Cold Call Evangelism


This Fall I’m enjoying something I couldn’t do for a season because of back issues: take students out to knock on doors and do some cold call evangelism. I actually enjoy this; however, in a Post-911, post-Christian America, the way I do cold call evangelism (unannounced gospel-sharing to strangers) has changed. I know for some readers the very idea of talking to a stranger unannounced causes all sorts of fear of uncertainty. Some believe such approaches as this are no longer effective and should be relegated to the category of the Edsel automobile. I’m in between: I think any method we use should be constantly assessed, but rather than rejecting some, we might try tweaking them. And a reminder, nothing works if you never do it.

I’m convinced cold call evangelism is not only biblical it’s also important.(let’s face it, there’s a lot of unannounced, stranger-to-stranger witnessing going on in the Acts) At the same time, I think it needs to be conducted differently than years ago.

There was a time in America where in many places a stranger knocking on a door was greeted not with suspicion but with a welcome, or at least with a greeting something short of “what the heck are you doing at my door?”

We live in a different day.

In our book Get Out which focuses on helping student ministries reach out to public schools, my son Josh and I note that a couple decades ago, when a youth pastor brought boxes of pizza at lunchtime for his students, he was generally welcomed by the school. Today, if a twenty-something year old man shows up at a public school, the response would hardly be described as welcoming. Our world has changed, and our 24 hour news and social media laced society keeps mass shootings, dangerous people, and tragedy ever in front of us. This has raised an awareness of the dangerous world in which we live.

So how to do cold call evangelism?  Here are a few principles I’ve found to be encouraging and effective:

1) Do cold call evangelism to homes (door-to-door) in daylight.

Recently I took students knocking on doors as I mentioned. We went at 4 in the afternoon. We found the people we met were friendly (likely because we were friendly), and we had some good conversations. I simply don’t do this after dark today.

2) When knocking on doors, I try to go in teams of three with a mixture of men and women.

There is something less scary about opening a door to a couple guys and a lady than two or three dudes.

3) When you knock on the door, step back, turn sideways, and let them size you up through the peephole before they see you staring at them.

Turn, smile, and immediately introduce yourself and your team and announce the church you represent (and by all means, do represent a church). Just the other day a lady said, “I thought you were Jehovah’s Witnesses” and was relieved we weren’t!  I tell the person up front our intentions: “I’m Alvin, and this is Sarah and Thomas. We are from Richland Creek Community Church and wanted to stop by and give you information about our church (handing them a card with all that), and we wanted to know if we could pray for you about anything?”  I’ve found people to be very open to talk then. Oh, by the way, if there is a dog, I say “Is that dog a man-eater?” Almost always they smile, say no, and talk to us more.

4) When doing cold call evangelism, we want people we meet to sense three things about us. First, we are harmless.

We are kind, we care about them, and we are not pushy. We are their neighbors in the same community after all, and we care about a lot of the same things. Second, we seek to bring joy to our community, including to them. Third, we are not doing this to make visits, but to make friends.

5) Do cold calls after dark differently.

I personally don’t go knocking on doors in the dark. I go to a restaurant, break our group up into teams of 3-4, and share with the servers. Tip well when you do this! Ask if you can pray for the server, and if you can bring a fistful of ink pens to give him/her (servers have to provide their own pens). Leave a gospel booklet like a Story booklet. Mention it is a little Bible study that explains the whole message of the Bible in a few pages. Also remember what R.A. Torrey said about witnessing in public: 1) Obey the Holy Spirit, and 2) Don’t embarrass the other person.

We need to be actively, intentionally sharing our faith. But we need not feel a compulsion to do things exactly like we did years ago. That only shows we are not growing, and not aware of our context. Be intentional, and be wise.

CGCS Administrator
Center for Great Commission Studies
The Great Commission Studies (CGCS) is the hub of Southeastern’s Great Commission efforts, helping develop students and faculty members who are Great Commission servants of their local churches. The CGCS serves the Southeastern community in four major areas: academics, research, mobilization, and convention relationships.
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