In talking about Gregory the Illuminator (who we remember today) Sam talks about evangelism (and how we approach it) in a way I find on target and helpful.  (It reminds me of Hugh Majors saying you had to be in a relationship with someone for years before you knew them well enough to share your faith with them!)  Sam talks about how Gregory shared his faith “in the halls of authority, where he managed to convert a king.”  It wasn’t converting the king that Sam admires.  It was sharing his faith at home.  He goes on to say:

While we are relatively comfortable discussing matters of faith in the “safe” setting of our local congregations, we seldom share the gospel — the experience of God in our own lives — among those with whom we live and work daily.  We overlook with embarrassing ease and frequency the fact that our most persuasive power is to be found in our relationships; thus we usually go about evangelism backwards, treating evangelism as something done to strangers, even something that initiates relationship, when the opposite is more often [the] case.

He talks about Paul obviously knowing something about the Athenians when he shares the gospel with them — which I’m not so sure about (I think he was trying to make it up as he went, and had a major disconnect when he started talking about resurrection — which the Greeks had no words for, and could only make sense of after he started using their conception of the soul escaping from the body).  But I am with him when he says that Jesus evangelised on the basis of relationships he had already established.  Even when he was working with people he did not know, he worked with people who came seeking him — he didn’t try to gather a group of strangers to convert them.  (Yes, I know, healing the man lying by the pool in today’s gospel could well be an exception to this.)  Sam continues:

Discipleship and evangelism have always rested upon a foundation of peer relationships.  It seems so simple and so natural, yet is apparently the hardest thing for us to do.  We would rather market religion to strangers than share our faith with a friend at work or in class, with a neighbor or acquaintance, even a sibling.