Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you. —Jesus
Dr. Rodney Stark is the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. Not a believer (at least he’s not public enough about his personal faith for me to believe he is), he has an interesting take on the spread of Christianity throughout the ancient world. He also happens to be a highly regarded academic and historian. This is what he wrote in The Triumph of Christianity, accounting for what he calls “the rapid and remarkable Christianization” of the world:
“For generations, it was assumed that religious conversions were the result of doctrinal appeal—that people embraced a new faith because they found it’s teaching particularly appealing, especially if these teachings seemed to solve serious problems or dissatisfactions that afflicted them. Surprisingly, when sociologists took the trouble to actually go out and watch conversions take place, they discovered that doctrines are of very secondary importance in the initial decision to convert…Conversion is primarily about bringing one’s religious behavior into alignment with that of one’s friends and relatives, not about encountering attractive doctrines…Mostly, the church spread as ordinary people accepted it and then shared it with their families and friends, and the faith was carried from one community to another in this same way—probably most often by regular travelers such as merchants.”
Boy, that sounds familiar.