The other week I received a copy of the book "Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel" by Ross Rohde, who is a house church planter and coach in San Francisco, through the Speakeasy blog program that I am a part of.
The premise of this book is to recover the viral movement nature of the church. Rohde puts it this way, "In the early centuries Christianity was an explosive, viral movement that spread by word of mouth." He then continues, "But today, the gospel is no longer spreading like wildfire throughout the western world. Slowly, Christianity has morphed into something much different...a stable institutionalized religion that no longer grips us with the excitement and spirituality of the early years."
Rohde then spends a good bit of the first part of the book unpacking the history of the early church and the viral nature of the movement. He does a great job looking at the early church, the persecution that fueled the movement, the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine, and then the slowing down of the viral nature of the church due Constantine's decision.
He then moves on to some more historical examples of kingdom movements such as the Waldensians, the Anabaptists, the Great Awakenings, and also modern day China.
But we also need to ask, "Just what makes a viral Jesus movement, in the first place?' Rhode lays out 5 key aspects of a viral Jesus movement. 1. Apostolic teams found organic churches and networks that follow Jesus in every gathering. Yet every component, from individual Christians to networks, is easily reproducible and simple in design; simple but not simplistic. 2. Viral Jesus movements are focused on the kingdom, not on the church per se. This is because they are focused on the King and his commands. 3. Viral Jesus movements are founded with the fivefold ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. 4. Viral movements, by their nature, are supernaturally powerful because they are under the authority and power of Jesus. 5. Finally, viral Jesus movements are led by Jesus alone. He is the one who provides stability and control.
Probably the most helpful part of the book, to me, was the chapters on Viral discipleship and Viral Church Planting. The one on Church Planting was especially timely. You see the other week I was reading Matthew 9 and came upon this verse, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” It struck me like never before. For me and my church planting journey, I needed to ask God to send workers into the harvest field, to join Veritas in our mission.
And so with those words ringing in my ears, I read the chapter on church planting and was again reminded that it isn't about programs, marketing, flashy websites, or other "gimmicks". It is about God bringing the growth. There were several quotes from the book that struck me about the importance of praying and seeking God and asking the Lord of the Harvest for the growth. Here are a few that stuck out to me:
"I believe that Jesus gives ministry success to a person or team because they are obedient, not because they have great technique."
"We can do everything technically right; but if we aren't obeying the Lord of the harvest, we shouldn't expect much fruit. And some are getting disappointed because 'it isn't working'. The 'it' they are talking about is some technique or set of techniques." (This one really resonated with me.)
"The first question anyone should face who believes himself truly called of God is the financial question. If he cannot look to the Lord alone for the meeting of his daily wants, then he is not qualified to be engaged in His work, for if he is not financially independent of men, the world cannot be independent of men either. If he cannot trust God for the supply of needed funds, can he trust Him in all the problems and difficulties of the work?"
"If we can't go without the security of a 401(k) plan or a retirement package, we are probably not ready for apostolic work."
Overall, I appreciated the opportunity to read the book and it challenged, encouraged, and at times, convicted me, especially in relation to our continued effort of planting Veritas, as a missional community of authentic worshippers.