Village officials in Stratton, Ohio, worried about shady door-to-door salesmen preying on senior citizens, so they enacted an ordinance requiring all solicitors to obtain a free permit. Jehovah's Witnesses sued. As the ordinance pits freedom of speech against the right to privacy, it caught the attention of the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on the suit by June. As the ordinance touches on evangelistic methodology, it also caught the attention of Christianity Today, which assembled an article on recent refinements of the old cold-call witnessing plan. Americans' increasing distrust of strangers, related to our relentless mobility, poses challenges for local Christian outreach.
William Taylor, a Methodist missionary born this week in 1821, faced a different problem when he attempted to minister in Gold Rush California. In that wild environment, he could scarcely find a door to knock on, let alone a church to invite people to. In California Life Illustrated (1858), he writes of his arrival on the West Coast:
The first thing that arrested our attention after finding our moorings, by way of variety, after the frequent shouts of 'Sail ho!' or, 'A whale! a whale!' was the lassooing of a bullock on the north side of 'Telegraph Hill,' then a wild wood, now a populous part of the city of San Francisco. It was now too late for the passengers to go ashore that night, all being strangers in a strange land; but soon a Mr. M., a brother of one of our passengers, boarded our ship, and we all gathered around him to hear the news.
He brought marvelous things to our ears. No war in the country, but peace and plenty, and fortunes for all who could work or gamble expertly: that clerks were getting in San Francisco two hundred dollars ...