Tag Archive | Church Planting Movements

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.

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Viral Jesus Winner

I want to take a minute to thank everyone who participated in our giveaway for Viral Jesus. While I wanted to raise awareness for Ross’ book, I also hoped to generate some conversation about disciple-making movements and what it would take to see one started in the West.

While the participation in the contest wasn’t as large as I had hoped, I think the responses were great. This is a conversation that will be had over and over here in the West, particularly as Christianity becomes more and more marginalized in the United States.

So, in order of submission, here are the entrants in our Viral Jesus giveaway. Please visit the blogs and read them. They are both high quality posts that challenge where we are in order to release a viral Christianity in the West. Here are our entrants:

Viral Jesus Book Givewaway by Bryan Hamilton at Spiritual Slash

When Will We See Christian Growth by David Washburn at Searching God’s Heart

While it was hard for me to choose, our winner for the Viral Jesus giveaway is David Washburn. What I enjoyed about David’s post was how quickly he cut to the heart of the matter. If Viral Christianity is going to start in the West, it must start somewhere. The place it has to start is with us.

So, congratulations, David. Not only did you gain a great son-in-law (me), but you also have one a copy of Viral Jesus by Ross Rohde. We’ll send you out that copy shortly. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the giveaway both by submitting your thoughts and spreading the word.

Stay tuned. Friday I’m going to debut the new Pursuing Glory Facebook group. Next Monday I’m going to review Viral Jesus here on the blog. You won’t want to miss it.

Photo Credit: trophy 1 | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk by
Shorts and Longs | The Both And

The Apostolic Pattern (Why Are Multiplying Churches Necessary? Part 3)

This is Part 3 in the Series “Why Are Multiplying Churches Necessary?” It would be helpful to read Part 1 and Part 2.

“Jesus lives on in an apostolic mission that advances by church multiplication.” – Wolfgang Simson

If you’re familiar with the New Testament, you know Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke as a historical account of Jesus before, during, and immediately after the cross.  What some don’t realize is the book of Acts is Luke’s historical account of the resurrected Jesus’ activity as He leads and guides the church into the very activities that characterized His ministry on Earth (cf. John 14:12-14, Acts 1:1-3).  The heart of the matter is this: Jesus’ post resurrection ministry was lived out through the church in the book of Acts in the form of a multiplying church movement.

Let’s look at some quick facts.  The Church Jesus left was insubstantial compared to the crowds who had followed Him before His death.  Paul speaks of Christ appearing to 500 people after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  Since this is the highest number of post-resurrection numbers spoken of and Paul refers to these men as brothers, my assumption is they were the lump some of Jesus’ followers.  Yet, by the early third century, this relatively obscure band of five hundred had become somewhere between 5 and 10% of the Roman Empire and up to 30% of some major cities.

The book of Acts records the harvest in language that should both stun us and move us to action.  When Peter preaches at Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, a massive harvest of 3,000 new believers come to the Lord.  Luke describes it this way: and there were added that day about three thousand souls  (Acts 2:41). This continued on for a season in the life of the early church (Acts 2:47, 5:14) and the results were significant growth that all of us would love to have.

However, eventually the church began to feel the burden of it’s growth.  The result was a decision to multiply leadership beyond the apostles to the men we refer to as deacons in Acts 6.  When this multiplication of ministry happened, a small but significant shift occurs in Luke’s story.  Instead of the church having new members added to them, the church begins to multiply (Acts 6:7). The church didn’t just multiply one time.  It multiplied several times (Acts 9:31, 12:24)

This is more than just semantics.  The shift in language represents the fact that instead of just a few people doing much of the work, many people were embracing the mission of God. See, addition works like this: 2+2+2+2+2+2=12.  Multiplication works like this: 2x2x2x2x2x2=64.  The more multiplication you have happening the bigger the results. This is why Paul would tell Timothy to take what he had taught him and teach it to faithful men who would teach it to other faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).  It was a God-sized idea to expand the Kingdom.

And you couldn’t stop this multiplying church.  Its multiplication made it hard to know where it started or ended. Before you knew it, this little group of Jesus followers became a multitude that had no visible leader.  You could kill one of the leaders, but another would rise in its place.  It’s why human’s hate viruses: they multiply out of control. This is what allowed the first century church to reach an unprecedented amount of people in such a short period of time.

Beloved we find ourselves in a season of history where we must recapture the spirit of evangelism and multiplication that gripped the early church.  This isn’t a call to return to only first century practices, but to capture those elements that made them vital and caused the Gospel to spread like a virus throughout earth.  Jesus is worthy of His name going forth and redeeming many in this hour.  May we, like them, be consumed for His name’s sake and see the church multiply in the Earth.

Photo Credit: Onion Cells by Kaibara87

Food For Thought: Behind The Eight Ball Edition

Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny.  These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site.  Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy.  We’ve had a close friend get married along with a host of other priorities.  This has kept us busy and me from blogging.  I’m trying to get in the swing of things and hopefully I have enough posts to keep the blog rolling for a couple of weeks.  And now for your links:

Church Planting Module at Northwood at Jewish Synagogue Bob Roberts blogs @ Glocalnet about a church planting course he’s hosting @ a Jewish Synagogue.  Half way through, Bob describes the training he gives these guys & everyone involved in church planting should take his advice seriously.

Going Deeper The question everyone asks about true church planting movements is “Are the converts truly being discipled?” Steve argues in this post @ Movements that we must redefine what discipleship means.

4,000 Churches Planted In Ethiopia in 3 Years Roger Thoman @ Simple Church Journal distills a paper by Dave Hunt on church planting movements in Africa. The movement planted 4,000 churches in Ethiopia in 3 years.

A Cautionary Tale: Stay In One Place Felicity @ Simply Church continues discussing Luke 10 principles.  So much of Luke 10 ministry revolves around a person of peace, and here Felicity warns about moving to other places besides their sphere.

Photo Credit: Design Probes – Food for Thought by centralasian.

Food For Thought: A New Move of the Spirit Edition

Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny.  These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site.  Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.

I’m super excited for this week’s Food For Thought.  I found a blog by Kevin Matthews who we’ve featured here before that I feel captures the essence of what we’re working towards here at Pursuing Glory.  I don’t know that I’ve seen a prophecy like this anywhere before and its accuracy is amazing.  You can read more about the man gave the prophecy here.  The spirit of the prophecy, I believe, is the aim of all the posts featured here and what we contend for here at Pursuing Glory.

A New Move of the Spirit Kevin and Lorna’s Daily Devotional features a prophecy by Smith Wigglesworth about a move of the Spirit after the charismatic movement and the church planting movements. It describes exactly what we’re believing for.

Tim Keller on Movements Steve Addison @ Movements That Change The World does a nice job of condensing a post by Tim Keller on the nature of movements. Any serious movement should wrestle with his thoughts.

Thursday is for Thinkers: Rice Brooks on the Evangelist and the Missional Church Missional guy and evangelism guru Ed Stetzer hosts a guest post on his blog by Rice Brooks about the necessity of evangelists to the missional church.  Much needed wisdom at Ed Stetzer’s blog.

Why Simple Churches Don’t Work #7 Ross spends a post looking at how lack of apostolic ministry hinders house churches.  This issue needs addressing.  You can see this and other hindrances at thejesusvirus.

Why compliments help in planting a simple/organic/house church Felicity Dale looks at the Luke 10 principle of pronouncing peace on houses you enter.  This is an often missed part evangelism in the West. More at SimplyChurch.

It’s Not Rocket Science Katie @ Backseat Driver looks at the centrality of family to our definition of church and explores how it can transform our congregational life.

Photo Credit: Design Probes – Food for Thought by centralasian.

Why Are Multiplying Churches Necessary?

If you look around, you can see multiple reasons in the earth to be discouraged.  It seems no matter how many good stories happen in the news, there is a larger number of bad ones.  This is especially true when you look at the church. It’s easier and grabs more headlines to believe that the best days of the church are behind us.

However, if you study Scripture or have your ears tuned to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, then you have a great cause for hope.  The Word and the Spirit tell us that we are on the verge of one of the greatest harvests of lost souls in human history.  Events (and the God behind them) are conspiring together to bring forth this harvest in a short period of time.

It’s with this context in mind that I want to present to you the need for multiplying churches.  When we talk about multiplying churches, usually I sense a collective yawn in the room from people who haven’t really considered the implications of the world we live in.  But we live in a unique time of history where the need for mutliplying churches is greater than ever before.

At this point it would be good for me to define what is a multiplying church.  A church that I would consider a multiplying church has taken seriously Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 and applied it at every level.  Paul says, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  Paul was concerned about what Christ has done in him being reproduced in another three generations of believers.  This wasn’t just a selfish concern, it was a concern for the dynamic elements that made him apostolic be reproduced in everyone that was touched by Timothy and those he mentored.

This plays out in a number of different ways, but one of the most concrete ways we see this play out is in church planting.  If every member of the body is reproducing itself, the inevitable result is more churches come into existence.  When we plant churches, that’s good.  When those churches that we’ve planted plant churches that’s better.  It’s even exciting when those second generation churches plant more churches.  But we’re dealing with multiplying churches when the third generation of churches start planting churches themselves. If you’re lost, it may be because by this time, like a virus, its hard to know which church was the first church at all.

This is what we need for this hour: a church that carries the Gospel and spreads like a virus across the face of the planet. Over the next few weeks, I’ll look at the “Why’s” of multiplying churches, because before we can make them happen, we need to understand why we need them. I’ll leave the “How’s” of multiplying churches to those who are actually seeing this accomplished. Before I close, I want to quote Wolfgang Simson’s Starfish Vision.  He shares an equation that I believe is important for us to understand because it stresses the importance of multiplying churches. The equation is this: J=MC2.

“Jesus lives on in an apostolic Mission that advances by Church multiplication.”

Photo Credit: Studying Till The Sun Goes Down by Jakert Gwapo

Food for Thought: Church Planting Movement Edition

Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny.  These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site.  Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.

Most of the following links are connected with the idea of seeing multiplying church movements birthed in the Earth. We’ll talk more about multiplying church movements shortly, but for now let’s just say that for the harvest at the end of the age to become a reality, God will need to begin to birth multiplying church movements here in the West and in the nations of the Earth.  Their reality will fuel and sustain the great harvest.

Cesar, Man of Peace Ross Rohde gives the readers of his blog a down-to-earth current example of how men/women of peace can aid church planting.  I’ve heard (and experienced) that when Jesus leads you to a person of peace, you can’t help but start a church.  Starting a church without a person of peace is incredibly more difficult.  In all of my reading, this is the most down-to-earth description of how an individual finds a person of peace and establishes a church. Ross blogs regularly at thejesusvirus.

To the Fourth Generation You really can’t beat first-hand information from people who are on the front lines of any ministry.  Steve Addison got a chance to sit down with church planters who have seen the churches they’ve planted start daughter churches, granddaughter churches, and great-granddaughter churches.  He combines all the insights from that time and presents the common themes in a three page PDF document.  It’s a treasure. Steve blogs regularly about Christian movements at Movements That Change the World.

Passing It On and What is Sequentialism and Why Does it Prevent Multiplication? These are both posts by Felicity Dale, who with her husband gives leadership to the annual House Church conference that pulls together many house churches and house church movements in the nation.  In “Passing It On” Felicity writes about the need for the taught to teach others in order to see church planting movements birthed. “What is Sequentialism and Why Does it Prevent Multiplication” focuses in on how our need to have everything right in a church or movement before we expand is often the reason why no growth happens. Both of these articles are extremely worth your time and can be found at Felicity’s blog Simply Church.

A Lesson in Unity Here, Kevin Matthews looks at the behavior of fire ants and how they swarm and then relates it to our need to operate in the same spirit of unity.  This article at first might not seem very closely related to church planting movements but I can assure you that at their core, church planting movements operate in this way.  They are led and built up by five-fold ministries that encourage this unified swarming.  This is a great picture of how Christ builds an at once individual and yet unified body.  You can check out more of Kevin’s writing at Kevin and Lorna’s Daily Devotional.

Photo Credit: Brain Food by The Wandering Angel at Flickr.