Rise Up and Evangelize!

Perhaps the greatest book ever written on the Christian ministry was Charles Bridges’ The Christian Ministry. Bridges (1794-1869) was a Church of England minister and one of the leaders in the Evangelical party that witnessed a revival of sound ministers in that denomination during the nineteenth century. When the godly Robert M. McCheyne went to Israel on behalf of his presbytery, one of the few books he took with him was Bridges’ book.  Everything Bridges wrote in his several books breathes with a holy love for Christ and this book is no exception. I would highly recommend every pastor or pastoral student to not only read; not only read it carefully; but to read it soon and to read it for the rest of his life. In the last section of this book, Bridges wrote some words on the pastoral responsibility of ministers that I believe very well apply also to the whole matter of the evangelistic outreach of the Christian church:

Calvin often lays down the Scriptural obligation to this work, and reports the fruitful harvests reaped at Geneva, when the ministers and elders went house to house, and dealt closely and individually with the consciences of the people. Kidderminster, ‘before Baxter’s coming there, was like a piece of dry and barren earth; but by the blessing of heaven upon his labours, the face of Paradise appeared there in all the fruits of righteousness.’ On his first coming, scarcely a worshipping family was known in the place. When he left it, but few families were living without this daily acknowledgement of God, or were unwilling to submit to his private catechizings and personal conference. Six hundred communicants attended the Lord’s table. Alleine often did bless God for the great success he had in these exercises, saying, ‘that God had made him as instrumental of good souls this way, as by his public preaching, if not more.’ Cotton Mather, while ‘he looked upon this work as laborious as any in all his Ministry,’ yet ‘set a great value upon his Pastoral visits. He not only did, but got good in his conversations with all sorts of persons, and thought he never walked more by the Spirit, than thus walking to his flock, to serve and seek their best interest.’[1]

Bridges’ words would be totally without spiritual force and conviction if what he recommends was not Scriptural, but it is.  Jesus went out to the people and preached to them in the Temple courts, by the Sea of Galilee, on the surrounding mountainsides, in their villages and local synagogues, and wherever He could find them (or, whenever/wherever they sought Him). The Apostle Paul set forth the right method when he would visit not only the local synagogues where he traveled, but would also go to the local Agoras—basically the local farmer’s markets where food and other products were sold. There he would engage the people in discussion about God, Christ, the gospel, heaven and hell, and righteousness through faith in Christ. While preaching the same message of the gospel, he geared it to the different cultures and religious backgrounds of the people. Compare, for instance, the differences between Romans and Hebrews. Romans was Paul’s annunciation of the gospel to the Gentiles, whereas Hebrews was the same gospel written to the Jews.[2] In fact, we see in Acts Paul making the same type of distinction in his witness to the gospel. In Acts 13:13-41, Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus as the Messiah to the Jewish congregation in Pisidian Antioch (similar themes as Hebrews). On Mars Hill in Athens, Paul preached on themes similar to Romans while addressing a Gentile audience (Cf. Acts 17:22-31).

Robert M. McCheyne[3] is remembered today for many things, especially for being one of the holiest ministers ever. He was also someone who visited Dundee house by house. They were souls committed to his charge. There is no substitute for such ministry. In a diary notation for September 26, 1838, he noted: “Good visiting day. Twelve families. Many of them go nowhere, It is a great thing to be well furnished by meditation and prayer before going out; it make you a far more full and faithful witness.”[4] If you are going to engage in door to door evangelism, then by all means pray both before and after doing so that God would bless your efforts. 

In the 1980’s, almost every denomination in the US turned their backs on door to door evangelism and evangelistic meetings. And what has been the result? We have raised up a generation that does not know Jesus—indeed a generation that hates Him. A young man who attends my congregation told me of his brother going to basic training in the US Army and having people threaten to kill him when they found out he was a Christian. So, how has the non-evangelistic approach worked out? America is becoming a pagan nation because the church has not taken the gospel to their communities and neighborhoods. 

I very much realize the reaction against door to door evangelism. Most of us have been told that evangelism no longer works and, therefore, we should not do it. It is not a matter of whether it works or not. The issue is that the Church, her ministers, and all Christians have a responsibility to take the gospel to the world. That world starts at our own doorsteps. Until we realize that evangelism is not first of all about our own church’s numerical growth, we will not have the right perspective and motivation to see it through.  The souls of the people around us are our responsibility. God will require an accounting from us. I realize some Christians do not think it is their responsibility to be a witness for Christ. They are wrong. John Murray was once asked by a student at Westminster Theological Seminary if the Bible taught that every Christian should be a witness. He asked to be given time to respond and the next day came back with about 15-20 verses that teach every Christian is a witness. Perhaps one of the clearer ones is 1 Peter 3:15—“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” That verse is written to all Christians—not just to ministers and elders. Ezekiel 33:8 says, “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, but his blood I will require from your hand.’” All Christians have a responsibility to evangelize and to warn their communities or parishes. 

Now, door to door evangelism is both difficult and necessary. Some say the fruit of such witnessing is almost nil and, therefore, is a waste of time. Maybe so, but I have seen people brought into the churches I have pastored through that means, including here at Cornerstone. I have not done enough of it, but I am going to start. You should also. In this blessed work, as in so many other things, “let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9). So, here are a few thoughts as I encourage all of us to do a better job in this matter:

First, make it an ordinary practice to knock on some doors in your community every week. If you give one hour a week and knock on 10-12 doors, then in a year you will have visited with 500-600 families. You will have had direct contact with them which is much better than direct mail, etc. Someone once said that it is not what you do extraordinarily that defines you, but what you do ordinarily. I recently received an email from a good friend on a plan for reading large books by devoting 15 minutes a day. The same is true with evangelism. Devote an hour a week or 15 minutes four times a week and leave the results with God. Always pray before you go and when you return. Many people will say they are coming, but will not. Some will say they are not interested and later want to come. 

Second, regular visitation is better than a blitzkrieg approach. You do not have to march through your city the way Hitler’s forces rolled through the pathetic French defenses in World War II. The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Start the job and keep at it. Do not wear yourself out in the beginning and then do nothing thereafter. Let it become a habit for you. Take someone with you. Church members need to support their pastor and elders in this gracious work. 

Third, realize that the Lord has many ways to bless you without you even knowing it. You may visit 10-12 families this week and the next week and the next week, etc. Meanwhile, the Lord is preparing someone to visit your church that you do not even know about it. It is all about His glory—not how many pats on the back you receive. If you cannot crow about how you visited someone and got them into your church, who cares? It is all about Jesus. If He doesn’t build the house, those who do build it labor in vain. 

Fourth, take an easy sell approach to your witnessing. My approach has always been that I will go as far in a witness as the other person is willing to receive. When they resist, it is a good time to make sure that you do not cast your pearls before swine. Go door to door with a humble, servant like approach. Go there as ambassadors for Christ with the attitude of serving them and showing them that is your only concern. Ask them if they have a prayer request. 

Fifth, do not get flustered no matter what happens. If they do not receive you, then do what Jesus advised and shake the dust off your feet. Move on to the next house.

Sixth, take a simple brochure on your church with you and an evangelistic tract. Offer both of them to every house. Do some kind of simple survey and try to get their name and the interest they have in spiritual matters. Follow up on those people who express real interest in learning more whether that is a discovery Bible study or something else. Keep a record of what houses were visited and what was the interest. 

Seventh, every church member can do this in their respective neighborhoods. It is good to invite friends, but the Lord might have other people in mind. Do not limit the Lord. 

This is not a plan that guarantees church growth, but evangelistic churches almost invariably grow faster than non-evangelistic churches. 

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL 


Please send any donations to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540.

[1] Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry (London: The Christian Ministry, 1967), 348. 

[2] All the internal evidence of authorship of Hebrews more supports Paul as the author than any other individual. If you take the view that Hebrews was written during Paul’s imprisonment after his last visit to Jerusalem, it is easy to understand why he would have left his name off that book.     

[3] McCheyne’s thoughts on evangelism and the office of evangelist can be read in the biography of him by Bonar on p. 138. McCheyne completely agreed with the position taken by Vanguard Presbytery concerning evnagelists. 

[4] Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of R. M. McCheyne (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), 60.  

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