I'm digging into Alan Kreider's new book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. Think of it as a major update on Michael Green's classic from several decades ago, Evangelism in the Early Church -- a book that profoundly impacted my thinking and practice.
"If the early church had strategies for converting people, they did not teach these or write about them. As Origen put it in a Sunday sermon:
"You catechumens -- who gathered you into the church? What goad compelled you to leave your houses and come together in this assembly? We did not go to you from house to house. The Almighty Father put this zeal into your hearts by his invisible power."
"How then did the church grow? Scholars have seen the church's growth as coming about through something modest: "casual contact." Contact could come about in innumerable ways through the translocal networks of family and profession in which most people participated. Masters interacted with slaves; residents met neighbours; and above all believers networked with relatives and work colleagues. In all these relationships "affective bonds" were formed. The most reliable means of communicating the attractiveness of the faith to others and enticing them to investigate things further was the Christians' character, bearing, and behaviour. The habitus of the individual Christian was crucial."