Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for going door-to-door to preach about their faith. This practice of knocking on doors is central to their outreach efforts and traces back to the beginnings of their religion in the late 19th century. There are several reasons why Jehovah’s Witnesses make door-to-door ministry such a priority.
To Spread Their Message
The primary reason Jehovah’s Witnesses go door-to-door is to spread their message about God’s Kingdom and try to make converts. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have a duty to preach about their faith and make disciples of all people:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
They take this and other scriptures as a command to actively proselytize. Door-to-door ministry is one of their main methods of evangelizing. Jehovah’s Witnesses call their door-knocking “the preaching work” and consider it an integral part of practicing their religion. Their goal is to spread biblical teachings to as many people as possible.
To Fulfill a Biblical Mission
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are fulfilling a mission that Jesus Christ himself commanded his followers to perform. In Matthew 10:11-14, Jesus instructs his disciples:
“Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you. Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses take this scripture as evidence that they must search for “deserving ones” by preaching from house to house. They believe they have a duty to bring God’s message to as many homes as possible to fulfill Jesus’ instructions.
To Save Lives
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are saving lives by spreading their Bible-based message. They feel the failure to preach door-to-door would result in people losing the opportunity to learn “the truth” and come to salvation. Door-to-door ministry gives them access to people who might be receptive to their beliefs and can then come to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ meetings at Kingdom Halls. There they will learn more and potentially convert. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this is all necessary for people to gain eternal life. As they explain on their website JW.org:
“We enjoy showing people from the Bible how they can have a truly happy life now and the hope of living forever in paradise on earth.”
The door-to-door ministry allows them to reach more individuals with this life-saving message.
It Was Established by Their Founder
Going door-to-door has been a fixture of the religion since its inception. The founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, began the practice in 1879 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He sent out volunteers equipped with pamphlets to knock on doors and preach about what Russell saw as the truth of the Bible. This became a staple method as Russell grew followers and founded Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. In 1931, the society was renamed Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the door-to-door ministry remained. Subsequent leaders like Joseph Rutherford and Nathan Knorr continued the tradition. It became an entrenched part of the religion and identity of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Early Door-to-Door Preaching
In the 19th century, Russell’s group was not the only Christian sect engaged in door-to-door preaching. Many religious groups saw it as an obligation. However, few undertook the task with as much vigor as Russell’s bible students. They would speak on doorsteps for hours. Handing out literature was also key. In 1919, Jehovah’s Witnesses distributed five million books and pamphlets door-to-door. Their founder’s emphasis on the method as a means to reach people made door-to-door ministry a defining feature.
It is Considered an Effective Method
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe going door-to-door is an effective means to contact people, discuss the Bible, and make new converts. They view it as superior to street preaching, televangelism, and other outreach methods. Door-to-door work allows them to find and speak to receptive householders at length. The full conversation can plant seeds for conversion. Tracts and literature can be left behind for further studying. Addresses can be recorded to arrange return visits. Compared to other methods, door-to-door preaching facilitates deeper interactions.
A Program of Return Visits
An important aspect that makes the door-to-door preaching effective, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, is arranging return visits with people who demonstrate interest. By going back to further discuss the Bible, they are more likely to make new converts. Additionally, partnerships are made between experienced publishers and new publishers so mentoring happens during the door-knocking work. The belief is constant exposure through return visits and mentoring is what makes their evangelizing successful.
It Provides Personal Ministry
By going door-to-door, Jehovah’s Witnesses can reach people on a personal level. Their preaching becomes tailored one-on-one ministry rather than a blanket approach through media. They believe door-to-door work allows them to appeal to each individual householder and their circumstances to explain how their message applies. If they find someone coping with tragedy or health problems, they can try to comfort that person with their religious beliefs. Or if the householder already believes in God, they can focus on discussing scripture. The face-to-face setting makes their preaching direct and personal.
Motivated by Urgency and Obedience
Jehovah’s Witnesses also feel a sense of urgency in preaching. They believe the current world is wicked and ruled by Satan, so there is little time left before Armageddon destroys the wicked. This compels them to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. They also have a strong sense of obedience to their church leadership, known as the Governing Body. The Governing Body insists door-to-door ministry is a requirement of all baptized Witnesses. This combination of urgency and duty drives Witnesses to spend hundreds of hours every year knocking on doors.
|Publisher Type||Monthly Hour Requirement|
|Baptized publishers||10 hours|
|Unbaptized publishers||6 hours|
Witnesses who fall short of monthly quotas or otherwise do not engage regularly in door-to-door ministry can face discipline and disfellowshipping or be labeled “inactive.” The pressure to fulfill knocking requirements is intense.
Objections and Controversies
Despite their enthusiasm for it, the door-to-door preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has long been controversial and objected to for several reasons:
- Many people resent the intrusion into their privacy.
- Aggressive, high-pressure sales tactics used by some Witnesses have brought criticism.
- The frequency of return visits is seen as harassment by some householders.
- Witnesses have received opposition in totalitarian countries where preaching is restricted.
- Mistranslations and unique interpretations of the Bible they promote offend some Christians.
Jehovah’s Witnesses counter that they aim to reach people in a respectful and loving way. They also claim upholding freedom of religion and speech should allow their right to preach door-to-door. Despite the pushback their evangelizing sometimes causes, they maintain the importance of obeying Jesus’ command to spread the good news of God’s Kingdom to all people.
Jehovah’s Witnesses see door-to-door ministry as a religious obligation founded by Jesus Christ and the Bible. Their persistence in reaching households stems from wanting to fulfill a divine mission of reaching people with their unique beliefs to potentially save lives before Armageddon comes. The practice also remains vital to their religion because the authority of their founder, Charles Taze Russell, established door-to-door preaching as a core method early on. Subsequent governing bodies have reinforced obedience to the program. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe no other form of ministry can replace door-to-door for its effectiveness in making new converts through personal bible discussions. Despite opposition faced over their evangelizing, Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to carry out their signature ministry in the pious belief they are obeying Christ’s command to spread the truth of God’s Word to all people. That is why, when Saturday morning comes, you can expect a knock at the door as these dedicated ministers set out to win more followers.