Lesson 3: Often, a person converts to Christianity when the benefits of joining a Christian community are greater than the costs of leaving his or her old community.
Yes, the content of the message of the gospel matters in evangelism. When someone puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ and begins a journey of following Him, it includes a radical change in belief. It is essential to understand and embrace the object of belief: Jesus Christ.
However, we can’t ignore that truly walking with Jesus also involves a social aspect; joining a new community of faith. When explaining the Good News of Jesus Christ, we need to recognize that when someone puts his faith in Jesus, it is much more than giving assent to a set of propositions. There is also a critical social or community aspect that each person must consider in his decision.
In many contexts, new believers experience a social high cost of this new community identification. The person’s family, friends, and community are often resistant and, in some cases, strongly object or even get violent. Often before someone begins to follow Christ, he or she needs confidence that the benefits of joining the new faith community is greater than the costs of leaving the old.
The social identification with the new community is, in many cases, more important than the cognitive factor in his or her coming to Christ. In other words, he or she joins the community of new friends who love, serve, have hope and purpose, forgiveness, and acceptance; then as time goes on, the new believer comes to understand more about the biblical details of who Jesus is. The normal pattern in history is for a person to first join the community and then grow in knowledge of Jesus. There are actually few who first give assent to certain propositions about Jesus and, after that’s settled, join the community of faith.
What are the implications of this for evangelism?
I’ll post the other lessons soon.
Let me know if you have a correction or comment!