“Viral” is a gross word, especially if you happen to be older than fifteen. Now, thanks to YouTube and Instagram, people actually long to be viral. I know you didn’t ask me, but I think that’s evidence that our culture is on the express train to Crazy Town (pop. 3,813,633,018).
Upon further investigation (thanks to the resident 17-year-old), “viral” has two meanings. Since you, dear reader, have come to expect a certain level of thoroughness in my parlance, I present to you the two most-commonly used definitions of our word of the day, complete with sample sentences:
- Of, relating to, or caused by a virus. Stay away from Freddie – his snot nose is wicked viral. [ED. NOTE: This sentence works best if uttered somewhere north of Connecticut. And if referencing someone named “Freddie”.]
- Becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the Internet. The video of Freddie’s mom’s roller derby team has gone viral – who knew they could collectively bench press an Oldsmobile? Wicked awesome! [ED. NOTE: Again, this works best north of the Mason-Dixon line. And if referencing the mother of someone named “Freddie”. A word of caution: don’t mention this to Freddie’s mom or you’ll surely catch a beat down.]
As I have aptly demonstrated [ha!], “viral” doesn’t have to be off-putting, nor is it a new concept. Lots of things went viral long before someone co-opted the term.
Let’s consider the humble beginnings of the church. After Jesus’ resurrection and shortly before His ascension into heaven, He gave some final instructions to His followers: make disciples.
What is a disciple? I used to define it as follower, but now I’m defining it as apprentice.
Back to our word of the day. The best estimates of scholars puts the number of Jesus followers on the birthday of the church at 120 [ED. NOTE: I choose to place the church’s birthday on the Day of Pentecost – read about it in Acts 2].
120 people. Burn that number into your brain. Check this out…
According to conservative estimates, those 120 people multiplied to 25,000 people in fewer than 70 years. Whoa! That, my friends, is viral.
Cool, huh? That’s nothing… Hold on to your hat (if you’re wearing one, that is. If not, please locate the nearest hat, place it on your head, and hold on tight).
By 100 AD, there were 25,000 followers of Jesus.
By 300 AD, there were 20,000,000 followers of Jesus.
Twenty. Million. People. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- This happened before people passed out Gospel tracts.
- This happened before TV preachers.
- This happened before podcast preachers.
- This happened without the aid of the Internet.
How in the world did the message of Jesus Christ spread so rapidly? Simple: apprentices (followers) of Jesus loved their friends enough to help them become apprentices of Jesus.
Last night, during the whiteboard session, I talked about how we can do that at The Church @ Clayton Crossings. It’s not theory, either. I worked with Jennifer Metz last year to incorporate this type of discipleship for a couple of her friends. We called her group a “trio group” – one person (a disciple-maker) meets with two other people to talk about the Bible and what God is teaching them.
Pretty informal, but powerful. Here’s what I mean: Jennifer’s group has now multiplied into seven groups. They grew without the benefit of announcements in the bulletin, a mention by me during a sermon on Sunday morning, or a shout-out by Bradley Wallace during our video announcements. It grew by word of mouth because the women involved were growing closer to Jesus.
You know what I call that kind of growth? Yep – viral.
Here’s how you can start: grab a Bible, grab a couple of buddies, download the list of suggested questions, and get to work. Groups usually meet weekly for 6-9 months. Here’s the best part: at the end of six months, each of you pick your Bible back up, grab two buddies, download the questions, and get to work.
That’s how the early church went viral. That’s how churches in China are spreading like wildfire. There’s a massive revival in China right now and do you know who’s leading the charge? Teenage girls. Cool, eh? Almost 80% of new churches in China have been started by teenage girls.
Our church is growing, but we still have lots of people in Johnston County who do not yet know Jesus. We’ve got some work to do, and being a disciple who makes disciples is the best kind of work any of us can do. After all, that’s what Jesus commanded and equipped us to do.