, 1538