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Monday, April 23, 2012

"Viral Jesus" (Ross Rohde)

TITLE: Viral Jesus: Recovering the contagious power of the Gospel
AUTHOR: Ross Rohde
PUBLISHER: Lake Mary, FL: Passio-Charisma House, 2012, (224 pages).

Based on the principle of viral movements like wildfires and epidemics, the author essentially asks the question:

"Why is it that we will allow Satan to use movements to spread disease, lies, riots, fires, and immorality, but we tend not to tap into the principles of movement when it comes to the gospel and the kingdom of God?" (xii)

Thus begins the book about wildfire Christianity, or "Viral Jesus" forms of evangelism. By looking at the example of the early Church in Acts 2, the author pushes for a organic movement that has an "organic structure" of seeding the faith through networks and contagious enough to be "sneezable."

What the Viral Jesus Movement Looks Like?

Firstly, it looks like one that is intentionally fragile, so fragile and flexible that the Holy Spirit can use it.  The offices of Ephesians 11 are seen as "spiritual" rather than "positional" gifts. Secondly, it is supernatural and mystic. The author says that every time one becomes convicted of sin, one becomes a "mystic." Prophecy is also another sign of the mystical experience. Thirdly, the early Church is the first model of the Viral Jesus Movement. For Rohde, the aim is to build a bridge to bring the Early Church contagious movement into the 21st Century Church.

What Makes the Viral Jesus Movement Crumble?

Here, Rohde goes on the assault to bring the institutional Church to task, criticizing the hierarchical structures, civil religion, ordination, church buildings, political correctness, and others. Essentially, Rohde blames the structure of the Church, saying that the very nature of the institution is preventing the spread of any viral Jesus strain. Rohde then uses the example of the Church in China as a living example of how the viral Jesus concept has been embraced.

On Viral Discipleship

Here, Rohde continues his assault on the conventional ways of discipleship, saying that Christianity has been reduced to an "information only" faith, that Christianity has been reduced to training to do certain tasks, techniques, and talents. The positive is the leadership training he has received. For Rohde, the better way to do discipleship is:

  • Start with the new covenant on harnessing God's power (not human ability)
  • Continue with relating with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit (not Bible or doctrinal facts)
  • Letting Jesus lead the discipleship process, with different process, that responds to God.
  • Letting the Spirit lead the discipleship process through the Holy Spirit via changed lives.
Rohde then uses Luke 10 as a model for church planting. He proposes five principles of effective evangelism:
  1. More communicators rather than more listeners
  2. That everyone lives like missionaries
  3. That God guarantees every believer the necessary resources
  4. To trust God to work spontaneously
  5. That believers are empowered.
My Comments

I find the initial ideas in the book commendable, especially the part about becoming a contagious Christian for God, to spread the gospel like wildfire. After chapter 1, the rest is downhill for me. I find it hard to accept the way Rohde defines mysticism. Instead of researching on the mystics of old, like St John of the Cross, Evelyn Underhill, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, St Teresa of Avila, and many more, Rohde opts for the common dictionary's definition!  Such a way is bad scholarship. The Medieval mystics themselves are intent on seeking God deeply toward union with God. They let their learning bless the people around them. 

There is also the problem of simplistic criticism of the institutional Church. Chapter 7 is especially bad.  If Rohde thinks that the way to instill his brand of "Viral Jesus" is through the dismantling of Church hierarchies and structures, he is way too naive. The problem with the Church is not the structure. The problem is sin, and the nature of man. A case in point is this. Even if Rohde and the movement he is proposing can tear down all conventional structures of Church, what is there to guarantee that the new organic, simple, or viral structure will NOT end up as such? His discipleship proposal looks good but lacks the concrete specifics.

In conclusion, I feel that the book's good idea is not well sustained through adequate research or plausible historical understanding of Church. In a nutshell, this book has a good idea, but fails for an overly simplistic view of the conventional church. Instead of doing more good, it has done itself a disfavour as well. I tried to read the book with positive eyes. I do not like to give negative reviews. However, given the overly simplistic way the book has waylaid the Church, I cannot recommend this book for general reading.

Ratings: 1.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Charisma House Book Publisher without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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