|hen three young men in suits, white shirts, and ties knocked at my door some months ago, I perceived they might be missionaries from a denomination other than my own. Many Seventh-day Adventists might react to this situation by telling these young adults that they already are members of a church and then sending them on their way.
I chose a different plan of action. Instead of trying to “get rid of them” as quickly as possible, I listened carefully to their presentation about the need to take better care of our families and to focus more on God’s plan for our lives. I then invited them to come in. As we sat around my kitchen table and talked, I learned that these tall, attractive 20-year-olds wanted to share what they believed to be a last-day message to help folk like me get right with God. The young men shared a few Bible texts with me from their heavily highlighted King James Bibles, and then we scheduled a time about four days later for them to return and study with me.
Later that week when I happened to mention to others in my church that I was going to begin Bible studies with these young missionaries, they responded with comments such as “I don’t invite them in when they show up at my door” and “They’re brainwashed; you can’t reach them.” My fellow church members didn’t think my chances were very good of successfully sharing Bible truth with the missionaries. Undaunted, I responded by saying that they were missing a wonderful witnessing opportunity.
Building a Relationship
Right on schedule the young men showed up at my home and began studying with me. In advance of their appearance I had asked the Lord to be in charge of the meeting and of my responses to what they shared. At the outset, I told the missionaries that the Bible was the ultimate authority for my belief system.
In that first meeting and during the next several that followed, I strove to focus on relationship-building. I asked questions about their families, how long they had been members of their church, if they had girlfriends, what their career aspirations were, what their experiences were like as missionaries, and so forth. I also commented on how challenging it must be to make unscheduled visits door-to-door on behalf of what they believed. They agreed that it was very challenging. I then told them that I was a Seventh-day Adventist and pointed out the similarities in beliefs between our two churches. This approach helped me to build a positive relationship with one another.
Several weeks later when my wife, Diane, had baked cookies, I asked her if we could give some to the missionaries. She agreed and prepared a nice assortment for them. When I called and invited the young men to stop by when they were in our area to pick up the cookies, they were very appreciative and showed up the next day to get their goodies. A few weeks later we invited them to have dinner with us at a local restaurant, where we had an enjoyable time together and got to know each other better.
In addition to focusing on relationship-building, I adopted the following strategy when it came to our Bible studies. I deliberately didn’t bring a Bible to the table, but instead used a concordance and asked the young men to look up Bible texts. As they read the texts aloud, I often felt the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever the young men presented a doctrine that was not in harmony with my own beliefs, I asked them for biblical support. If they couldn’t find any, I used the concordance to help them find Bible texts that were illuminating. This noncombative approach seemed to open the way for the Holy Spirit to direct and bless our studies together.
When the missionaries shared books with me, I presented books to them in return, such as Ellen G. White’s Conflict of the Ages Series. One of the young men was particularly interested in the nine volumes of Ellen White’s Testimonies for the Church, and I suggested he take and read any two of the nine volumes—which he did. Unfortunately, I don’t know how he was impacted because he never returned. The next week the other missionaries told me he had been reassigned.
After seven encounters with the remaining missionaries and even visiting their church, I asked them, “Would you be willing to go to the Bible and claim with me God’s promise ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things’ [Jer. 33:3, NKJV]* and let Him settle [disagreements in beliefs] for us?” They agreed, and I closed our time together with prayer, claiming this promise and asking God to make very clear the commandment-keeping truth about His last-day people. From then on, I prayed for the young men often.
The missionaries missed their next appointment. They missed the next week as well. They never returned.
Four weeks later two new missionaries from the same denomination appeared at my door. I invited them to come in and asked them what had happened to their predecessors. They told me they had issues and were no longer in the state of Oregon.
I now am studying regularly with my new missionary friends. I don’t know how this will end, but I’m praying fervently that the Lord will bless our times together and help me to witness to them faithfully.
A Learning Experience
I’ve learned from this experience not to be afraid to study with and witness to people who are members of a church denomination different from my own. We should invite them into our homes when they appear at the door and exhibit a loving, caring spirit. We should share the truths of God’s Word gently, letting the Holy Spirit empower our words. Then after each visit we should pray for them earnestly.
I have found that if we take advantage of these opportunities, our biblical Adventist beliefs will take on a fresh, new vitality in our own lives, and our hearts will be wonderfully renewed by the life-giving power of God’s Word.
If you haven’t before considered how something as simple as opening the door of your home could get you started in evangelism, I encourage you to begin contemplating the possibilities the next time your doorbell rings.
God promises: “My word . . . I send it out, and it always produces fruit. . . . It will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isa. 55:11, NLT).† What a joy it is to share God’s awesome words of life right in our own homes.
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ” 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
†Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ” 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Mike Jones is a retired pastor and former editor of Insight, living in Portland, Oregon. He presents seminars about how to reach inactive family members and others who no longer attend church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.