Street evangelism used to be very effective and played a major role in great revivals during the 18th century. When Christians handed gospel tracts and shared the gospel on the street, people actually responded and many have come to receive Jesus Christ. Such revival was partly possible because many people still believed in the existence of God and acknowledged the divine authority in their life somehow.
However, after series of events, such as Enlightenment (17c) and Modernism movement (19c), people began to openly question the existence of God and thus denying the concept of “absolute truth”. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear people saying, “there is no such thing as absolute truth” or “there are many paths but they all lead to the same destination”. In such atmosphere, any claim for absolute truth is condemned as “intolerant” and “narrow-minded”.
The days when people were able to be persuaded by authority and position are long gone and we are in need of different method and strategy to reach out to those who are un-churched. The message never changes but how it is communicated has to change. That is why many Christian leaders say street evangelism is no longer effective in North American context.
For this reason, many churches and even missionaries have turned to “relationship-based” evangelism and I believe it is not only the most effective method of evangelism but also the most biblical method. In a relationship where there is a mutual trust, those who are against Christianity are at least willing to listen what you have to say. Relationship opens up the door for the gospel to enter into their heart, not their head.
Often we Christians forget that we need to win their approval before we win their soul. And the only way to do that is through “good works” just as Jesus said, through our kindness and humility. Remember, God does not need our good works but our neighbors do. The reason why our church doesn’t do that many programs is so that our members will actually have time to take their friends/co-workers out for a meal or coffee to build relationships, without an agenda. Many churches keep their members too busy with church work that they don’t have time to build a relationship with their non-Christian friends. So start building a relationship by serving them and wait for God’s timing to speak love and truth into their lives.