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Knock, knock.

Homeowners may do nothing more than pretend not to be home to deter Jehovah's Witnesses at their door, but Stratton, Ohio took it a step further.

The village passed an ordinance in 1998 that requires canvassers to get permission from the mayor's office before approaching homes. The city says the measure is to protect security and prevent annoyance of homeowners. The Jehovah's Witnesses, however, say it "disregards a speaker's First Amendment right."

In February the case went to the Supreme Court. While the official ruling has not been delivered, comments from the bench make a ruling against the ordinance appear likely. A headline from American Lawyer Media says, "High Court Ridicules Ohio Limits on Solicitation."

The expected ruling will be good news to those who evangelize through cold-call door-to-door visits, like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.

But do evangelical Christians still knock on doors?

"There's no question there has been a decline," says Timothy K. Beougher, Billy Graham professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Seminary. "But as Twain said, the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated."

Questions of effectiveness, changes in culture, and the emergence of other evangelical methods have contributed to a decrease in what is known as visitation evangelism. But there are healthy programs. While neighborhood canvassing is still practiced, successful strategies have changed with the times and added new components to the traditional model of home visitation.

"Visitation evangelism has to be more than cold knocking on random doors," says John Ewert, associate dean of integrated learning at Southern Seminary. "With new incarnations, it can take on a whole new light."

Best practices


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April 2002

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