Once upon a time, churches were intensely local affairs. Christians attended the church nearest them, often walking or taking public transportation to the place where the congregation met. But North American communities and lifestyles have changed in the last 50 years, such that many people live, work, shop, play, and worship in different, and sometimes distant, places. Today, it’s rare to find a church where most of the members live in the neighborhood around the church building.
Yet churches still have a tremendous evangelistic opportunity in the people who live near the church building. After all, these neighbors walk and drive past the church building every day. They may wonder about what goes on when the church gathers. For non-Christians who don’t know any believers personally, the church down the street may be the biggest reminder of Christianity they see on a regular basis.
So how can a church be faithful in evangelizing the neighborhood when the members don’t live there? Some evangelical traditions have made a practice of “visitation,” knocking on doors and trying to engage people in spiritual conversations. Sometimes this effort bears good gospel fruit, though cultural changes in recent decades have made this more difficult as many North Americans have become suspicious of strangers at the front door.