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Archive for the ‘Parochial Strategy’ Category

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 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 I simply don’t.

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 and hope.

Here are a number of reasons why I believe it’s worth a serious re-think.
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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.

 

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“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

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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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Sowing_seedWent out in my nearby Lakewood parish Friday. Very encouraging overall. First, approached a couple of fellows who were talking in their driveway. Not wanting to interrupt, I handed them my literature. “Don’t let me interrupt you … unless you’re open to talking religion!” Well, they were. The one fellow, a 40-something biker type with a braided beard, told me that Christianity was suspect, having come down to us through the ages through oral tradition. He didn’t mention the telephone game illustration, but that was the gist of it. I explained to him and his friend the radical concern the early Christians had in bearing witness to the truth. Eventually, I gave the great ‘for instance’ in Saul of Tarsus. Open enemy. Jihadi type. A card-carrying, high profile Jew who hated the Christians. Then he claimed he witnessed the risen Christ, then began “preaching the faith he once destroyed.” At the very least, we should sit up and take notice. I invited him to church, and he indicated that I would probably see him someday.

Another fellow was on his phone, standing outside of his car. This chap professed to be a Christian and named a local, evangelical church where he had attended. But life had got in the way and his employment wouldn’t let him off to worship on Sundays. In the course of the conversation, I admonished him about his duties to follow Christ all the way. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” I told him I was rather concerned about his soul and that he was really taking a gamble spiritually. He took it well, but I fear not well enough.

My third talk was a briefer one. The fellow was on his way, and I try to be courteous. But we did talk long enough to hear a similar story to the neighbor above, though this one was Roman Catholic in his background. I did urge him to consider the call of God, “Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found …”

Last, the second ‘none’ (no religion) was a 30-sometime white lady. Very nice, but had her doubts about God. I began to speak to her of reasons for God, when her husband/partner came up, asked what all this was about, and tried to wrap things up. “Could I possibly finish my thought?” As I did, it seemed as though a chord was struck. Something in the first none’s eyes told me that the second none was getting in the way of something important. Someone important. The One who is All.

More about RPM.

 

 

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Below is an extract from an upcoming journal article I’m writing on Thomas Chalmers’ territorial (parochial) method of outreach.

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The method also capitalizes on the power of moral influence. Now, as we have seen already, the very doctrinal keystone of Chalmers’ model was the stern, Calvinist doctrine of human depravity. Attraction might work, if men were not half bad. But as they are altogether bad – spiritually speaking – there must be aggression. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, the aggression must be gentle. The laborer must go among the people and “ingratiate” himself in their affections by his manifest care for them, body and soul, parents and children:

… he is to watch every opportunity, to go to them especially at those seasons when, through sickness or death in their houses, their hearts are peculiarly open and susceptible to impressions from one who comes to them in the character of a friend and comforter, as interesting himself in the education of their families, and by a thousand nameless offices and topics of introduction by which you may make a pretext or a reason occasion of visiting them: and you will infallibly, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, meet with a cordial welcome from this alienated population.

This aggression is the force of moral suasion, or as he wrote elsewhere, the “omnipotence of Christian charity.” That the people are thus susceptible highlights Chalmers’ convictions of a certain abiding goodness in human nature, which the territorial method exploits. It may not always result in conversion, but it should very well restore a population to regular church attendance – a more hopeful prelude to conversion.

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The following passage comes from the Memoirs of James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698). In it, we hear the heartbeat of a true fisher of men, a pastor-evangelist that all pastors should strive to be. Also, note that he urged the duty of the minister going beyond the four walls of the church into the “highways and hedges” to speak to the lost.  This is the good old parish way – ministerial house to house evangelistic labor in a fixed, geographical district. Would to God it may be recovered! (Italics below mine.)

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God did not send me to baptise, but to preach. But that which I was called to was, to testify for God, to hold forth his name and ways to the dark world, and to deliver poor captives of Satan, and bring them to the glorious liberty of the sons of God: this was I to make: my only employment, to give myself to, and therein to be diligent, taking all occasions; and to be plain, full and free in this charge. I was called to enter in hot war with the world and sinners, to fight by my testimony against them for God ….

He is [in addition to public preaching] to execute his commission by exhortation, private and occasional instruction, whether for reproof, comfort, or in formation and direction. And this is it which I suppose I was moſt called unto, viz. to take all occasions with all persons in private discourse, to make the name of Christ known, and to do them good, and to do this as my only work; and to do it boldly, and faithfully and fully: and this to do is very hard in a right and effectual manner; to do this is harder than to preach publickly; and, to be strengthened, directed and encouraged in this, is that for which I ought to live near in a dependence on Christ, without whom we can do nothing, and of whom is all our sufficiency. In preaching there are a great many whom we can not reach, and there are many to whom we have no occasion to preach publickly; we may thus preach always, and speak more succesfully than in publick, where the greatest part of hearers do not understand the minister tho’ he speak never so plainly. This likewise we are called unto this day, seeing we are by force incapacitate: but oh how is this neglected! were ministers faithful in this, we should quickly fee a change in affairs; but, alas, with grief of heart I speak it, it is in this thing that I challenge myself most of any, it is in this that I have most come ſhort, and I suppose it may be so with others too. The Apostles went from house to house.

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