House-to-House Preaching Most Effective
MODERN man has various means at his disposal for trying to influence others to his way of thinking. There are the radio, television and the printed page. But for effectiveness nothing can compare with the method Jehovah’s witnesses have been using for many, many years, that of house-to-house visitation.
The modern witnesses of Jehovah claim no credit for using this method, for it is not original with them. They merely follow the example set by the apostles more than nineteen centuries ago. Thus we read that “every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news.” The apostle Paul used the same method: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 5:42; 20:20, NW.
The clergy of Christendom, however, have long remained wedded to the pulpit, entering into the homes of the people only by means of radio and television. They not only looked down on house-to-house preaching but time and time again they have been instrumental in having the witnesses arrested for engaging in house-to-house preaching. This has caused the witnesses much loss of time and involved them in costly court battles. But in the end the courts in many lands, such as the Supreme Court of the United States, have repeatedly ruled that house-to-house preaching is not commercial peddling but is entitled to the same consideration shown to preaching from the platform or pulpit.
And now, after all these years, what do we find? The leading spokesmen for Christendom coming out for house-to-house preaching!
One such is Catholic priest John A. O’Brien, writing in Our Sunday Visitor, February 3, 1957. Under the heading “St. Paul: House-to-House Salesman,” O’Brien had the following to say:
“St. Paul capitalized on contacts everywhere to win souls . . . It is especially significant that twice in the Acts Luke tells of Paul’s habit of going from house to house: this he did when harassing Christians and this he continued to do when seeking to win converts for Christ. This practice he inculcated upon his disciples, and it was used extensively by the early Christians in their zealous efforts to spread the faith. . . .
“What has become of this house-to-house method of spreading the faith, the technique of which enabled Paul to win myriads of converts in all walks of life and of all tribes and nations? By a strange and bitter irony it has fallen into disuse among Catholics and has been taken up with enthusiasm by the sects, especially those on the fringe. . . .
“The sect which has made the most systematic use of the house-to-house method is Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is scarcely a home in any rural district, village, town or city in this country which has not been visited at least once by the emissaries of this strange sect. The result? They have achieved by far the greatest increase.”
Mr. O’Brien then quotes from The New Yorker: “While the 254 other denominations in the United States have registered a 75 per cent increase in their combined membership during the past quarter of a century, the Witnesses have leaped ahead with a gain of 2,300 per cent, or at a pace thirty-one times as brisk as all the rest put together.” O’Brien then continues:
“To what is this phenomenal increase due? To the flaming missionary zeal of the Witnesses. . . . the basic technique on which they rely in recruiting members is house-to-house visitation. This they ask of all their adult members, both men and women. . . . Thousands of Witnesses spend several evenings a week in the instruction of families in their own homes. Their leaders tell them that they are ministers and they must bear witness by instructing neophytes [new ones]. Hence they boast of having a larger number of ministers than sects with many times their membership.
“The Witnesses do not select merely a few likely prospects and then call on them. They go from door to door, calling at every home, even those of clergymen. . . . Thus there is scarcely a home in the intensely Catholic province of Quebec whose doorbell has not been rung by a Witness.”
But not only are Catholic spokesmen waking up to the value of the house-to-house preaching but also Protestants. Thus Parade, a widely distributed United States Sunday newspaper supplement, in its issue of July 8, 1956, told of Methodist teenagers in South Norwalk, Connecticut, going from house to house trying to interest other teen-agers in religion.
Most striking of all, however, is the testimony of evangelist Billy Graham, as noted in a clergyman’s letter published in The Christian Century, February 27, 1957. He commented on the purported results of Graham’s campaign in Buffalo, New York, and showed that of the 600 commitments for Christ only thirty did not belong to any Catholic or Protestant denomination. He then went on to say: “The total cost of the crusade will run better than $6,000. This does not include the amount turned over to the Billy Graham crusade team over and above local expenses. One wonders if this is really effective evangelism. It was to Billy Graham’s credit to state at the ministers’ meeting that visitation evangelism was more effective than his type.”
Note, “visitation evangelism,” that is, house-to-house preaching, is more effective than Billy Graham’s type. The Scriptural method of house-to-house preaching is being recognized as the most effective way to preach religion. According to O’Brien the laity too must use the apostle Paul’s method. But what about the Catholic clergy’s setting the example, as did Paul? Would that be expecting too much?