FANCY FARM, Ky. – Ian Carrico, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in a small west Kentucky community, likes doing evangelism the old-fashioned way.
It includes some walking, knocking and talking.
The door-to-door approach is a weapon in the evangelistic toolbox that many have dismissed as ineffective.
Not so fast says Carrico, who just last week went with Kentucky Baptist Convention Evangelism Strategist Kenny Rager down a lonesome road and came away with four victories in sharing the gospel.
The soles-for-souls experience included meeting an atheist, a pagan, a universalist and a fourth young woman who accepted Christ – all of them living on the same road.
"You labor and toil – I probably don't do everything I should do – and God lets you see fruit every now and then," Carrico said. "It's an awesome thing, a humbling thing."
Knocking on doors was how Carrico was taught evangelism by a professor at Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City. "He was an evangelist professor on fire, is still on fire, with sharing Jesus with people," Carrico said. "Door-to-door street evangelism, just going cold turkey with maybe nothing but a handful of tracts."
Carrico said he has found the door-to-door evangelism can be more calming for the one being visited because they are on their own turf. That was what happened a week ago when Carrico and Rager met face-to-face with some unbelievers right in their own driveways.
"It might be the only time some of these folks will ever engage in a gospel conversation," Rager said. "Three of those we met – the atheist, the pagan and the universalist – all lived on the same road and would never have probably come to church. Because we went to them, we declared the gospel to them. They were all kind to us."
The fourth conversation was a young woman who, with tears streaming down her face, received Christ after learning from them that she doesn't have to live in her brokenness. But even during the other three gospel conversations, the recipients respectfully listened to what Carrico and Rager had to say and gospel seeds were planted.
"We think this mass collection of different religions and philosophies are only in major urban areas," Rager said. "That's not true. This was in Clinton County, in Fancy Farm, Ky., a rural subdivision with house next to house next to house. One road."
Carrico said he carries the door-to-door evangelism concept with him in ministry. He has mapped out an area around his small church and goes visiting with deacons and other church members. They pound the pavement, taking small groups on outreach excursions in the small town of 300. Some days are better than others for people responding to the knock on the door.
"We usually stay on the front porch, share our faith and share Christ," he said. "Most of all we want to plug them in with the Lord."
He said the church has seasons where the outreach has been more intense. "It ebbs and flows with our schedules," Carrico said.
While he doesn't dismiss other forms of evangelism, and even encourages them, the door-to-door method is what Carrico has found works best for his ministry. He has been in Kentucky since 2011.
"A lot of people have hard feelings about the church or a distorted view of God," he said. "Are you going to reach them through some kind of mailer that says 'Come to our big event and have popcorn and pizza!' I just don't know if that's going to work."
When Carrico and Rager were walking, they met people on their own driveways and didn't drive them away with the conversation. They asked them to share their stories.
"They shared where they were at and we were blown away," Carrico said. "The atheist told of hard feelings about God. We asked him 'What if God sent us here today for you to hear from God? Is that a possibility?' He said, 'I would consider that a possibility.' I know the spirit of God is going to work with him. We didn't browbeat him and didn't push him around. We were able to share the gospel and his Word says it will not return void."
Rager said door-to-door evangelism isn't the only way, but just a way.
"Churches can also engage in revival meetings, evangelist block parties, be involved in community activities, there are a lot of ways," he said. "I would encourage churches and pastors just to do something."
Rager said the door-to-door evangelism is something that's still working and not an approach from years ago that is no longer effective.
"That's not what we're seeing when we're knocking," he said. "It's not what Bro. Todd Gray (the new executive director of the KBC and former evangelism team leader) is seeing when he's door knocking."
Carrico said door-to-door is "aggressive and in your face" and can be uncomfortable for the ones knocking or the ones on the other side of the door. But he remembers the cross.
"I think 'Lord, you went to the cross and died for sins. That's aggressive. If you can do that for me, I can knock on doors for you.' If they run off, that's fine."
Carrico said he tries to put literature in their hands, even if the conversation cools. "Todd Gray has taught us if you get information and get it in the home, it's a good step forward."
The pastor likens going door to door to how politicians pound the pavement and knock on every door in the community to get across their message and earn a vote. "Why would they keep doing that if it didn't work?" he asked.
God has commanded us to go tell about Him, Rager noted, and door-to-door evangelism is easy on the budget.
"You just need a road and a Bible," he said. "I think people are longing for a personal touch."
Rager said he called Carrico and asked if they could go visiting and he invited him to come. When Carrico opened the trunk of his car, it was stuffed with evangelism supplies. He was ready.
"Here's the thing about evangelism and what I told Ian," he said. "A girl accepted Christ. Even though three rejected Jesus, we have four wins. You know why? We shared the gospel four times. Evangelism is not only a win if they receive Christ but if they hear about Jesus. Our goal is to proclaim the name of Jesus and we were able to do it door to door."
Rager and Andy McDonald at the KBC divide their duties in Kentucky as evangelism strategists and are willing to help any pastor on what strategy may be best for them.
"Our job is to help pastors, associations and churches with strengthening evangelism and developing evangelism strategies," Rager said.
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.