While I was a student at FHU, a community series was conducted at the Estes Church of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee by Dr. Brad Harrub. That weekend, Dr. Harrub, founder of Think magazine, defended the existence of God and discussed current societal issues like abortion and stem cell research. At least two weeks prior to this uplifting event, after the Estes church spread the word through newspaper advertisements and other methods, Christians in the Henderson area began inviting members of the community by going door to door inviting each resident personally.
To fulfill a class assignment, one of my friends and I participated in this outreach for at least 10 hours—two Saturdays and a couple of weekdays. While this method of evangelism (door-knocking) was a first-time experience for my friend, I was familiar with it. I’ve participated in door-knocking efforts several times before during my high school years. I have not, however, had a lot of experience with door-knocking in such rural areas within the states (I have, however, done work in foreign mission efforts in 3rd world countries).
We arrived the first Saturday morning to work and were encouraged by the Christians who greeted us at the church building. They reminded us of the purpose of the work we were doing, and worshiped with us briefly before going over instructions about the routes we were to cover.
The route we were given was an area where many of the residents lived in mobile homes and were far enough from their neighbors that we had to drive to each house rather than parking the car and walking house-to-house. We didn’t know what to expect about how people would respond to our personal invitations, but we certainly faced a wide variety of reactions. Some people would crack the door, grab the flyer, and shut the door in our faces. I’m happy to say those people were in the minority. Most people politely listened to our invitation, took the flyer, and thanked us. Some people told us they were members of a denomination (usually Baptist). One man said to us, “I’ve been Baptist my whole life, and my daddy’s a Baptist preacher. If I ever went to ANYTHING at the church of Christ, I think my family would disown me.” We talked with him a while, emphasizing that it was a community series, not just a “Church of Christ function,” and by the time we left, he said he was interested and might come. We ran into several people who told us they were members at Estes, which brings me to a story.
On that first Saturday we worked, we drove down a long, narrow dirt driveway with deep ditches on either side, and no room to turn around by the two mobile homes at the end of the driveway. It was very muddy everywhere because it had rained most of the day. We knocked on the doors, and the people who answered told us that they were members at Estes and planned to attend the seminar. We told them we would look forward to seeing them there, got back in the car, and then I struggled to back out of the narrow driveway slowly. Unfortunately, my tires slipped off and my friend and I landed in the muddy ditch.
As we stumbled out of the car and climbed out of the ditch (I was wearing a skirt, by the way), one of the men we spoke with came outside and, with an attitude of kindness and good humor, attempted to help push my car out. Due to the depth of mud and the depth of my car in the ditch, pushing wasn’t enough. The gentleman pushing went and found a neighbor of his who owns a large tractor, and his friend laughed at me and was kind enough to pull my car out. We thanked him over and over. He laughed and winked in response.
As we were leaving, the quiet, gentle man who was a member at Estes talked with us a bit. He thanked us for what we were doing, and begged us to keep going as much as we could. He told us it meant a lot to him to see young people working for the Lord as we were. We thanked him, and apologized for causing him trouble. He told us that it would be difficult NOT to fall into the ditch like we did with the rain making it slippery and the driveway being so narrow. We thanked him, and finally left to find the next house.
Although the experience was somewhat embarrassing and humbling, I cannot help but think it was providential that it happened at the home of a brother in Christ who was loving enough to patiently help us as needed. The things he said after helping with my car reminded me of the seriousness of what we were setting out to do. It was just what I needed to hear. I needed to be reminded that our efforts were not about a class assignment, but about lost souls who need Jesus. It was refreshing.
Participating in door-knocking efforts always gives me a variety of emotions: Excitement, discomfort, joy, sadness, and sometimes a hint of anger. The excitement is always there right at the beginning before I actually start exiting my comfort zone and talking to people about the Lord. The discomfort comes whenever awkward situations arise, like the overweight man who came to the door in only his boxers without any embarrassment on Monday of our door-knocking days. The joy is almost overwhelming when someone responds well to the invitation and commits to coming. The sadness comes when someone seems to care little or nothing about spiritual matters based on their response. Occasionally, however, I feel angry when the response is rude or spiteful towards us. In times like those, I’m reminded of what it means to love as Christ would love. If Christ could come and die for people who were hateful, cruel, and unloving, it’s the least I can do to be patient and kind with people who are not kind to me.
While I believe the effectiveness of door-knocking efforts pale in comparison to that of “friendship evangelism,” if one person came to the community series because of a flyer I handed them and because of a kind word of personal invitation, it was worth every moment we spent. The existence of God was defended, His word was taught, and His holy Name was glorified. I’m thankful I was able to attend. I’m also encouraged by the thought that, even if many of my contacts never showed up for the seminar, they were given clear information and what I hope was a pleasant impression of Christianity.
“…How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” –Romans 10:15
Can feet be muddy and pretty at the same time? You bet!