One Shot Evangelism

When a fundamentalist talks about evangelism what they generally mean is “soul winning.” Furthermore, what they mean by soul winning is mostly “giving the gospel one time to a stranger whom I will almost certainly never see again.”

This kind of proselytizing is a strange way for any group to further its goals. The fundamentalist is essentially building an entire method of organizational growth on a policy of asking complete strangers to believe that a person with whom they had a relationship for exactly thirty seconds has the absolute truth about all matters of sin, redemption, and eternity. And what’s more, they do this in a cultural environment where most people won’t even buy a magazine subscription from a door-to-door salesman.

It’s not exactly clear how this came to be the preferred method of fundamentalists for “evangelizing” the lost. I would posit the theory that the average fundy simply doesn’t have relationships with a large number of certified genuine sinner types that he can use as a basis for witnessing. Indeed, having built the castle of Holiness and dug the moat of Separation, fundamentalists are then left with the task of launching raiding parties of two or three hearty Christians soldiers out into the wild to club as many hapless sinners as they can and drag them back into the fold while trying not to be infected with their prey’s immodesty and bad language. Hunt with care, you only get one shot.

51 thoughts on “One Shot Evangelism”

  1. It became popular because of the reference Acts 20:20 is interpreted to mean house to house soul winning. Never mind that Paul was talking to the elders of Ephesus when he says he was doing this.

  2. Quite possibly your best piece ever. I used to be part of those hunting parties back in the day at BOJO. The quicker you could get them to pray “the pray” and get out of there the better.

  3. Bill,

    I spent four years at a fundy college and never went once. I even had to put up with being ridiculed in front of an entire “collegian” (aka Christian fraternity) because I wouldn’t pledge to go out to help them win ‘service points’ towards the year end ‘service trophy.’

    I told them that if I wasn’t going to do it on principle I certainly wasn’t going to do it for a trophy. I didn’t win any popularity contests.

    1. Good, It’s nice to see someone stand on what they, not their pastor/priest/other holy figure believes.

    2. Darrell, how did you escape the weekly soul-winning ritual? PCC had no accountability in place? My Fundy college made everyone fill out “Christian Service Reports” weekly in which we had to perform at least two hours of soul-winning. I don’t know about anyone else, but I usually counted travel time towards my two hours… 😛

  4. what about having a time set aside to go visit family, friends, co workers, neighbors, former classmates, ect? we have soulwinning, we go door to door, but we vist those type of prospects too, aswell as people who have visited our church.

  5. A local IFB church insists on doing their cold-call door-knocking at night. Really? Opening the door to complete strangers at any time of day, especially at night, defies all basic common sense rules of personal safety. I never open my door to strangers, much less at night.

    A whole other post could be done (if it hasn’t been already) on the topic of church door hangings and papers stuck in windshield wipers. Those almost annoy me more than door knockers, especially if it’s raining or nighttime and the last thing I want to do is spend more time outside my car getting wet or making myself an easier target for people with less than noble intentions. I look at those papers long enough to make sure they’re not a parking ticket or important notice from my apartment manager, and to make a mental note to NEVER support that business or visit that church, before crumpling them up and throwing them in the trash.

    Oh, and I know the topic has been done already, but since it’s a related issue, I recently had an experience with a very confrontational “airplane evangelist.” I appreciate that the man had good intentions, but I was exhausted and looking forward to some much-needed sleep on that flight, and maybe a bit of reading as well. Most people take the hint and leave their row mate alone when he or she pulls out a book or closes his or her eyes to sleep. Not this guy. Ugh. It was a HUGE turnoff, and frankly I agree with much of what he said.

  6. never did this.

    Does anyone other than the Church of LDS, JW and Fundies do this? It has always seemed odd to me that the Fundies would want to use the same tactics as these other churches. My wife and I had some LDS missionaries do their presentation in our home. It was pathetic. I wonder if non-fundies view the typical fundy presentation as pathetic as well.

    My current church encourages public service, which leads to trusted relationships, which leads to spiritual discussion.

    1. Social Gospel!! [gasp]

      Nevermind that Jesus himself spent much time healing and feeding people along with giving the Gospel. Most Fundies I know would not approve of Jesus’ evangelism style. 😀

    2. Mormon missionaries are…interesting. i was in college at the time and they came knocking on my apartment door one afternoon, said their bit and gave me a Mormon bible.

      That night, I read through the Mormon bible. It was like reading a poorly written fantasy novel. It would have been hilarious, except that people actually believe the stuff in that thing.

      Needless to say, I did not become a Mormon.

  7. I used to be an ordained “evangelist”. After 6 years of Saturday after Saturday soul-winning, I began asking my pastor if this was really what evangelism is primarily about. Needless to say, it did not go over well with him.

    Of course, after a few more sermons about people in my community being in the obituaries and, consequently, in Hell, because we weren’t spending enough time going door to door – I once again made that long trip to the pastor’s office to ask him exactly what Jesus meant when he said “All that the Father has given me will come to me, I and will lose none of them, but will raise them up at the last day (paraphrase mine)”.

    I was quickly removed as deacon, evangelist and teacher at our church and IFBx Bible College. Go figure.

  8. I’ve definitely seen door to door and street evangelism abused, but can’t say I take the same approach to it as others here do.

    I’ve grew up fundy and I’ve done a lot of street evangelism and open air preaching – a lot of it in ways I would no longer do it. But I think there is a time and place for it, even in our culture. As for door to door, my charismatic Reformed NON-fundy church still does that on occasion, and we’ve had wonderful conversations with people as a result. I think the attitude, timing, and purpose of the “soul winners” makes a big difference. Do we really CARE about the people we are meeting or are they just a number to convert?

  9. A large part of this probably stems from fundies’ staunch refusal to recognize/acknowledge societal changes. In the mid-20th century, folks would sit on their front porch on Sunday afternoons and *expect* people to come by for a visit. (This isn’t just an Andy Griffith episode — it really happened.) Fifty years later, I don’t open the door for anyone, unless I’m expecting a pizza.

    It’s the same “logic” that continues to give us hair-length restrictions even though the length of your hair has had no societal significance since the Carter administration.

    1. Oh how I wish that were so. I’m a hippy-dippy pinko-commie college student with almost shoulder length hair and I’m starting to wonder what is has cost me, besides the split ends.

  10. Brendt has it, I believe. At one time, our society was ok with this sort of cold-calling, if you will. Door to door salesmen, evangelists, etc were accepted. That’s not the case anymore. The world is a relational world and one has to build relationships to make a difference, at least in most cases.

  11. I think that the fundies have a very legalistic view of what they’re supposed to do.

    The imperative is to spread the Word, not to actually get any results.

    By blithering from door to door or by getting on a bullhorn outside a NIN concert, fundies feel they’ve fulfilled this requirement as all of the metrics for success have to do with the earnestness of the fundie, not with the conversion of the real person.

  12. @Mark The wording is mine but the image of Christianity hiding in a castle comes from Professor Jerram Barrs of Covenant Seminary. I cannot recommend his class on Evangelism and Outreach highly enough. It’s simply fantastic.

  13. I think Brendt has a point. By in large, many “fundy” churches refuse to recognize that we are no longer living in the 50’s-70’s. Seriously. These churches were perhaps “mega” churches in the 1970’s and 80’s, then lost their relavancy and have been struggling since.

    I also agree with the original post. I don’t know of many churches now that participate in door-to-door soul-winning, but I am sure there are a lot that exist (unfortunately!). I do believe this method probably turns many people OFF from the Gospel.

    And yeah, the problem is basically that most super-ultra-conservatives don’t have any friends who aren’t Christians. They don’t let their kids participate in any non-Christian activities, or play with the “heathen” neighbor kids. Therefore, how on earth would they know any non-Christians to build relationships with?

  14. When I was a faithful IFBer, to show “my” faithfulness, I did a lot of door knocking. I remember asking my wife the other day why it always felt awkward. My wife said that it is because many IFBers will go to participate in the soulwinning program, but do not personally know any of their neighbors. My wife reminded me that she has shared the gospel with many of our neighbors through inviting them over to our house and hospital visits. These venues are personal and require having a relationship with someone. I always get tired of meeting people who want me to come to their church, but do not want to have a relationship with me. What ever happened to Jesus meeting the individual personally?

  15. I always get tired of meeting people who want me to come to their church, but do not want to have a relationship with me.

    worth repeating.

  16. I was a fundamentalist for years. In my early days I obediently did some door knocking as it was the only real “evangelistic” effort that we did in our church. After many years I have come to the conclusion that cold door knocking is virtually useless here in Australia, and is usually interpreted as confrontational or offensive.

    Australian people have a sense of “mateship” that must be established before you have sufficient grounds for sharing anything, much less gospel truth. Unfortunately most fundies are not interested in being your mate, until you have crossed all their I’s and dotted all their T’s, and been baptised in their church. For this reason, most of them are unable to evangelize effectively in our culture.

    It does not seem to occur to fundamentalists that part of being obedient to God in the great commission also includes coming up with caring, innovative and culturally acceptable ways to share Christ and win the respect of folks in our community. We are commanded to “Love our Neighbor” this involves patience, kindness and good deeds, perhaps even long before you even mention the gospel!

    As an alternative to door knocking some more culturally understanding Churches here in Australia do beach missions. I’m not completely against knocking on doors, but I would definitely not use the standard fundamentalist rant.

  17. Tom – It is interesting that you would check this site out. Do you find it offensive? Just curious to see you pop up here. BTW, I am former IFB that went to Temple Bapt in Fountain City.

  18. I do not find this site offensive. I think some of attitudes of some of the posters are negative and bitter, but some of the posts are funny, so I log on from time to time for a good laugh…do we know each other David?…

  19. We’ve met before. Cimino is my last name. My sister in law (Iris S.) went to your church for a while and worked in the bus ministry.

  20. @tom hatley

    True some may be negative, but bitter is a stretch. My experience is that it is extremely difficult to detect whether someone is bitter or not by reading an occational post. Many times, bitter is a label that is applied to a ex-fundy. It’s purpose is to discredit the individual and minimize the real hurt that the fundy church has done to the ex-fundy when they leave a fundy church. Many times the harm occurs months if not years before the ex-fundy leaves. Typically, the more open and vocal a ex-fundy was when they left, the more extreme the labelling and criticism of that individual will occur. Most of it will happen in the foyers and fellowship halls of the fundy church, sometimes it will come directly from the pulpit. Distortion, manipulation and discreditation is the norm by the fundy church to preserve its own reputation at the expense of others.

    Many left my fundy church before me, ~200 in 5 years. (From a church that had 200 regular attendees). They were all (100%) labeled “unteachable”. Most labeled “un-spiritual, un-holy”. Any ex-fundy who attempted honest communication with a fundy still in the fundy church was labeled “bitter”. FYI: these labels are insults to a fundy.
    The frustration of most ex-fundies is that when they say that when the fundy church mis-labels them, the fundy church replies that they have not. This denial of name calling is frustrating and for some ex-fundies will lead to a period of bitterness, and if not bitter, will still invoke a pointed response.

    Some ex-fundies have experienced divorce (with the fundy church’s blessing), and have had their families nearly destroyed, lost their jobs, experienced extreme mental and spiritual abuse, and manipulation while still in the fundy church, due to the teachings and counsel of fundy leaders. I was fortunate to keep my wife and family, I know others who were much less fortunate. 4 years out now and we are still recovering.

    This is the dark side of the fundy church, but to deny that these events continue to take place is inappropriate for an orgainization that claims to be God’s body.

    For those ex-fundies who are negative or still bitter, fine. God will heal them on God’s schedule, not yours or mine.

    The truth is that most ex-fundies have a unwavering love for fundies. They see God’s mercy, grace and love extended to them by getting them out of the fundy church’s grasp, and hope and pray that God will work in the lives of all fundies to free them from the bonds with which they have shackled themselves. This love heals the ex-fundy and allows them to live without hostile attitudes towards the individuals who hurt them.

  21. Iris is a real blessing to me, my family and church…JimE i think bitterness is acurate for some of the posts and comments, with all the mockery..the hurt you speak of I know is real, but not all ifb churchs fall into the mold of which many “ex-fundies” speak of…however the attitude of some “ex-fundies” are as bad or worse than current “fundies”…

  22. I agree JimE. Many of us woke up one day and saw the people around us and saw that our own families were being destroyed by false theology and misapperceptions of a man centered Theology. The IFB movement is a humanistic response to the type of sound Theology that the Reformers that they ironically praise, like Spurgeon and Bunyan, preached. The people they praise did not endorse this type of man centered teaching. It is essentially humanistic leaven passing for truth. Much of the heresy in the church began in the 1800s. The IFB movement is just a leaven of bad Theology. Jesus said that wisdom is justified of her chilren. Look at your local IFB church discerningly, minus the suits, smiles, and breath mints, and ask yourself if families are thriving. My wife and I saw faimlies being destroyed. Many people reading this will see that you have to take every church case by case and that no church is the same. True. While that may be true, the Theology of the IFB world is basically the same in every place. We saw that the people we were going to church with were failing, especially people who were considered the most spiritual among us. It seemed the people I went to church with were living in a world of religion and idealogies that do not exist in the real world. If you don’t agree, look at countenances of the children of the church and you will see either grace or law in action. There is a great failure among IFBers that is not just geographical. It can be contributed largely to bad Theology. IFBers fall into immoral situations, beat their wives and kids, quit their public jobs to pursue a life of free money for “ministry,” they are found in the newspaper in scandal, they go to jail, all the while living in the delusion of “once saved, always saved.” This isn’t the result of just sin alone, but false ideaologies and a counterfeit reality. My wife and I woke up one day and found ourselves in this counterfeit reality. If you have ever seen this in action, it will make you want to tell everyone that it is a type of counterfeit leaven. I have the feeling Jesus’ words would be stronger, especially since the people who are doing this say they know and they do not know. So, am I bitter because I feel strongly about God’s people being shortchanged and given a substitute for a greater reality? Why? Is it because I feel strongly about how God’s elect are being misused and abused by a counterfeit system? Nevertheless, God is able to gather his elect out from a counterfeit church and give them sound teachings and shepherds that are more interested in their well being than exploiting them to build a Babel (a new church building program that was designed by the cunning devices of men and not God.)

  23. I understand what you are saying, but as an INDEPENDENT baptist i do not see myself as part of a movement. just a bible believing christian part of a local church…grace is our message…do we have certain standards? yes, but all people do and all churchs do to some degree. our people have joy in jesus…not all ifb churchs are like you say…alot of sterotyping going on here…however i get a kick out of some of it.

    1. The reaction of many people on this blog to fundamentalists and to people like you, who comment here is a bit like a rape victim who accidently meets a completely innocent person who unfortunately looks, dresses, sounds, walks like the person who raped her/him. The person may not be guilty but may provoke a strong reaction which may be hurtful and bewildering. Do you get what I am saying?

  24. Hey alan, fellow Calvinist/Reformed person here. I too grew up a Calvinist-attacking Fundamentalist, but was spun around a 180 by the Grace of God. I just wanted to say that calling Fundamentalism a “heresy” may not be exactly correct.

    Fundamentalism, at least how it started, was actually largely Presbyterian, aka dirty Calvinists Lol. The whole idea, like Spurgeon in the Downgrade Controversy, was to counter bad theology by holding to some Fundamentals. These 5 basic Fundamentals are still very important to me like the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, Substitutionary atonement by grace through faith, that sort of thing. Check out Historic Fundamentalism to learn more if you wish.

    My point is that at least what Fundamentalism was is not heresy, but actually a safeguard against heresy. What Fundamentalism has become today however…I can see your point. What began as a way of people safeguarding theology turned into a list that people had to nod in agreement with to be called “Christian”. Much like the Law of Moses was meant to safeguard Israel, the Fundamentals did the same. Much like the Law of Moses was abused by the Pharisees after several generations, so too has the list of Fundamentals become abused. I find it ironic really.

    Still, this does not mean that all the spawns of Fundamentalism have reached their inevitable destinies. It is possible to still be a Historic Fundamentalist, but the problem I see with that is what will future generations become? Children aren’t born saved, and it is an easy thing to accept a list of rules to become a Christian rather than to be born again. Law tends towards humanistic theology as the center of Law is man. Grace has as its center God, but can become rather loose on, er… “rules”.

    There must be a balance, but it often hard to find. Even if a group or denomination finds it, that doesn’t mean the following generations will keep it. I hope all that made sense. To sum up, I am not sure “Fundamentalism” as a whole is heresy or even Humanistic. At least, it wasn’t always that way. Something to think about.

  25. Perhaps this may give evidence of at least one Fundamentalist who abhors humanism in Fundamentalism:
    Ironically, this Fundamentalist and his argument in this video was one of the things that broke me of my humanistic theology. Apparently God can use even a Fundamentalist to help break me of the bad parts of my Fundamentalist tendencies. If you haven’t heard this sermon before I hope it I hope it helps you like it helped me.

  26. @J Leslie.
    A guy in my online theology class through MBI sent me that link. Kinda random that he did. Anyways. When I was watching it, I found it be very fundy in approach… Yet I too will admit that it really did help break some humanism off of me. It really does hold some merit.

  27. J Leslie,

    Ironically, I have not fully embraced Calvinism or Reformed Theology. I just like the writings of the Reformers. I have just made a gradual journey toward what is Biblical over the years and somehow my thinking has become vastly different from what is taught in denominations or institutions of higher learning (i.e. PCC, Bob Jones University, etc.)

    I want to be careful in not saying that fundamentalism is heresy. I still consider myself a fundamentalist as well, but I left the IFB denomination. One can not believe the Bible without adhering to the fundamentals that you mentioned. If you reread my comment, I think you will find that my judgment is on the IFB movement and not fundamentalism. By the way, the Ten Shekels and A Shirt sermon is a classic on humanism. Thanks for the encouraging words.

  28. @Tom
    I agree with you that not all IFB or fundies fall into the category I described.
    Many times it is a combination of personality types, religeous beliefs, intellect, education and past experiences that blend together into a destructive situations.

    There are some churches and pastors that have good intentions but still harm it’s members. The scenarios of this situation are many. Others have enumerated these scenarios and have lived them.

    This is a tough issue. I just do not see any effort by the fundy / IFB community to effectively deal with this issue. I see and hear only denials. The good fundy / IFB leaders need to step forward boldly and reform the community. It is not those who speak up who are destroying the reputation of the IFB/fundy movement. It is those who are aware and remain silent, continuing to allow these destructive situations to repeat themselves.

    10 years ago, I would have strongly disagreed with these statements. Today, I can no longer deny these beliefs.

  29. I am a “fundie” but preach against what I preceieve as unbiblical craziness among alot of “fundie” churchs…However i have a strong conviction for the KjB and soulwinning and other things some as an “exfundie” would view as extreme. I believe in pastorial authority, but do NOT believe a pastor should Lord over God’s heritage like MANY in “fundie” circles do…and I not only no not believe in it ..i preach against it..

  30. I think of how many times my former pastor and I would go “soul-winning” and the person would be the least bit interested. They were just trying to be nice. Meanwhile, phones would be ringing, babies crying, kids fighting, etc. and my pastor and I would just keep the person at the door while they would keep saying they have to go. Finally just to get us to leave, they would just bow their heads and repeat the “Sinner’s Prayer”. We would never see them again but they were counted as being saved.

  31. <>

    You’re brilliant, Darrell. All those years when we were younger and I thought you were nothing but a mean old bully–I was wrong. Okay, maybe I wasn’t wrong (on remembering some of the tricks you played, yeah, you WERE a mean old bully sometimes….I recall one time when you informed me, with glee, that if I stepped one tiny toe even a little bit NEAR the quicksand, that I’d be instantly sucked down to my death. Pretty traumatising for a little girl, let me tell you. Even now, I gingerly, and with great care, edge around all sand patches I come across.).

    But somehow, you aquired brilliancy along the way. [grin]

    Man, it’s been a while since I’ve visited your blog! But all my friends are becoming fans on Facebook, and they are constantly reposting favourite blog posts and all, and I realized that this world is just getting smaller.

  32. Door knocking is good too, but of course no watered down message. Sin, righteousness and judgment must be preached and then the good news of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. With NO getting them to repeat an UnBiblical sinners prayer at the end.

    Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I have nothing against relationship evangelism, but it doesn’t say go out into all the world and make relationships with people to influence them to come to Christ.

    It says go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

  33. Sean Payne, I think maybe you’ve missed the point of the website. Maybe you can read a few more posts to get the full grasp of what’s going on here. Also, while the Scripture says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” (ESV by the way) it never says that preaching involves door knocking in ANY way. It also never refers to anyone using a sandwich board to deliver the greatest message of all time. The only things I’ve ever seen on a sandwich board (except the Gospel when fundamentalists use them) were advertisements for fast food and furniture liquidation. I prefer my Gospel with a little more class. Speaking of relationships, didn’t Christ have real relationships with sinners? Isn’t that the primary way he reacted with people? Didn’t he wear their clothes, speak their language, eat their food, basically become just like them? He blended in. There was no form or comeliness, remember? He just fit in. Relationships are a great thing, even with those blind, damned, wicked, blasphemers. (as you call them on your website)

  34. What do you mean by missing the point of this website?

    Regarding your other statements; my point is that as long as the Scriptures are being preached, whether it be door knocking or street preaching and of course many other various methods. As I stated I have nothing against relationship evangelism, Jesus talked and ate with sinners, but He also preached a lot.

    The New Testament example is they went and preached mostly.(The book of acts in particular) I have found however that must people excuse themselves from their duty to proclaim the gospel by stating that they just intend to influence people to Christ by means of relationship, when both should be done, not just one.

    I hope this clarification makes sense.

  35. I’ve seen some churches and schools have “soul-winning marathons”. Anybody familiar with this?

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