Posted on a wall in Resurrection OPC is a large map of the city of Oshkosh, WI. Resurrection is pinpointed, and five blocks in every direction from the church are highlighted. Every Saturday at 10am, Pastor Bob Holda and a small group of church members gather in front of the map to plan their route for door-to-door visits that day, and to pray. It is a densely populated area, and in the span of these blocks there are thousands of homes and countless souls who need Christ.
Armed with a checklist, outreach materials, and copies of Christ Proclaims a Better Way, Holda and the church members break into groups and spend about an hour canvassing the neighborhood. The checklist is for the church’s sake, to keep record of their visits. But they’re not taking notes while talking to people; they do this between visits and pray as they walk from home to home. The things they write down include every address where a door was opened, if the people already had a church home, or if they weren’t interested in talking.
This is their first pass of the neighborhood and they are seeking to do it very intentionally. On the second pass they hope to re-connect with those who seemed open to their visit, return to the homes where no one answered the door, and also respect those who did not wish for a return visit. Holda says, “If someone is frustrated with us, then it could be that the Lord is not calling that person right now. We trust these people to the Lord.”
What are some of the things they say when the door is opened? It’s usually quite simple: “Hi, my name is ___. I’m a member of a church in the neighborhood, and we’d like you to know that we’re here. If you have any needs we can help you with, we want you to know that we’re happy to serve you.”Holda shares they’re also careful to ask questions with respect when it comes to things like the person’s name or background.“May I ask ___?”comes across as less threatening and more kind.
Resurrection only recently moved to the neighborhood, but the church where they worship still has some lingering roots in the community. Holda says, “This was originally a Roman Catholic church, and ten years ago the neighborhood was filled with Roman Catholics who walked to church each Sunday.”The Roman Catholic church was also a hub of activity in the city, hosting a huge festival in their parking lot every fall. “The former presence of this church is still on the consciousness of the middle-aged and older people in the neighborhood,”and that sometimes opens the door for conversation on their visits. Holda and the crew at times will say, “We’re new to the neighborhood- is there anything you can tell us about it? Were you here when this was a Roman Catholic church?”
Respect and boldness are two things they keep in mind as they walk. Holda says that sometimes it can feel like they are imposing on the neighborhood, but he encourages and reminds his people that, in fact, “this is Christ’s neighborhood. We don’t need to be ashamed. Yes, we need to be kind and respectful, but we’re submitting to Christ first and foremost…Our confidence is not in us, but in God who has providentially put us in this neighborhood to serve it.”
Holda further confesses,“This is the turf we’ve been given by God to interact with, and we feel that burden. On Sunday mornings, the homes are full and the pews are not. We want to see that reversed! But in order for that to happen, we have to go where people live and not simply wait for them to come to us.”
Already they are experiencing fruit from this outreach, with three visitors coming as a direct result of their door to door invitations. But God is also blessing this outreach in another way; he is using it to teach the church members involved. “We are growing in boldness, in zeal, in wisdom. An interesting thing we’ve seen is that the most receptive people are not those who have the nicest homes or who appear to have it all together. We can have a misconception that those who look good on the outside are closer to the Kingdom, but it’s often those who are broken and needy who are, in fact, closest,”says Holda.
He goes on, “Sometimes when you’re a new church and you know that you need to grow and fill the collection plate, the temptation can be to think, ‘this person has it all together- they may have something to contribute.’”But instead, he says, “We should want to be the kind of church that has vagabonds in the pews. People who are only receiving. Who are broken. Needy. Like us. People with an obvious earthly need that reflect the deeper need we all have spiritually. When we look at the example of Christ, we realize that he didn’t choose to be served as much as he chose to serve others. We should have that same heart.”
“We’re not here, yet,”Holda confesses. “These convictions are just dawning on us. But we hope and pray that they brighten and increase and warm the gospel in our hearts even more.”