There was a knock at the front door. I opened it and was greeted by two young men dressed in black and white. They asked me, Do you believe the gospel?Yes, I replied. Then you should join us in preaching it door-to-door! they responded.
Perhaps you have had a similar experience. What does God’s Word say about this subject?
Jesus commanded the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom in all the world as a witness to all nations before the end of this present age (Matthew 24:14). Christ added that this gospel of His Father must be published for all nations (Mark 13:10).
Scripture is clear: The gospel should be spread as far and wide as possible (Matthew 28:19-20). The Church of God is to reach the “largest audience possible” with God’s truth (Revelation 10:11).
In fulfillment of this commission, should true Christians canvass suburban neighborhoods house-to-house, handing out magazines and books, and conversing with people with the goal of converting them? Is a Christian following Christ’s example of the early New Testament Church by going door-to-door preaching God’s gospel of the Kingdom?
The answer in Scripture is abundantly clear—and perhaps not what you think.
In Their Homes
The Bible shows that only God the Father can draw someone into the Body of Christ. Jesus Christ explained this truth in John 6:44: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him ….” Going door-to-door in a missionary effort falls outside of the spirit of this statement, and differs from the examples found in the New Testament, as we will see.
Many cite Acts 20:20, believing it supports personal missionary efforts. Taking one verse out of context, they assume the Apostle Paul traveled door-to-door in order to preach the gospel to the unconverted. To understand, we must review who he was addressing.
“And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house” (verses 17-20). Paul was speaking to the elders. He was educating the leaders of the Church in their own homes. He was not going door-to-door forcing the gospel on the unconverted.
Some ask, “What about Acts 2:46?” “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Verse 37 shows this is referring to the apostles and other followers who were all in doctrinal unity and harmony.
They had come from various nations and assembled in Jerusalem to attend God’s annual festival of Pentecost. Those who lived in the area invited them to their homes for a meal. The converted leaders ate in the homes of other converted members, not in the homes of the unconverted. They did not go preaching door-to-door. The gospel was preached to them in synagogues and in the temple. They were obeying Jesus Christ’s clear command to the 70 disciples He had previously sent to preach the gospel, when He said, “Go not from house to house” (Luke 10:7).
Paul lived in his own home in Rome, where he preached the gospel to those who requested it and came to him (Acts 28:30). He also preached to them in the synagogue. After some became converted members of God’s true Church, then he visited and taught them in their homes. He did not go preaching door-to-door on a conversion crusade.
Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Jesus Christ prophesied that an end-time type of Elijah would be used to restore all truth to the Church as well as preach the good news of the family gospel to all nations as a witness in preparation of Christ’s prophesied Second Coming (Matthew 17:10-11; 24:14; Malachi 3:1; 4:4-6).
Chapter 19 of the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong is entirely devoted to the subject of unsolicited attempts to convert others. “Now a passion swept over me to ‘get our families converted,’” he wrote. “With the best intentions in the world, I set out on a vigorous campaign. To me, it was the loving and intense desire to share the wonders and glories of Bible knowledge with those we felt we loved most. But to most of them, it was an unwanted effort to ‘cram my crazy religion down their throats.’ … God made every human a free moral agent. Thank God!—no one has power to force on you any unwanted religion. Every individual makes his own decision.”
The responsibility to respond to the gospel message is upon the hearer. Viewers of Mr. Armstrong’s World Tomorrow television program and subscribers of the Plain Truth and Good News magazines were well familiar with his repeated phrase, “Don’t believe me; believe your Bible!”Millions worldwide responded to the good news he delivered.
Today, God’s gospel is broadcast by His apostle over television, radio and the Internet (Revelation 10:11). Anyone can choose to close his ears and reject it. That gospel is published in print and online as an educational service in the public interest. It is sent free of charge to all who request it. Those who watch The Key of David and subscribe to the Philadelphia Trumpet and Royal Vision magazines, request to attend Personal Appearance Campaigns, respond to God’s instruction and ministerial counsel, and commit their lives to Him as begotten members of the Church, are a special treasure—precious jewels to God (Malachi 3:17).
God’s true ministers go into the homes of converted members or new contacts who request it. We do so in order to counsel them from God’s Word (John 21:15-17). We do not go to the homes of people who have not requested a visit from us. There is never an attempt to force God’s truth on anyone.
Of course, every member of God’s Church should always be ready to give an answer—if asked! (1 Peter 3:15). However, this is not an invitation to preach. We are to be a light (Matthew 5:14). If you are living God’s way of life, that cannot be hidden from view. God says we can best serve the unconverted by our example, which they can see and learn from, not by giving unwelcome correction they do not want to hear. We can also pray for their repentance, knowing that if and when they come to the knowledge of the truth, it will be God the Father who draws them, not any man.
In The God Family Vision, Gerald Flurry expounds on our role as those who bear witness of the light: “That witness can be more powerful than preaching, because it is a person letting Christ live in them, and thereby letting the light shine! That is the kind of witness John was—‘that all men through him might believe.’ Although some don’t want to believe yet, in time our witness will have more of an effect on people. That is the strongest message of all.” Do we understand how important our example is? It is far more powerful than trying to force the truth on someone who does not want it!
The truth of God is precious; Jesus Christ taught us not to cast it before those who would trample it under foot (Matthew 7:6). If you try to force it on those who do not want to learn, you may be doing just that. The time is coming when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28-29), and they will be willing and able to learn. In the meantime, we must support this Work as it aims to reach the largest audience possible, and let God decide who to draw to His truth.
The Philadelphia Church of God follows the example of Jesus Christ, His 12 apostles, the Apostle Paul and Mr. Armstrong. And in so doing, God’s Work faithfully proclaims His gospel to all who have ears to hear (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). What will your response be to His spiritual call to action?
Sidebar: An Introduction to the Philadelphia Church of God
By Gerald Flurry
From the beginning of Jesus Christ’s ministry with just 12 disciples to the thousands of laborers, supporters and co-workers of today, God’s Work has had a vital job to do. The purpose for which Christ established the Church characterizes its work—its activities and overall commission.
The Work is a spiritual work. Through the New Testament, Christ shows us that the purpose of the Work of God is twofold. First, we are to proclaim to the world as a witness the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. As part of that witness, we are to publish the Bible’s warning of the disasters that will precede Christ’s Second Coming because of mankind’s sins. Second, we are to spiritually nourish the Church itself, preparing the people God calls for future responsibilities under Christ when He returns to rule all nations in love.
The many and varied endeavors of the Church all trace back to this clear, exciting twofold commission. The ministers and members of the Philadelphia Church of God are dedicated to proclaiming and living the way of life explained in the Bible. It is a way of sharing and giving, of caring for one another, of striving for godliness in all our dealings with fellow man. It is a way of family harmony and joy, a way of peace among nations and peoples of all cultures and races. It is a way of rigorous accomplishment, and drawing on God’s help to achieve the very fullest of our incredible human potential.
I am thrilled to be able to share with you a taste of how we are working—humbly, but diligently—to hasten the day when, as the Prophet Isaiah said, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
Sidebar: Herbert W. Armstrong on Trying to Convert Relatives
From the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong—Chapter 19
Remember these scriptures, “No man can come to me,” said Jesus, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44, 65). Again, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother …. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother [or wife or husband] more than me is not worthy of me …. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-38).
God made every human a free moral agent. Thank God!—no one has power to force on you any unwanted religion.
Every individual makes his own decision. A religious difference between husband and wife is a serious handicap. The Bible forbids a converted person from marrying an unconverted.
But if such difference already exists, do not make matters worse by talking religion to your mate. Do all your talking to God in prayer. Let your mate see your happy, pleasant, cheerful, joyful, loving way of life—not hear your arguments or nagging! Allow your mate complete religious latitude and freedom—whether to be converted, religious, irreligious or atheistic!
I am glad I learned that lesson early. I have had to maintain certain business connections with many people since being plunged into God’s Work. I must maintain contacts with radio men, publishers, professional men. I get along splendidly with them. A big reason is that I never talk religion to them.
I never try to talk anyone into accepting Bible truth or being converted. I go to the world over the air, and in print, and everyone is free to listen or read—or to dial out or not read. No one gets our literature unless he personally requests it. We try never to force God’s precious truth on anyone. That’s God’s way!!
How NOT to ‘Witness for Christ’
Do you know how the Apostle Paul won individuals to Christ? Not the way people attempt to do it today. He said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” When he talked to an unconverted Jew, do you suppose he spoke as a Christian thinking he is “witnessing for Christ” would do today? Do you suppose Paul said to the unconverted Jew, “Have you received Christ as your personal Savior?”
No, that is not the way Paul spoke to unconverted Jews. Paul said, “[U]nto the Jews I became as a Jew” (1 Corinthians 9:22, 20). Paul spoke to others from their point of view! He talked to a Jew just like another Jew—from the Jewish viewpoint—showing sympathy and understanding of the Jews’ way of looking at Christianity. Paul did not arouse hostility—he put it down, so that they were sympathetic toward him, not hostile. He became as a Jew “that I might gain the Jews.” Even so he gained only a small minority, yet it was a large number.
Perhaps you have had your eyes opened to the fact that sin is transgression of God’s law. Most professing Christians have been taught, and consequently sincerely believe, that “the law is done away.” Paul was inspired to write that the carnal mind is hostile to God and to God’s law; “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). If you say to your unconverted mate who is hostile to God’s law, “You’re just a rebellious sinner, and your church is just one of these false worldly churches,” you have not only aroused hostility, you have yourself been hostile, and you probably have broken up your marriage.
How did Paul talk to such people? Listen: “To them that are without law, as without law … that I might gain them that are without law.”
First Principle in Influencing Others
One of the first principles of successful advertising I learned early in my career is that to get results you must first learn the attitude of your reading audience toward whatever product or service you are advertising. You must not antagonize those whom you expect to persuade. You must approach them from their point of view—not from yours, especially if your viewpoint is contrary to theirs. To win them to your point of view, you must approach them from their viewpoint. Otherwise you only arouse hostility.
I know that these words are addressed to a very large number who have made this terrible mistake. That is why I have devoted so much space to this point.
If you believe God’s truth, and your husband or wife does not, never talk religion to him or her. If your mate normally thinks and speaks only of material and worldly things, then you must speak of material things to your spouse.
If the World Tomorrow broadcast has, probably because of your own aggressiveness in trying to get your mate to listen, become a sore spot, go off to some private room to hear the program. Keep the volume turned down. Make every effort not to antagonize your husband or wife.
And again, when you talk about it, talk to God in prayer. Let your mate see your good conduct, in a manner that he or she will naturally approve. Avoid every hostility. Be pleasant. Keep cheerful. Be happy. Radiate joy! Give love and warm affection! Do everything to cause your husband or wife to like you! That is the Christian way!