I have always wondered how successful this style of evangelization is, and whether or not there are other types of evangelization which are far more worth the effort. According to an article on About.com entitled “Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses Practice Door to Door Evangelization,” some estimates argue that the Jehovah’s Witnesses get one convert for every 740 houses they knock on.
As a Catholic father, I have often asked myself, “What is the best way to deal with these separated brothers and sisters?” I don’t think it is the most virtuous and Christ-like action to simply slam the door in their face. I think that the Christian thing to do is to simply engage them, invite them into your home, and seek to achieve the following goals:
1. Understand them – Remember the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:“Master, grant that I may not so much . . . seek to be understood as to understand.” We especially have to remember this when dealing with door to door evangelists.
2. Defend the faith – Once they find out that you’re Catholic, probably due to your religious statues, crucifix necklace, saint medals, etc. (we tend to give ourselves away pretty easily), then they will probably start to rain down the questions. Hopefully they will genuinely want to know why we believe and do certain things. Defending the faith is the hardest part of answering door to door evangelists for many of us. Personally, I would prefer to just push them off on a priest or send them to catholic.com for answers. However, we as the laity ought to empower ourselves. I suggest you arm yourself with Catholic apologetics books on topics from sola scriptura to Mary to papal authority. Maybe you even have a few extra to give to them! The bonus is what you learn will be helpful in answering questions from your children as well.
3. Treat them with love – The last thing you want to do is start a heated argument. Treat them as you would treat anyone, in persona Christi, or, “in the person of Christ”. Gently answer their questions, and ask questions of your own, so that you can better understand why they believe what they do. Showing them Catholic hospitality will make a far better impression than verbally assaulting them until they make a run for it.
Starting a dialogue with door to door evangelists ought to be something that every Catholic father is not only unafraid of, but also something that every Catholic father wants to do. Why? Because it is an opportunity to share the truth of the Catholic faith, to understand what others believe and why, and to treat others with love as Christ would have us do.
What has been your experience with door to door evangelists? What advice would you offer to fathers who might be faced with door to door evangelists?