As much as I chide the evangelizing atheist who’s too anti-religion to realize he’s petitioning for religion more than he’s undermining it, I am concerned about my level of passivity towards those who aren’t Christian.
Christianity requires that Christians let others know about Christ and the beliefs so that people have the opportunity to become Christian. Even though dictionaries use words like “zealous” and “militant zeal” to define evangelism, I do not believe this obligation means that I irritate and harass people with the intention of forcing them to convert. Belief doesn’t work that way and, like with the actions of the atheists I chide, it accomplishes the exact opposite of what’s intended. Episcopalians aren’t, by nature, militant and that word really doesn’t belong for the task of evangelizing.
Content atheists are very happy with where and who they are. They are likely to only become irritated and resentful towards aggressive evangelism that intrudes into their lives and insists that they change or suffer eternal damnation. Honestly, I can’t blame them. It really is a small step for an atheist to become an anti-theist, so I really recommend leaving them alone.
The only way to evangelize to a content atheist is to leave them alone. Do not pressure them to believe otherwise. Show respect for their individuality, opinions and beliefs. Acknowledge them as an equal person who deserves the same space that you have, regardless of whether or not culture or law promotes it. By behaving in this way, you are living Christ’s example of loving your neighbor as yourself. That content atheist will have a positive experience with and good opinion of a Christian to contrast against any anti-Christian resentment that has built from any previous negative experiences.
Evangelism does not require conversion within the contact of one person. Meeting someone does that obligate you to make sure they are converted through evangelism before you lose touch with them. Take it easy and understand that God works as he does. Always put love and understanding first. Always be patient and kind. You can’t go wrong with that.