Dr. Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences at Baylor University, comes to Belmont University Monday, March 24, to present a talk exploring the evangelistic tactic of door-to-door missionizing, and why it persists despite seemingly long odds of success. Stark, a sociologist of religion who teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Baylor, has authored 26 books including The Rise of Christianity, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1996. Stark’s talk, titled “Knock, Knock: The Benefits of ‘Irrational’ Missionizing,” addresses why some religious groups persist in door-to-door missionizing when they know the odds of success are small.
Stark’s talk, sponsored by Belmont’s Department of Sociology, is set for 4 p.m., Monday March 27 in Beaman A/B in the Beaman Student Life Center, with a 5 p.m. reception to follow in the adjacent Maddox Grand Atrium.
According to Stark, in any given year, the odds are about 50 to 1 that a given Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon missionary will NOT make a single convert. Put another way, knock on doors for 50 years and get one convert – maybe. But, says Stark, what are depressing odds for the individual missionary are quite good odds for the group. On average a congregation of 100 missionaries will grow by two new members a year, which can rapidly add up to substantial group growth.
So the trick is for the group to keep people’s spirits up and keep them knocking despite the brutal odds against individual success. How is this accomplished? Dr. Stark’s talk will explore the rational reasons and satisfactions that sustain missionaries in their efforts.
Dr. Stark’s talk is the keynote address for the Inter-University Sociology Symposium which brings together undergraduate Sociology students and faculty from Belmont, Fisk, TSU, and Vanderbilt and provides students with a lively forum in which to present their research. The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the A and B meeting rooms in the Beaman Student Life Center.
For more information about upcoming Sociology events, see the Department of Sociology website. Click on the LIVING SOCIOLOGY Speaker Series link for a list of Spring 2006 speakers and events.