Emphatically though, door-to-door does work in certain contexts. It has worked to a certain degree here even though the community is essentially static. I can count on one hand how many families have moved into this community in the last five years. The prospect list therefore is not very long and so evangelism is not very proactive.
Evangelism in a rural community takes place a lot less dramatically than on the front door step having just shared a full-bore Gospel presentation. Of all the folks I have led to Christ in this ministry, none of them were folks I didn't already know to some extent. They made a commitment to Christ while sitting on the tailgate of a pickup, leaning on a post-hole digger, across the dinner table, or at the front of the sanctuary.
Evangelism to rural folks is borne of relationship. Intentional evangelism has its place and I use that method when appropriate. The cultivation of relationships is key, having spent long hours in people's homes, at the country store, and even lending a hand chopping wood. These attain an audience more easily than just the entitlement of knocking on a door.
Most of the folks in the community I serve have lived here all their lives. Transfer growth is therefore virtually non-existent. Moreover, most rural churches are territorial. Once, I proposed at a fellowship meal to some key people that I wanted to start doing more intentional evangelism and that I would like to see our church reach all the folks within a five to seven mile radius of the steeple.
"We can't do that," was the immediate reply. It was not because they were afraid to tell other folks about the love of Christ but because if we followed through with a five to seven plan we would encroach upon another church's "territory." Territorialism is indicative of the mutual concern and care that rural folks tend to have over one another, often absent in metropolitan areas.
The fear of anything that might threaten that community is a hurdle to evangelism and a wise minister will not attempt to overcome that community but rather work with it. Community is what the church is to foster; why not use the existing structure and build upon it?
Farmers help other farmers at harvest; people give generously when others are going through a crisis; businesses are supported faithfully because they are local, not because they have competitive prices. Anything that builds community is welcomed and that which threatens it is fiercely opposed. So to be effective in outreach, being a part of the community is an absolute essential.
Glen Daman in his useful book, Shepherding the Small Church, quotes Steve Bierly:
The small church has a bad reputation for being "against growth" because it balks at plans coming out of the church growth movement. But smaller congregations have been unfairly labeled. It's not that they are against growth; its that they are against changing characteristics that make them unique. Small congregations aren't opposed to bringing men and women to Christ, but they are opposed to becoming mega-churches. They don't want to be asked to become something they are not.Evangelism in a small community is difficult and often bears little fruit. Focusing only upon results fosters discouragement and amotivation. But one must focus not on temporal fruit, but rather the fruit that remains. And that makes laboring in this vineyard worth it.