Improved layout changes on sermon search results. Learn all about them here.
Preaching Articles

This is the burden of my heart.

Get out of the office, pastor, and knock on some doors.  Later, you can get your people to doing it.  But first, you do it.

Do it by yourself, if you must.  Or take someone with you.  Do it by appointment or cold-turkey.  But do it.

That is as profound a way as I know to build a great church.

Visit your church members, visit your leaders, visit them in their places of business.  Visit your neighbors, the homes around your church.  Visit people who visit your church.

Write letters to them.  The personal kind.  Handwritten, maybe two sentences.  Just to say you’re thinking about them, praying for them, thankful for them.

Get out of the office and get with the people.

Pastor Bobby Welch, longtime shepherd of the great First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Florida, was teaching a soulwinning program to several hundred in the chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“You have to knock on doors,” he emphasized. “You have to get out of your building and tell people about Jesus.”

He paused for effect and added, “I will tell you something some of you are not going to like.  You are not going to build a great church on your preaching!”

My hunch is that fully half the preachers in the crowd were thinking that very thing, that if I just deliver a good enough sermon–find a way to improve my delivery, develop better outlines with punchier illustrations–the crowds will flock in.  Maybe if I practice my mannerisms, have a snappier suit, wear that bow tie.  What if I use these gestures, raise my voice here, lower it there?

You mean that’s not going to do the trick?

Consider those words again: You are not going to build a great church on your preaching.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

Okay, it seems to happen just often enough to keep the myth alive.  John MacArthur.  Charles Stanley.  Chuck Swindoll.  Andy Stanley.  Ed Young.  Stuart Briscoe.  But the exceptions only prove the rule, as they say.

The point being what?

The point being:  The pastor must get into the community and knock on doors.  He must be a personal witness for Christ, must share the gospel wherever he goes, must get into the homes of his church members, of prospects who visit his church, and outsiders who need the Lord.

But, someone asks, you don’t mean to imply that the pastor alone is going to get all the visiting and soulwinning done and thus build a great church?  Nope, not at all.

But it starts here, with you.

If the pastor is not knocking on doors and sharing the faith, he will not be able to motivate anyone else to do it.

If the pastor is not knocking on doors and sharing the faith, his words will sound hollow when he preaches the gospel on Sunday.

However, if the pastor is knocking on doors and sharing the faith, he will be so thrilled to see in the congregation people he has witnessed to that very week, that he will preach better than he’s ever preached before!

Gene Edwards was pastoring a small-town church in Texas.  One day he drove to a nearby large city and went in to see the pastor of the largest church in town.  “Tell me,” he said, “how to get my people out knocking on doors and sharing their faith.”

The minister said, “How many people did you tell me were in your town?”

I forget the number, a couple of thousand, probably.  “You don’t need your people witnessing,” he said.  “You can win those by yourself.”

That was not what Pastor Edwards wanted to hear. But he took the advice to heart and went home and started knocking on doors, leading people to Christ.  And then they started coming to church and joining and being baptized.  Before long, people were telling the pastor they wanted to learn to share their faith.  Out of that came Gene Edwards’ book titled appropriately enough “Here’s How to Win Souls.”  It appeared when I was in seminary and was as welcome as any book I’ve ever read.

The reasons your great preaching is not going to build a great church:

–In most cases your town has a number of sizeable churches, each of which is led by an excellent preacher.  So, if it’s good preaching people are looking for, they have lots of choices.  And that means you have lots of competition.

And that should bother you. All those other churches are not competition, but fellow team members.  And all those other pastors are not competitors, but your brothers (and sometimes sisters).  You do not want to be drawing people away from those churches just to build a huge membership for yourself.  (Or if you do, that is a sickness and you should get treatment.)  What you want to do is reach the people no one else is reaching.

All those other churches, you may assume, are depending on the usual thing to build their membership:  the pastor’s good preaching, their various ministries, families bringing their children into the church, etc.  But if you are knocking on doors and witnessing, you may have the field to yourself.

Because fewer and fewer churches are doing this.

–If you have been in the homes of people recently and sat across the table from them, sharing and laughing and visiting, when you stand to preach, you have their undivided attention.  And if they never see you except during the one hour on Sunday morning, you can forget about having much impact on them.

When was the last time you belonged to a church with a regular weeknight program of visitation?

I can recall my first church after seminary. Emmanuel Baptist Church of Greenville, Mississippi.  We were one of a half-dozen similar-sized churches in that community of 30,000.  And each of the churches had a visitation program. There would be nights when a team from our church would be in the living room of a prospective family and two other church teams would come by the same evening.

Ever hear of that happening now?  You don’t.

How would a pastor get started?

First suggestion:  Start with the local businesses.  Visit the businesses in your church area.  Meet the owners or managers, clerks and employees, and do it briefly.  “Just wanted to get acquainted.”  Leave your card.

Second: Start with the homes around your church. You walk up, knock at the door, and introduce yourself as the pastor of the church down the street.  “I’m just walking around meeting our neighbors,” tell them.  “I want to make sure we are good neighbors to you.  Have you ever had a problem with the church, people parking in your driveway, the noise, etc.?”  The idea is to meet people, have conversations, let them feel they know you, and to leave your material.

Third:  If the idea of cold-turkey visitation (door to door) scares the daylights out of you, then I have two suggestions.  One:  Do it anyway.  It’s good for you to overcome such fears.  And Two:  Ask around and find people who know how to do this.  Someone does.  Keep trying until you find a way that works for you.

Fourth:  Visit all your church members.  You’d be surprised how many unsaved and unchurched people are in the homes of your own members. Go visit them and then get to know them while you’re there.



Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at JoeMcKeever.com.

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Mike Mutchler

commented on Sep 8, 2017

Great stuff Joe! You hit the nail on the head again. You don't build a Church in your office. Knock on some doors, go soul-winning, and you'll be surprised to find people will come to Christ and your Church will grow. You always have great, proven insight Joe. God bless you!!

Jon Dart

commented on Sep 9, 2017

I don't want to be unloving or overly critical here, because I usually get a lot of good encouragement from Dr. McKeever, but I have to speak up here. First of all, this article seems to presume that every pastor wants a big church, and that a big church is whole point. It also seems to espouse the whole "this worked for me, so you should do it too" approach. I disagree. I've also abandoned the attractional model of ministry. I've spent 40 years in ministry, and it's only been in the last 12 or so that I feel I've discovered the key to ministry, and this article isn't it, sorry to say. I just finished up at a church where I believe the ministry was very successful. I was there for 9 years. In the early days, I made a couple of rounds of the neighbourhood, and visited the whole congregation a couple of times. What came out of that was my discovery that after literally decades of door-to-door and classic "soul-winning" by several pastors, the church had only added 1 PERSON as a result. The entire rest of the congregation was original families. Not that souls had not been saved, but they ALL FELL AWAY. I confirmed this in my visitation, because I came across some of these people, for whom it "didn't work out." So I said to our board, "We're going to stop 'winning souls' and instead focus on making disciples. We're going to seek the Lord for His leading and ask people what the Lord is putting in their hearts." Out of that came some incredible things. Instead of standing in people's doorways trying to tell them how great our church was, we started showing them: serving breakfast at the local school, running an after school homework club in the school facility, taking meals to people in distress, who were neighbours, friends, or employees of the congregation. Out of that 11 people were saved over those 9 years. Now, some would say that even in a small church of 120 that's not much growth, but every one of those 11 people (4 families), is serving the Lord, two of them full time. Some of the conversion stories are miraculous. Around the same time a friend of mine came to me in distress and said, "I don't know what to do; I've given my whole life to soul-winning, and I've led 8 people to the Lord in the past year, but NOT ONE OF THEM FOLLOWED THROUGH. Going door to door isn't wrong, but it's a wast of time if we're neglecting what the Lord really wants us to do. At the church where I serve now, we've partnered with a social organization next door that retrains down and out youth who have messed their lives up and gets them jobs and sends them back out. We put on celebration events for them, give them gospels of John and pray for them. Because they're next door I regularly have both clients and staff in my office talking about spiritual things and asking me to pray for them. Also, our church sign reads "Need to talk? Drop in 9-3." I've led two people to the Lord this summer because of that, because the Lord put it into someone's heart that we should have that kind of open door policy. One of those converts moved away, but the other is a regular growing member of our church and now we're working on her family. Honestly, I don't have time to go door to door because of all the doors the Lord is opening up in other ways. So I would say this, in contradiction of Dr. McKeever: 1) Don't do something because another church is doing it; 2) Don't do something because somebody tells you to; 3) Don't do something because you think it's what you should do; 4) get down on your knees with your congregation and ask him to show you what he has in mind for your church and then 5) have a town hall meeting with your church and ask them what the Lord is putting into their hearts. You'll have incredible buy-in that way. Just some humble thoughts.

Join the discussion