In the previous post in this series through Alan Kreider’s The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom, we talked about the enormous growth rates of the early Christian movement, seemingly against insurmountable odds. In spite of ridicule and persecution, many people joined the church. Why?
Well, for starters, it wasn’t for many of the reasons we might think. There doesn’t seem to have been much of a public witness. Christians were “silent in the open,” and you probably would’ve been too if it meant keeping your life! If they advocated their faith in public, they could get the whole community into trouble. They didn’t even have explicit campaigns or programs of “evangelization.” Neither did they have particularly attractive worship. In fact, in much of the second and third centuries, non-believers were barred from the Christian gatherings! Of course worship had an impact on evangelism (as we use the word), but indirectly so; it shaped the lives of Jesus-followers such that they would be attractive and question posing (their everyday lives, not their church gatherings. Worship gatherings were designed to enable Christians to worship God, not to attract non-Christians. [As a side note, let’s be sure to acknowledge that this doesn’t necessarily mean we shouldn’t continue to seek seekers; different times sometimes call for different tactics.]
So what about the early Christians was so attractive? There was something new and strange about them; they seemed to open up new possibilities for human existence. But in what specific ways? Continue reading