Every third Saturday for the past twenty plus years, members of the Wilmington church of Christ in Watts California have canvassed the neighborhoods surrounding their meeting house. WHAT! Yea, the last twenty years, every third Saturday!
All of the houses have gates keeping pedestrians a good fifteen to twenty feet from the front door. Many have big aggressive dogs too! Because Wilmington brethren have not decided to purchase a K9 attack suit in order to step through the fence and have one canvasser play the part of chew toy while the other knocks on the door, much of their effort has been focused on passing out literature of a spiritual nature.
Pamphlets produced by sister Mamie Young of the congregation are put in the fences and handed to people on the sidewalk.
Over the years there have been a handful of visitors to the Wilmington assemblies stemming from these efforts. Just a couple of Sunday’s ago, there were four women who visited in response to the most recent canvass.
To my knowledge there have been no conversions from these efforts which have largely been inviting people to worship services and encouraging them to request personal studies.
Some readers may be apt to consider this lack of quantitative “results” failure, and perhaps in a quantitative way it has been. There is another side to the proverbial coin though – the qualitative results of the efforts.
First, participants in canvassing these past twenty years have formed a strong habit of evangelistic outreach in their lives. I suspect that after twenty years of canvassing every third Saturday of the month, it would feel pretty odd not to do so on a third Saturday. What a good habit to have, every month brethren are compelled by habit, if nothing else, to be in the community sharing spiritually oriented thoughts with others. Not only is it a habit of those who’ve been doing it for twenty years, but this habit has been passed on to the next generation of those going out. That’s cool in my book. Have you got such Kingdom oriented habits? I pray you will form them.
Secondly, Wilmington’s efforts aid the presence of the church being known in the community. To my knowledge few if any Wilmington members live in the community in which they meet. This is a scenario is not unique to the Wilmington assembly. If you don’t live, work or play among them, how do you impact them? You find a way to be present in the community, hopefully beyond the parking lot and building your meeting in. Wilmington is doing this. Good for them! Presence is something to build on. Is the presence of the congregation you meet with, known in the community? What will you do to improve it?
A third qualitative fruit to Wilmington’s efforts is the personal relationships they foster in the neighborhood of the meeting house. Over the years they have built some relationships in the neighborhood. At the close of Wilmington’s last canvass a community member named Augustine showed up at the building during our post canvass report session. He came in, not as a result of that day’s canvasing, but because of previous contacts with canvassers. The thing that stuck out to me most in his conversation was how impressed he was with the fact that one of the canvassers knew his name. He mentioned this some four or five times. At the close of our report time, I joined two Wilmington brethren, Bob and Anthony, in studying the gospel with Augustine. He did not obey it at that time but suggested he was interested in learning more. This personal study opportunity was not result of one canvass, but of many which established a personal relationship to build upon. How many relationships do you have with community members living around your meeting house? What will you do to foster them?
A fourth qualitative fruit of Wilmington’s canvass work is giving brethren yet one more avenue of taking the saving message of Jesus to people. Wilmington’s devotion to canvass work the third Saturday of every month provide local and other members of the Lord’s church a monthly opportunity for evangelistic fellowship, practice in conversing with the lost about spiritual truths and reinforces the relevancy of the gospel in participants lives. What kind of fellowship do you have with brethren in evangelistic efforts? How often do you attempt to share spiritual truths with the lost? How relevant is the gospel in your life?
Wilmington brethren are to be commended for their devotion to doing something (evangelistic). They have a well established evangelistic habit that they can build upon, and build they are. In the few occasions I have participated with Wilmington in their evangelistic efforts, they have demonstrated an openness and sincere desire to improve their effectiveness. They study evangelistic approaches and invite help from others with experience.
My hope for Wilmington in the remainder of my time in California, this Spring and first part of Summer and then upon my planned return this Winter, is to help them improve their invitations and opportunities for personal Bible studies with the lost. I hope also to help them grow in the mutual nature of their edification talks.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke a couple of times for a family weekend meeting they held. It was an edifying fellowship.
That is What’s What In Watts. What’s What Where You Are?
Think souls brethren!