Belong, Behave, Believe

From Thomas in Norway:
“I am a youth leader in our church and am blessed to lead a growing and committed youth ministry. We have lately realized something quite interesting (at least we think so), and I just wanted to ask about your opinion. You are probably familiar with the term: Belong –Believe –Behave. We have sensed a shift here moving towards: Belong –Behave –Believe. The youth that connect with us tend to start behaving before they believe.

I don’t mean that they speak in tongues or prophesy. They pray, serve, care for and help. These are values and things we want our Christians to have. In a way we can say that they are beginning to be discipled before they believe.
This is something that we see happening, we have not planned or strategized this. Or we have not heard anyone say anything about this. But we think this is the way things are happening. We have been into this “Belong –Believe –Behave –thing”for quite a while and have built our youth ministry according to it.
Belong –Behave –Believe is also Jesus’way of making disciples/ followers. He calls them to Himself, and when they commit to belonging, he starts forming them into disciples. The faith just comes somewhere in the process of being discipled.
We want to do this. But are not quite sure how?? So I wonder if you had any thoughts? Is this description of how we see things totally wrong? Do you know about anything we should read or check out about this? Basically, what do you think?
Hope you would be able to reflect a bit on this and get back to me.
God bless!
Thomas Rake.”

(permission given to blog the email and my respsonse)

Good question

Do you mind if I put your question on my blog and get the response of others to balance out my own? And do you mind if you use your name and link to your blog?
Let me know
In the meantime, I think that young people are walking in the way of Jesus (involves a change of life –behave-) as a way of test driving the faith. We don’t command it of unbelievers, but for them to try out christianity, it involves walking the walk

Jesus said “ I am the way , and the truth and the life “–if we want to find out what it is like to follow him, then we start walking in the way, living out the truth, and experiencing the life. If the experimental journey is of greater importance to the emerging generation than the intellectual journey of their parents, then we should expect to see what you are seeing in your youth group, Expect it, but not demand it.
Sounds like you are on the right track.

Lets see what others say.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • I just wanted to jump up and down and rave when I read this. Of course it is right. Jesus never asked his disciples to pass a belief text – it was a case of belonging, behaving, and gradually coming to belief – not that Matthew reckons they ever got there – look at the end of Matthew. I take it you have read Alan Kreider’s Change in Conversion which outlines the whole process of shift between these three aspects of conversion in the early centuries. It is a masterpiece.

  • Andrew says:

    come back here, dangitt! – and give us a brief outline or perhaps what u found helpful.

  • the book is Alan Kreider, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom, published by Trinity Continuum 2000. In the book, Kreider maps out some of the ways in which people were deemed to be Christian in the early centuries. He focuses a lot on the role of the catechism and the way in which the early church made a huge issue about behaviour first, then belief before belonging comes into it – you kind of half belong until they can prove you behave and believe properly. And you have all this exorcism stuff to go through and purging and everything. But then when Constantine comes along and everything becomes official, the church was overwhelmed with converts and so had to back track on the behaving and go to believing. But if you go the other way, I think that the gospels and the early epistles point to belonging as the norm for Jesus and the early apostolic churches with a mix between behaviour and belief vying for second place. It is clear belief came a close third if not a close second for Pauline and Johannine churches – as may even have been primary for Matthean churches. But for Jesus, I think belonging was central, behaviour second and belief was last on the list – he did want people to believe but he wasn’t going to cut people out of the picture because of it – it was better than they did the works of the father, that they showed mercy and lived justice than that they believed what would one day become orthodoxy. But now I am merging Kreider into Phillips and that’s not what you wanted.
    Kreider comes from an anabaptist view, I think, and so some of his conclusions about infant baptism and Christendom models need to be handled carefully but this book really does make you think again about what becoming a Christian actually meant in the early church and so what does it mean today?
    Does that help?

  • andrew says:

    thanks pete!

  • Mark says:

    yes its definitly one of the biggest challenges the emerging culture brings for our churches. People belong before they believe, and before they belief they “try out” how it is to believe and behave like beliefers.
    I saw this happening with all “new people” coming to our church here in Germany. If you think this through you have to change a lot…. The main focus of our church has become to create spaces for belonging. Finally this led us to the vision to start our Cafe… to create a place where people can just come in and then choose on which level they want to belong to our community…
    There ist a new book out, written by joseph myers, named “the search to belong”. realy good stuff… find it here

  • Darren says:

    This is the crux of a discussion a few of us in Australia have been having for a number of years, the process used to be sold as believe behaving belonging but now it has reversed.
    People are coming to church because of community/relationship/belonging over theology, infact as someone who has just moved home i found my new church that way.
    In our church we currently say that a) Through baptism you become a member.
    b) Before baptism you must believe
    c) People belong before they believe
    d) People come to faith through belonging
    Now if membership = baptism = belonging the sums just do not add up properly.
    What we need then is to re-think how people belong to a community, the idea that people must actually do something to belong is weird…
    So it’s a question of process, sure… run some courses but I’d have to ask the question of how Jesus went by his Membership
    The way I see it Jesus did something like this…
    Jesus: “hey Peter, come here and follow me… trust me, itll be a great trip”
    Peter: “ummm, yeah sure, just after I gut this fish…”
    Jesus: “no time for that, come along, we’ll learn together…”
    Peter: “ok, why not, these fish smell anyhow”
    Then AFTER Jesus grabbed the disciples he started to teach and eat with them. Belonging came before knowing…. before believing.
    Overall my issue is that we as a Church are very club-like in how we allow people to enter into the faith community. “People are far more willing to own us than we are to own them.”
    Perhaps we need to remove the club-elements of our church and involve a more concentrated belonging way…
    So much for the short comment, eh?

  • sasa says:

    For Christ’s sake don’t “remove the club-elements”! Let people decide about how deep, how fast, how often… they belong. Go on providing space for them to interact with you and the Spirit. Your description of what you guys do sounds like real gospel to me. If the equations dont add up, so what? We dont have to figure it all out, do we?

Leave a Reply