The Triumph of Christianity

In his introduction to The Triumph of Christianity, sociologist and historian Rodney Stark wrote this of Jesus:
He was a teacher and miracle worker who spent nearly all of his brief ministry in the tiny and obscure province of Galilee, often preaching to outdoor gatherings.  A few listeners took up his invitation to follow him, and a dozen or so became his devoted disciples, but when he was executed by the Romans, his followers probably numbered no more than several hundred.  How was it possible for this obscure Jewish sect to become the largest religion in the world?

A few Sunday evenings ago I talked about the monumental influence of Jesus and his teachings on history and society, and one of those influences was care for the needy.  Our world takes for granted that the sick should be nursed, the poor supplied with at least basic necessities, and the young protected, nurtured and mentored.  But until Christianity came on the scene, this behavior was not characteristic of the world.

This is, Stark suggests, one of the reasons Christianity thrived.  The world, lacking a caring ethic, became smaller.  The Christian Church however, because it cared for one another (and even for those who were not Christians), became larger until Christianity became the majority.

How did the Christian Church take over the world?  T.R. Glover, in his book The Jesus of History summarized it like this: “The Christian ‘out-lived’ the pagan, ‘out died’ him, and ‘out thought’ him.”  If it is our goal to change our world, success can only be found in first living ourselves the change we would achieve.