I struggle with evangelism because it always seem so disingenuous. The only people I know that have ever come to consider themselves Christians who were not born into it were not the direct results of any evangelism techniques that we muster together. I deeply want people to know the peace and joy that I have that comes from my faith in Christ and life in the church. I’m just not sure that “converting” people is what we are going for. The church doesn’t exist to make converts. The church exists as an alternative community that lives in such a way that makes living make sense and truthful. You don’t just convert someone over to a different way of living life, especially a life of all they’ve known. Changing your life is a slow process, one that takes your entire life.
I’ve thrown out most strategies of evangelism. I find them to be inconsistent with who the church is supposed to be. I do not think it is our job to sell our way of life and try to convince people that it’s a good way to live. I do not think it’s my job to give altar calls, to catch people in their moments of weakness and lack of faith, and have people make cognitive decisions to ask Jesus into their heart. I think it’s my job to live in such a way that makes their live incomprehensible to their own existence. I think it’s my job to live a life so full of truth that they desire to be part of that kind of truth. There is no room for empty conversion techniques, growth strategies or altar calls when you are a community of people radically committed to a way of life. You just invite more and more people into this way of life and people will join you at their own pace, in their own way.
I don’t think the failure of our churches is because we suck at evangelism. I think the church is shrinking because the church isn’t the church. There is no longer anything to be drawn into. If you are stuck coming up with creative schemes, strategic planning, discipleship programs or manipulative maneuvers to bring people into your fold, then I fear that you are no longer being the church. Build communities that care about each other, the poor, God, the weak and are radically generous with who they are and that’s all the evangelism you will need. You will create a lot of enemies being this kind of community (probably with other congregations) but this what it means to be the church.