Why did the gospel spread so quickly in the first century?

Jan 23, 2024

Why does Christianity spread so quickly in third-world nations today?

I was reminded this week about  a gruesome experiment from the 1950's at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Curt Richter wanted to learn how long a rat would tread water before giving up and drowning. Ick, I know. First he tried domestic rats. They swam for quite some time before becoming exhausted and succumbing. Then he tried wild rats, renowned for their ferocity and swimming ability. Within minutes of entering the water, all 34 died. Why?

The answer, in a word: hope.

“The situation of these rats scarcely seems one demanding fight or flight—it is rather one of hopelessness,” he wrote. “[T]he rats are in a situation against which they have no defense … they seem literally to ‘give up.’”

Richter then tweaked the experiment: He put similar subjects in the jar. Just before they were expected to die, however, he picked them up, held them a little while, and then put them back in the water. “In this way,” he wrote, “the rats quickly learn that the situation is not actually hopeless.”

This small interlude made a huge difference. The rats that experienced a brief reprieve swam much longer and lasted much longer than the rats that were left alone. They also recovered almost immediately. When the rats learned that they were not doomed, that the situation was not lost, that there might be a helping hand at the ready—in short, when they had a reason to keep swimming—they did. They did not give up, and they did not go under.

“After elimination of hopelessness,” wrote Richter, “the rats do not die.”*

The answer, in a word: hope. We all need a reason to keep swimming.

So why I'm a telling you about this? What does this have to do with the first century gospel? What can lab rats tell us about hope in todays world? In our lives? In the lives of our friends and neighbors?

Dinner Party

Earlier this year we decided to set aside the evenings of every fifth Sunday for a party. Not for ourselves, but for others. You see, our city is full of people without hope. People who'll recognize the futility of life without hope and give up. Succumb. What does that look like? Depression, aggression, addiction, and apathy. While many of these are connected to mental health, the road to wellness is predicated on HOPE. And the world has little to offer. There isn't hope...

At least there isn't much outside of the grace, love and friendship of Jesus Christ.

And YOU, you have that hope. You have the answer. You have the good news. And your friends and family and neighbors are dying for it. For a taste of it.

Listen, I know evangelizing is a scary word. It's a scarier task. But you don't have to know the Bible inside and out. You don't have to have every answer. You don't have to live an unblemished life. You just have LOVE God (and all he is to you). You have to LOVE your neighbor (enough to show them the kind of love God has show you). And you have to GO and share the good news of hope to everyone you can.

To help, we created DINNER PARTIES. It's a way for you to invite people to our unconventional, little church without the hang-up of it actually being church that night. It's for a meal. And music. And friendship. Get them to experience a reprieve from life. Get them to catch a glimpse of what community looks like. To find what hope can look like.

Invite someone and sign up for Dinner Party TODAY. Bring hope to your circle!


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