Tag Archive | Church Planting Movements

Rhythms of Prayer, Holy Spirit Activity, and Mission

4335016515_753f80a1c0_o

When I was in Bible College, I had one of the best roommates I could have asked for. We had both come to the school to learn more about the power of the Holy Spirit. My friend was an evangelist, but our school focused almost exclusively on prayer and the power of Holy Spirit. So late in our first year at the school, he got permission from the head of the school to do some intensive research about how those three topics intersect.

My friend completed his paper, but I always remember the conclusion he came to in the paper was simultaneously simple and profound: The New Testament church’s experience was one of rhythms. Instead of focusing on one aspect or the other (something the church is exceptionally good at), the church of Acts would continually move through rhythms: The community would gather and pray, the Holy Spirit would respond, and the result would be a missionary thrust that lead many people to the Lord.

You see this in Acts 1-3. Jesus ascends into Heaven but tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the believers and a great harvest is gathered in from Peter’s message. The Harvest continues in Acts 3 with the healing of the lame man and many people coming to Christ.

The rhythm begins again in Acts 4-6.  The apostles are brought before the high council and warned not to speak of Christ.  When they are released they gather together and pray. This time the building they are praying in is shaken by the Holy Spirit and those gathered were filled with great boldness. Miracles begin to happen, a great number of people came to the Lord, other leaders were raised up, and the mission continues to go forth.

One more example is Acts 13-19. Acts 13 opens with believers in the diverse church of Antioch ministering to the Lord and fasting. It was during this time of prayer and fasting that God by the Holy Spirit spoke to the church to send Paul and Barnabas on their first apostolic mission. This apostolic mission was marked by signs and wonders and culminated in a number of new churches in Galatia and Asia Minor.

This is important for a simple reason: There is a great divide in the church. Often people who devote themselves to prayer are separated from those who give themselves to evangelism.  Oddly enough, people who experience the Holy Spirit in profound ways are often separate from the people who pray and the people who evangelize. This isn’t the way God designed the church to function. We weren’t designed to live in continual prayer meetings that never see the Holy Spirit spill out to the streets and touch the lost. Nor were we designed to be constantly evangelizing without the power of the Holy Spirit that comes when we gather together and pray.

Instead, the church often will find itself somewhere in this cycle, praying, going in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then proclaiming the Gospel to lost people. In fact, this is the testimony of many of the great moves of the Spirit throughout history, starting with the book of Acts right up through the church planting movements that are happening across the globe right now.

Are you in a season where evangelism and mission is low? Maybe it’s time to return to the place of prayer and ask God to pour out His Spirit. Are you continuing in the place of prayer, but not much else? It may be time to lift your eyes to where the Holy Spirit might moving. Are you experiencing the Holy Spirit in profound ways but not seeing much harvest? It’s possible that the Holy Spirit is sending you to people outside of your church community to share the Gospel with power. The key is knowing what season you’re in. We get stagnant (even disobedient) when we choose one activity over what the Holy Spirit has us in.

So, what season does the Holy Spirit have you and your church in right now?

Photo Credit: Group Prayer by Opacity

Prayer Request:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,

Our house church network is in a season where we need to hear from the Lord about a number of things. There is no external threats, per se, but a number of us our sensing its time to gather together and seek the Lord in prayer in the way I described above. We are gathering tomorrow night for an extended time of prayer and listening to Jesus. Will you pray for us, that God would speak and help us forward in the next season of our lives together?

I would greatly appreciate it.
Travis

How the Church Around the Earth has Informed Our House Church Practice

4057362886_6b2bdd5758_o

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series about learning from the global church. Other posts in this series can be found at the bottom of the page.]

The church around the Earth, living under persecution and depending on God’s power instead of their wealth and influence, has much to teach every believer in the West. But the house church movement, specifically, has much to learn from their global counterparts.

Our house churches have had the unique opportunity to meet some brothers in the house church movement from around the globe, to be a part of some of their meetings, and to learn from those who have planted house churches globally.  These experiences have helped us to see God’s Kingdom from different perspectives and avoid the traps that sometimes consume the house church conversation in the West.

So, what has the house church movement around the globe taught us?

  1. The Gospel is Essential to the Church– Sit down and talk to any house church participant from Africa or Asia and it isn’t long before you hear of their heart to reach the lost with the gospel.  I’ve sat with servants from other nations whose hearts burn to see the Gospel of God’s Kingdom transform their nations. For me, in particular, every time I meet with one of these figures, it reminds me that while community and spiritual family are important, they are the result of the Gospel.  And this has helped us not be consumed with convincing every existing church to become a house church (and judging those that don’t) but sharing Jesus with those that don’t know Him and teaching them to follow Him in the context of organic spiritual family.
  2. Discipleship Must Be Universally Reproducible- One of the significant ways we’ve learned from the church around the world is through brothers and sisters who have served the church in Africa and Asia bringing back principles they witnessed at work in the church there. These generally have stressed not just the preaching of the Gospel, but the structuring of the church so that each true follower of Christ learns how to obey Jesus like the New Testament teaches.  Many streams such as NoPlaceLeft and Church Multiplication Associates teach discipleship principles first learned in massive movements of the Gospel in other countries and then brought and implemented here.  These principles are simple and can be passed on to other believes so they can participate in the work of evangelism and discipleship.
  3. The Purity of the Church is Important- In our house church network, we have a brother who has spent time with the underground house church movement in China as a member of the body. One of the realities he has stressed over and over again is that the church there frequently will observe the lifestyle of an unknown brother or sister for a season before they let a brother participate fully in the life of the church. This sounds harsh in our Western context, but in the context of the church of China, where a new person could be a government spy, this is a matter of survival. In our context, this example has helped us learn how to handle false workers that the New Testament has promised would try and come into our midst (and have).  It’s also helped us have hard conversations with those who aren’t born again, but come with a belief in God.
  4. The Kingdom of God is 24/7 Our brother who has spent time in the church in China is constantly reminding us that the church meetings there often last all day, with kids! Training sessions last through the night and into the next day. The point is, there are no nice, anticipated end times. There is no time when the meeting is projected to end. Our friends in Africa have an entire village that wakes up at four AM to energetically pray for their village, their church, and their nation. I have one friend in Africa who wakes up and prays between midnight and 5:00 AM for his nation because he’s been doing it since he was a young man.  In each of these scenarios, the church has submitted their use of their time to God. It’s no longer theirs, but His.
  5. The Church Needs to Embrace Multiple Giftings- We’ve believed in the diversity of gifting that Christ gives his body for some time. However, when we heard a friend of mine from a closed nation begin to describe how they are beginning to value not just apostles, prophets, and evangelists, but shepherds and teachers as well, it was transforming for us.  Since that time we’ve been able to embrace the shepherding gift in a way that has significantly helped us care for the body and continue to grow the church.

These are some of the significant ways that the church from around the globe has significantly informed how we live out life in house churches. I encourage everyone from the West to find ways to connect with what God is doing in other parts of the Earth in order to better see His Kingdom.

If you’re interested in learning about the house church movement around the globe, check out The Five Best Books on House Churches. Most of the books are a great starting point for seeing house churches planted in a different soil than the cultural West. It may just help you to see the church and God’s Kingdom like never before.

Photo Credit: Underground Church – Hainan by Surfing the Nations

Learning From the Global Church Series:

Learning from the Church Around the World

What I’ve Learned from the Church Around the Globe

When You Can’t Afford to Travel but Want to Learn from the Church

House Churches, Coffee Beans, and Learning from the Global Church

 

Elders

10742387656_64939f9143_o

How we build the church is based on how we view the New Testament. Nowhere is this clearer than the realm of elders. Some emphasize Paul’s epistles and get a seasoned, often stationary church. Others emphasize the book of Acts and it’s emphasis on minimalist structure and get a church that disappears quickly under pressure. The truth is neither of these views is correct apart from the other. But often we chose one perspective over the other, instead of seeing how both work together to accomplish what God wants.

Let’s look at some thoughts about elders from the book of Acts:

  • Paul would plant churches and leave without appointing elders, but would often times do that later (see Acts 14:23). This is interesting to me, because many today stress the fact that a church without a pastor or elders is not a church at all. But Paul started a number of churches where he either didn’t appoint them on purpose or he got chased out of town before he could. My personal opinion is Paul often wanted to let new believers mature before appointing them as examples for the church to follow.  But make no mistake–churches existed where elders didn’t.
  • Elders were shepherds (Acts 20:28). Whoever eventually became an elder had the task of feeding and caring for the church the way a shepherd feeds and cares for a flock of sheep. This verse and another like it in 1 Peter 5 are the primary reasons I believe the gifting of shepherds and the role of elders overlap considerably. Often these are the people ingrained in the believing community and caring for those in their relational sphere.
  • Elders were given the task of overseeing (Acts 20:28). Paul tells the Ephesian elders that the Holy Spirit has appointed them as “overseers.” An overseer is not a leader, a public speaker, or a visionary person. An overseer literally watches over what is going on in any given circumstance. Note that the overseer is never told to give orders, tell everyone what to do, or to monopolize the teaching or instruction of the church. Their task is to watch over what is being done. One of the great needs of the church in this hour is more overseers who can provide a safe place for new believers to grow and test out their spiritual muscles that are beginning to develop.

Now, let’s look at some thoughts from Paul to Timothy and Titus:

  • It’s a noble thing to aspire to be an overseer (1 Timothy 3:1).
    Part of the reason for this is that these were the believers first threatened with death when persecution came. This wasn’t a position of privilege that you needed to die to yourself before you decided to take. It could be a death sentence. And while some (especially in the house church movement) believe that it’s not good to be a leader, Paul encourages believers who desire to be godly overseers.
  • There is a list of character requirements for elders (1 Timothy 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9).
    Character was the primary qualifying factor for elders of the New Testament. They couldn’t be a new believer and they had to be able to teach, but the overwhelming majority of qualifications were centered on how much Christ had transformed their character. Central to the idea of elders was that they were a mature follower of Jesus that new believers could look to and pattern their lives after.* **
  • Elders were appointed (Titus 1:6). Paul makes it clear these guys were appointed and we saw that both in Acts and in these apostolic instruction manuals for Timothy and Titus.  It was an apostolic function to appoint elders. Often they weren’t appointed until after an apostle left, but the church knew who they were because of this appointment. This is different, however, than a hierarchy where believers lord position over other believers.

When we look at the New Testament, there is a distinct pattern that emerges. Churches were spreading rapidly in the book of Acts through the ministry of men like Paul. Young churches would spring up and these churches wouldn’t have mature elders in place initially. Elders weren’t crucial to a church being established, you could have churches without elders.

But elders were necessary for the long term good of the churches that were established. These individuals were examples to the flock through their godly lifestyles but did not control every aspect of church life. They simply oversaw the life of the church and were helpful in the discerning of complicated issues that would arise. As overseers, they were to warn and admonish the body when particularly dangerous individuals were troubling the church.

I see elders as essential to the movement of the Gospel. I consider them localized replicators of the DNA God inserts into his church. Our failure to have them will eventually impair the movement of the Gospel God is raising up. But the elevation of elders to the supreme place of importance, over and above the rest of the saints as the only leaders impairs the movement of the Gospel as well. But when elders can be raised up that function as spiritual parents, allowing their children to grow and mature beyond them, beautiful movments of the Gospel can take place.

And that, my friends, is what we’re hungering for….

Photo Credit: Lost in Thoughts by Kate Russell

* 1 Peter 5:3 emphasizes the role of elders being a godly example. We haven’t looked at 1 Peter 5, but more and more, it is becoming my central text when understanding eldership in organic churches. More on that soon.

** The New Testament has a distinct pattern of calling believers to pattern their lives after other believers who live godly lives, not just Jesus. More on this in another post.

House Church Books

It’s a conversation that happens in house church circles and between those with some experience with house churches and the house church-curious.  “What books on house churches would you reccommend?” The conversation then turns to what people have read and what people haven’t, the strengths of one approach over another, etc.

I originally started this post just as a resource to give people a jump start on their understanding of house churches. But as I began writing about the books that have been meaningful to me, I found that the books I was recommending were different than where most people start the conversation. You’ll notice that this is a global list, three of the five authors aren’t Americans and two of the five don’t speak English as their primary language.  What I love about that, is while these books are applicable to our context, they allow us to sit at the feet of others who aren’t trapped by our particular world-view.  They allow us to look at church and Scripture through a different lens than we do here in America. And I think that that is helpful.

So, submitted for your approval and in no particular order, the five best books on house churches are:

Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson

This was the original house church book for me.  A leader I respected in the church we were part of said “If you want to understand what God is doing in our midst, you have to read ‘Houses that Change the World.'” I picked it up. I didn’t like it. I wrestled with every idea in the book. Eventually it pinned me.  It begins with Wolfgang’s 15 Theses (worth the price of the book, btw) that challenge the state of the current church and then moves to a sweeping vision of why and how we do church in homes. What I love about Houses is that it’s written by a German who saw God raise up a multiplying network of house churches in India.  It’s truly a global, apostolic book that challenges “Church As We Know It.” If you check out one book on this list, this is the one I recommend.

Organic Church by Neil Cole

Neil Cole, founder of CMA Resources and Awakening Chapel, has written a book about organic churches that is extremely helpful. He tells the stories of his early days starting Awakening Chapel and the journey the Lord has taken him on multiplying disciples and churches throughout the world. Organic Church is extremely helpful because it places a heavy emphasis on the power of Jesus in the life of believers as the driving force in organic house churches.  Many of the principles are based on church multiplication principles that originated in other countries like India and China, but are fleshed out in an American context.  If you want to know what the multiplication of churches looks like in America, this is a great place to start. (Also, not exactly about house churches, but a great help in understanding context is Ordinary Hero and Church 3.0., also by Neil Cole.)

Viral Jesus by Ross Rodhe

Long-time readers of the blog may recognize Viral Jesus because I reviewed this book several years ago and gave a copy of the book away. This book is an absolutely fantastic invitation into a lifestyle centered around the mission of Jesus, especially how he describes it in Luke 10.  Ross shares multiple stories about planting house churches in a Western context.  All of these stories have Ross or one of his friends following Luke 10 and sharing the Gospel with men and women of peace. Miracles happen, people come to Jesus, and new organic house churches are started as a result.  I highly recommend this book because of its strong emphasis on the church growing through apostolic mission.

The Global House Church Movement by Rad Zdero

This may be the book most unfamiliar to my readers, but it is a gem. Zdero crammed a ton of good theology and practice into a short space, which makes for page after page of profound insights. This book was foundational to me at a time when I was beginning to think about planting my first house church and answers questions with wisdom I haven’t seen anywhere else.  The real asset of this book is its global perspective. It’s not limited by our normal western grievances with “Church As We  Know It,” but really pulls the reader into an understanding of what God has done and is doing around the world.  If you’re looking to plant a Kingdom house church and not just an Americanized-version of house church, this is a great book to pick up.

The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway

Okay, so this one is not technically a house church book, but I included it because it captures the heart of what I believe the house church movement could and should become. It’s the story of Brother Yun, a Chinese leader in the underground house church movement. It’s basically his testimony of following Jesus, preaching the Gospel, starting churches, and enduring persecution. All of this happens in the context of churches that meet in homes and send out others to do the same.  The book is simultaneously filled with miracles and heartbreak. You will be inspired by the stories of believers who have sacrificed much to follow Jesus and challenged to see your church embrace many of the realities described here. While this book was the Christian Book of the Year in 2003, many people read it as an inspiring story and not as a life to imitate. Don’t make the same mistake!

You’ll probably realize that I left some notable titles off. Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and The Rabbit and the Elephant are just a few.  Some of these I haven’t read and others are good books, but much of their content will be found in these books as well.  No matter what our jumping on point is, moving towards a more organic, missional, apostolic form of church that results in Christ-formed followers is the goal.

Lastly, remember, I don’t recommend everything I recommend

Now, what about you? Which books have been helpful in your journey towards an organic, missional, apostolic church?

Note: The links to these books are part of my Amazon Store. While my opinions are mine and offered freely, I do stand to benefit from the purchase of these books through these links.

My Response to Hugh Halter’s Five Questions

Question Box

Recently (okay…about a month ago now) Hugh Halter posted “Five Questions that Only US Church Planters Ask.” I’d encourage you to check out the post. He doesn’t answer any of the questions, but rather spends some time talking about how church without answers to these questions is the beginning of true Kingdom living. For the sake of those of you who didn’t click the link, the five questions are:

1) But what do we do with our kids?
2) But what if my spouse doesn’t like to have people over?
3) What happens when my funding runs out.
4) How can I get Christians from other churches to join my core team?
5) How should I handle church discipline? (always from reformed camps)

So, my goal isn’t to answer any of these questions, either. But I know these questions are on the minds of many church planters, and my question is, why? Why are we consumed with these questions? What’s the motivation behind the questions? You can catch my thought in the order they were asked, below:

1) Kids can simultaneously be our idol and something we consider a distraction. Society pushes us to make our children into the perfect versions of ourselves we always wanted. We want them to have all of our talents but none of our hangups. Yet, in many church environments, the kids aren’t welcomed. They are either trained to sit still and color or shipped off to another environment where they can be as loud and distracting as they want. Our kids become a distraction when we believe they “interrupt what God is doing” instead of being participants in what God is doing. Our response to both of these extremes is repentance. Repentance for believing we can find salvation in our perfect “mini-me’s” and repentance for believing our meetings are more important than our children. Once we repent, the answer to this question is much easier.

2) It’s important to be clear that God values hospitality as a character trait of eldership (1 Timothy 3:2) and that both the husband and his spouse’s character is in question. My hope is those asking these questions are proto-elders, elders in training, or consider themselves elders already. I’m concerned when these sorts of questions come up, though, because it’s clear that one person in the marriage is more committed to the mission (which includes inviting the least of these into our homes) and the other is less committed. A spouse that isn’t given over to hospitality isn’t ready for eldership and a spouse that isn’t ready is a married couple who isn’t ready. Stop. Take the time to get on the same page as your spouse. Don’t let the dream of ministry be the altar you sacrifice your marriage on. Take however long it needs to take for her (or his?) heart to change. Be patient with Jesus and your spouse and let Him bring you both together into mission.

3) My hope when someone asks this is that it’s a sincere question. I’ve seen more churches dissolve because of a lack of funding than I’ve seen dissolve because of a sin issue. In the heart of many Americans, church planting is a route to a job. We must repent of the idea that the church exists to fund us. Period. So if the funding runs out, you need to get a job. Yes, the church will get less of your time. But you’re in this because you wanted to equip God’s people and reach the lost, right? So your funding running out is the perfect time to get a secular job, meet broken people, and equip others to some of the work you’re not able to do. Read BiVo. It will help.

4) At the heart of this question is the idea that church planting means growing a fully functioning church as quickly as possible. This is called transplant growth and it does almost nothing to grow the Kingdom. Why not start with two or three dedicated people and reach out to lost people exclusively? If your answer has something to do with finances, see #3. Turn away people from other churches or better yet help them start doing the same thing you are. They are needed in the harvest as well. And you’re in this to reach the lost, right? [nods head] Good, me too.

5) Ironically, this issue is the one issue Hugh addresses. I think Hugh hits the nail on the head. Many who think this way are afraid of sin in others and want to control it. I just want to add this: Be deeply involved with the people who are part of your church. Don’t just attend a meeting with them. Go to dinner with them. Play a sport with them. Share lives 24/7 with them. You will find all sorts of things wrong with these people. They will do the same with you, most likely. And then when you’ve earned the right to talk about sin with them, tell them about sin and point them toward Jesus with love. Call them higher, like a father. And if you do, 9 times out of 10, you will win your brother (Galatians 6:1-3). Spiritual discipline is so much easier and much more helpful if you do it because you love people and are in the trenches with them.

My point is this: these issues strike at the heart of “the American Gospel Enterprise,” a phenomenon where the church is treated like a business and we try to live off the benefits. Our current system encourages us to create a distraction free bubble where the meetings are entertainment-based and not an invitation into life together.  Because people want this, crowds gather for this type of meeting and bring money that can support the people who lead it. But this is not the church as Jesus intended. Where these issues touch your heart (and hurt), repent. Begin to live like Jesus and the apostles and less like the latest church planting book you’ve read. Once you do, these issues will be much, much clearer.

So, there’s my responses to Hugh’s Five Questions. No one asked me. This is in no way endorsed by Hugh nor do I expect a response from him. I would take feedback, however, so if you’re reading this, please leave a comment and let me know if I missed something.

Photo Credit: Question Box by Raymond Branson

Kingdom Investment and Apostolic Travel

A couple of months back I was having a conversation on twitter with ApostleFarm about how apostles travel great distances to invest in the next generation of Kingdom leaders.  Having seen some of that in Africa, I shared a little bit about the experience, but intended to write a blog post to share more in detail. After thinking about the topic some I decided that a video blog might be a better venue for sharing what I’ve learned.

So with no further ado, here is my video blog about apostolic travel for Kingdom advancement.  Make sure to stick around for the last couple of minutes where I discuss what I believe is one secret that I think gets missed by most western apostolic workers.

Thanks for watching the video blog. Have you ever seen apostolic travel in action either here or abroad? What can you learn from the examples you’ve seen? Let me know in the comment section.

Review: Viral Jesus by Ross Rohde

This is my personal review of “Viral Jesus” by Ross Rohde.  You can also find this review posted online at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.  In the interest of full disclosure, Ross was kind enough to provide me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Christianity was designed to spread like a virus, moving from person to person, contact point to contact point, quickly changing people and making them an agent of change.  That all came to an end after a sustained period of growth several hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection. The church slowly abandoned it’s commitment to the “epidemic principles” they were founded on and adopted a different method of living.  This is the premise of Ross Rhode’s new book, Viral Jesus.  According to Rhode, though, these “epidemic principles” can be recaptured and a viral Christianity can again become the norm.

I had been eagerly anticipating the release of Viral Jesus ever since Rhode began blogging at Viral Jesus a few years ago.  If you’ve read the blog or enjoy the missional house church/ organic church/ simple church discussion, you will certainly find an enjoyable read in this book.  But this is not just another book about doing house church.  This is a book about spreading the Lordship of Jesus throughout a society, something that house churches become a vehicle for.  This is a radically different approach than most “house church” books take, but it was incredibly helpful.

I want to offer one warning up front before I continue with the review: Do not read this book if you’re looking to transition into a new church fad.  This book is fairly unique and it will not give you step by step instructions for getting new converts.  This book presents Jesus Christ as Lord, both of the world and of the church, and that means you won’t find strategies that work apart from Him.  Rohde takes a lot of necessary time presenting this truth and because of that, someone only wanting change without prayerfully submitting to Jesus would get very frustrated. But if you desire to follow the real Jesus into His harvest field, this book will be both incredibly helpful and challenging, but well worth the read.

Strengths

The first obvious strength of this book is the fact that it presents Jesus as the operating system for life, both inside and outside the church.  This is not a how-to book.  It forces you to acknowledge the ways in which you’ve been dependent on other things besides Jesus, especially in the church.  Rohde significantly develops the idea of “Jesus as Lord” that Hirsch and Frost discuss in books like “The Shaping of Things to Come” and “The Forgotten Ways.” But instead of developing the theology of “Jesus as Lord” Rohde presents very tangible examples from Scripture and experience of “Jesus as Lord” playing out in the life of the church.

One of the things I appreciated in the book was it’s strong endorsement of supernatural phenomenon in the life of Jesus movements.  Most of the current books on church planting and organic church argue for returning to most of the principles of the book of Acts, but spend little or no time discussing the place miracles plays. This is confusing because it is one of the most prominent features of the early church.  I suspect that because Rohde truly believes that the Lordship of Christ is the issue for viral Christianity to be restored, he has no problem presenting the Holy Spirit as active and involved if we submit to Jesus.  I can’t emphasize enough that these two issues need to be stressed over and over in the organic church conversation, and that fact alone makes Rohde’s book an invaluable contribution to the discussion.

Another strength of the book are the multiple stories Rohde tells about the adventures he and his co-workers have in the harvest field.  These stories take place in locations where many people think the Gospel is irrelevant, hardened Western Europe and California, and they make the principles Rohde lays out believable.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about miracles and conversions happening in America and Europe, but Rohde tells the stories in ways that make everyone believe they are capable of doing the same.  He and his friends aren’t the heroes of the stories, Jesus is, and because of that you gain faith you can participate in similar stories yourself.

Finally, Rohde’s chapters on Viral Evangelism and Viral Church Planting are worth the price of the book. Both chapters are a look at how, once submitted to Jesus, a believer is typically led by Him to share the gospel and see churches started.  Rohde makes evangelism and church planting a joy, not a burden, and accessible to everyone.  I’m actually going to list this book in the evangelism section of my Amazon bookstore because it so easily encourages and trains believers in basic principles for sharing their faith and planting churches.

Weaknesses

The one weakness I found in the book is it’s treatment of the historical Jesus movements of the past.  Rohde traces the fall of the early church away from the “epidemic principles” it was originally founded upon.  He then looks at times throughout history most Christians would call revivals and dissects how these revivals missed turning into full-fledged Jesus movements that God had intended.  I think this is the point where most Christians would have problems.  However, I actually agree with Rohde on most of the issues he presents as problems.

Rohde argues that each of these revivals were short-circuited because they didn’t completely abandon the trappings of Christendom that they emerged out of.  Because of that, these revivals eventually died down and became trapped in a dead religious state that they had been awakened out of.  I don’t even disagree with Rohde on this point. However, what was written seemed to imply that even though God moved powerfully many different times, these Jesus movements continually fell back into the Christendom mindsets they emerged out of.  Can a viral Christianity emerge in a country where Christendom is present and operating? I believe it can and I even think Rohde believes it can, but I walked away from the chapter having to truly process these thoughts out.

In the end, I believe that even this was helpful, because these chapters forced me to examine where I’ve compromised with foundational principles of the world in my Christian experience.  But my hope is that even though much of Christianity in the West is still steeped in Christendom, that viral Christianity lived out in front of the rest of the church will actually convince the church of the validity of abandoning many of the Christendom principles it has built itself on.

Should You Read Viral Jesus?

Yes, yes, and yes!  You will be encouraged, stretched, and challenged in ways you cannot imagine.  Rohde is really balanced in a radical, Jesus-following way.  Reading this book will push you in the most healthy direction you’ve been pushed in awhile—closer to Jesus.  If you’ve never been part of an organic church this a great book to get you started.  If you’ve read every book by every guy about church planting movements and house churches, this is still a really helpful and inspiring book.  And this is not a book for leaders, it’s a book for everyone, because viral Christianity is for everyone.

Because of all of this, I want to recommend you pick a copy of this book, take a journal and a Bible with you, and go and wrestle with the issues Rohde presents.  My hope is that it causes Jesus movements to spring up throughout the West and changes Christianity as we know it.