Church Growth in the Early Church
The Christian gospel was not simply the most successful example of a supposedly generic species called ancient religion. Graeco-Roman religion remained endlessly adaptable in character, adding new deities without difficulty and espousing unabashed pluralism in practice. The idea of conversion as a turning away from an old way of life to a new was familiar to classical moral philosophy, but in Christian proclamation the concept was also shaped by an expressly scriptural lineage and by the traditions concerning Jesus own preaching of repentance. Ancient society was well used to putative evidences of the miraculous and signs of exceptional spiritual powers. They were from early times routinely exhorted to practise material contentment, self-denial, non-retaliation and a certain political meekness. Not everything which the churches did with their money was charitable, and there was from the fourth century plenty of severe criticism of clerical greed, excess and institutional corruption, not least in regard to the wealth of the Church of Rome.