What happened to door knocking?

You don’t need a budget or a strategy. You just need a listening heart and a dollop of courage. Rev. Ben Woodfield, Antioch Network, shares life-changing stories from good old fashioned, door to door rat-tat-tatting.

Evangelism Tools
Avatar photo Ben Woodfield
6th June 2024 6 minute read
A row of houses

Oh no, please tell me he’s not going to tell us to get out and do door knocking. I’d hoped church door knocking had ended in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I hope you do by the end of this article.

My name’s Ben Woodfield, and along with my family, we’ve been living, working, and serving Jesus on council estates for the last twenty odd years. I lead a small church plant in Bolton called New Life Breightmet, which is part of the Antioch Network, an Anglican church planting network in the Diocese of Manchester.

I’m a charismatic Christian, which means I long to walk by the Spirit, to live by the Spirit, to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5 / Romans 8: 14) and to continually be filled and submerged in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3: 11 / Acts 4: 31 / Ephesians 5: 18)

We’ve been part of New Wine for many years. We love New Wine for so many reasons – the community of fellow believers who support and strengthen us, the summer festivals where we laugh, eat, talk, pray and worship Jesus. But a key part of the summer festivals is a deep refilling work of the Holy Spirit in order that we go back out in boldness to our families, friends, workplaces, and neighbourhoods.

I love New Wine for this. It’s very easy for us to cocoon encounters with Holy Spirit in safe spaces like a Christian festival and overlook the utter biblical insistence that Holy Spirit power is received in order that we are His witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1: 8).

Acts 4: 31 tells us that ‘..after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’  Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1: 7-8 that ‘..the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.’

Boldness. Come on then—what’s the boldest thing you’ve done in Jesus’ name? I want to suggest that one way we can be His bold witnesses is door knocking.

I run a church planting network, and we categorise our evangelistic endeavours in three ways: relational evangelism, activity evangelism, and cold contact evangelism. Clearly, the main way the church grows is through relational evangelism, of this there is no doubt, and our witnessing should always start and end here. But what about cold contact evangelism?

About nine months ago my mate Dan, who is a fellow church planter in Antioch, started door knocking in his community. He was surprised by the positive reception and fruitfulness he was seeing. I was struck by it.

A small group of us had been prayer walking through our neighbourhood each week. Our new church plant had been launched about 18 months and we recognised the need for more outreach and evangelism. Here’s the thing about our church – I am ‘paid’ part time to lead it and the rest of us are amazing volunteers. We don’t have a large staff team. We don’t have a lot of time. We must be wise and prayerful in what we do. But we started to sense a push to do something more, something bolder, something scarier in our evangelism; we sensed it was time to try door knocking.

Five of us gathered in our front room and we began to worship Jesus. Then we came up with a plan; we would ask Holy Spirit what street He would have us go to and ask Him for anything specific for us to pray into. We would go in twos and knock on every door on that street. If the door was opened, we would say, “Morning, my name is Ben and we’re from the local church, you know, that church that meets in the Mosley Arms pub. We’re not Jehovah’s witnesses, don’t worry. We are praying for your street this week and is there anything you need prayer for.” That was the plan.

All that was left to do was start moving our legs out of our comfy front room and into the neighbourhood.

Door knocking is scary, it’s uncomfortable, it’s annoying. Door knocking is inconvenient and pulls us out of our comfort zones.

We headed for the street we felt was right and began.

Two thirds of the houses no-one answered the door. But the rest were all happy to see us, and a handful wanted a conversation about their lives and about Jesus and some even received prayer. We couldn’t quite believe how receptive people were. The following weeks we went to all sorts of different streets in our community. The receptiveness remained the same.

We decided to do a street in our community that had a ‘particular’ reputation. We were even more pleasantly surprised by what we saw. That morning, we only knocked on about 15 houses because we had run out of time – around 65% of the doors opened and 80% of people who opened their doors were positive and wanted deeper engagement. So, we had to go back the next week. And the next. For around 3 months we door knocked that street.

At one door we knocked we met a lady, her fella and their 3 beautiful girls. Over a period of a few weeks, we got to know them and eventually the mum and the 3 girls turned up at church on a Sunday. They have been coming to church every week for the last 5 months. The mum did an introduction to Christianity course and 2 months ago gave her life to Jesus. At the beginning of May, she and her 3 girls are getting baptised!

One week we were chatting with a friend we had made on the doors, and she was telling us about one house opposite her. “Don’t go to that house, it’s full of armed robbers,’ she proclaimed. Me and my friend Joan said to each other, “That house next then?” We knocked on and were greeted by a lovely Slovakian family who invited us in. 4 of us sat with this family, and the teenage daughter translated for us. We explained that we were Christians who were part of a local church, and asked whether there was anything they needed prayer for.

The mother, though the daughter, said with a wide smile on her face, “You are Christian! We have been looking for Christians around here!” She asked us to pray for them as a family, particularly their eldest son, who had just been arrested and in custody for armed robbery. We began to pray.

The only way to describe what happened next was that it felt like Jesus entered the room; His presence was tangible and heavy. Some of the family had tears in their eyes, and we all knew we were in the presence of God. We couldn’t move from the room for at least 20 minutes, we simply continued to pray. Since then, I have begun visiting the eldest son in prison. We continue to visit the family and offer care, love, and prayer wherever we can. We continue to seek and trust Jesus for His plan. For the family.

We still knock on that same street today. The Lord has introduced us to some amazing people—some folks we now call our friends.

Door knocking is startlingly simple. You don’t need a budget or a strategy. You need an obedient and a kind heart. You need a reliance on the infilling and empowering boldness of Holy Spirit.

So. What do you think?

 

This article is kindly reproduced by permission of New Wine.

Written by

Ben Woodfield

Ben Woodfield is a Church of England Planter Priest based in Bolton. Co-leader of the Antioch Network, Diocese of Manchester, Ben loves to encourage others that church planting is far more doable than we often think. He is passionate about seeing the gospel proclaimed in word and deed, within the poorest communities in the power of the Holy Spirit. He has over 20 years experience of living and working on council estates in the UK with his wife Amy and their three children.

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