A few weeks ago, I received (for free) a copy of Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel by Ross Rohde. I’ve had several opportunity to interact with Ross on his blog and on Facebook, and since I began to read his book, we’ve communicated a few times via email. I share that with you to tell you that I’ve always found Ross approachable and easy to understand. This book is no different.
Ross divides his book into three parts. In the first part – Chapters 1-3 – he describes what he means by a viral Jesus movement. In the second part – Chapters 4-7 – Ross lays out the historical background for the loss of this contagious gospel, describes several near-misses to viral movements, and describes a modern-day viral movement in China. In the final part – Chapters 9-10 – he describes some practical aspects of a viral Jesus movement in discipleship, church planting, and evangelism.
According to Ross, a viral Jesus movement is based on two things: 1) Jesus is Lord, and 2) the new covenant as the “operating system.” Everything should be run through these two “tests” to determine if it is within the realms of a viral Jesus movement. “Jesus is Lord” is set against any kind of human control, and a “new covenant operating system” introduces the new covenant with God through Jesus Christ as the core of our relationship with God and with one another.
I have read several books in which the author discusses these same issues. However, a few things set Ross’ book apart. First, I greatly appreciate the addition of the historic background and comparisons with several historic groups/movements. Also, I particularly enjoyed the combination of scriptural exegesis, theory, and real life examples.
Of the three sections of the book, the third one (the practical section) was by far the best to me. People need these kinds of explanation because the church has set the practical aspects of following Jesus (such as discipleship, church planting, and evangelism) in institutional forms and methodology for too long. Instead, Ross explains how these things work simply and through our relationships as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I found the chapter on “church planting” to be the most challenging, although, like Ross, I dislike the term “church planting” (at least, if I understood him correctly). He follows Luke 10 as a pattern for taking the gospel to new households or spheres of influence.
I also think that his discussion of evangelism is excellent. I especially like the way Ross describes “effective” evangelism and how evangelism can be 100% effective 100% of the time.
I’m not convinced about some of the historical conclusions that Ross drew. Also, while I agree that some are gifted at apostleship (etc.), I do not think they are the only ones who should be opening up new spheres of influence to the gospel. Instead, I think his pattern for evangelists should be applied to all spiritual gifts (that is, that evangelists should evangelize but also equip others to evangelize).
The biggest concern that I have with this book – and with any book for that matter – is that the concepts in this book are best taught face-to-face, life-to-life. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I contacted Ross. For now, if the people around us are not living this kind of life, then our only option is “trial-and-error,” without the kind of living examples that we find offered in Scripture and that we see described in Ross’ book.
I highly recommend this book, and I’m looking forward to sharing my copy with some friends.