We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted. –The Art of Neighboring
If you love your neighbor for the primary sake of evangelism, you will get yourself into trouble. You will inevitably press the issue at inappropriate times, very likely causing your neighbor to distance themselves from you. Or there’s the other option that if specific neighbors reject your pitch, or they don’t sell out to Jesus like you’d hoped they would, you will no longer have the motivation to love them. After all, it wasn’t your primary motivation in the first place.
Now, this doesn’t mean that evangelism isn’t the ultimate goal. It is. The purpose of relationships is to help each other be formed into the image of Christ. But, there’s a big difference between evangelism being the reason for the relationship and it being the ultimate goal of the relationship.
Your marketing messages won’t persuade them…
If evangelism is the reason for the relationship, you’ll inevitably try and persuade people in your own power to surrender their life to Christ in your own time. This is especially dangerous in a culture like ours where people are bombarded with marketing messages all day long by entities that don’t know them, but want them to buy what they’re selling. As you probably know and feel, it comes off as disingenuous and ultimately, not very effective.
…only the Holy Spirit can persuade them…
If evangelism is the ultimate goal, you’ll leave the persuasion up to the Holy Spirit and simply love them as Christ loves you (the New Commandment). When this is the case, your relationship won’t be affected by their decision regarding Christ, which it shouldn’t be. Jesus didn’t tell us to love only the neighbors who accept Him as He loves us.
…but you can naturally share Him with them.
Inevitably, Jesus will come up as a topic of conversation along the way. After all, people in relationships share what is important to them with each other. These are the times when you can share your experience of Him with them. Then, if your actions have lined up with your words, you’ll get the full impact of the Holy Spirit’s persuasion on their lives, if that’s what He chooses to do.