Category: The Viral Jesus Book


There is more than one way to think about issues.

Frankly I am often distressed by the poor quality of discussion that goes on in the Western Christian world. This poor quality of discussion stems from the poor quality of thinking. Let me give you an example. Is the Church as we have always known it, often called the institutional church,[1] broken and problematic or is it the Bride of Christ which needs to be respected and loved? That’s not a small or unimportant question. After all, if the institutional church is broken and problematic it needs to be confronted, addressed and changed. On the other hand, if it is the Bride of Christ, we who are Christians outside of this expression of Christianity, need to love and respect her. Both require lived out action. So which is it, a problem or a beloved Bride? It’s the wrong question.

There are two important statements about questions we need to understand if we are ever to get to the bottom of this particular issue. Statement #1: You never get an answer to a question you don’t ask. Statement #2: You never get the right answer to the wrong question. In this case the question is worthy of asking (we need the answer to this question), but it is the wrong question. I know it sounds like I’m not making sense so bear with me. This question needs to be asked (it is a worthy question). But it is asked in such a poor way that we will never find the answers we are looking for if we ask the question in this way  (it’s the wrong question).

The problem stems from the way the question is formulated, which in turn rises from poor quality of thinking, which can lead to bad behavior. The question is formulated as an either/or proposition. Is it this or is it that? This kind of thinking is called dualism or dichotomistic thinking. Everything in this way of thinking is one or the other, this or that, black or white, good or bad. It is a very useful tool if we are dealing with physics, chemistry or biology. However, when we are dealing with other situations, such as human behavior or spirituality; thinking in this way becomes highly problematic. A group of human individuals rarely act in one way or the other. They will most likely respond in a variety of ways that reflect their values, culture, experience or the particular situation. What inspires one person to pray will inspire another individual to cower in fear. One person can do a particular behavior for noble reasons. Another person can do the exact same behavior with evil motives and intent.

When we are dealing with the behavior of the “institutional church” we are actually dealing with a whole lot of individuals and God. Humans don’t always do the same thing in similar situations, neither does God. Yes, I know God is never changing, with no shifting of shadow (James 1:17). But God does make decisions based on the circumstance. For example, both murder and adultery are against God’s law, worthy of death, as expressed in the Old Testament. Yet God forgave King David of both and didn’t require his life.

So instead of asking: The institutional Church: good or bad; worthy of change or respect? We should ask how does God want us to behave toward a system that is unbiblical and causes serious problems yet is filled with people God loves and is a system that God continues to use and bless despite its problems? This may be a more complex question but because it is framed in the reality of actual human behavior and the way God acts, it will lead to better and more carefully nuanced behavior.

So let me state it plainly. The church as we have always known it is structured in ways that are unbiblical and even contra biblical. This causes serious problems for people and for the Kingdom of God. These issues should be addressed…graciously.

There are better ways of handling differences of opinion or perspective.

At the same time, the institutional church is the Bride of Christ. He still loves it and so should I. He still uses it, so I should be willing to work along side of it, perhaps even in it, if God so chooses. I should be aware that different individuals within this structure can do the same sorts of behavior, some with noble intentions and others with wrong motive. So I need God given discernment as to how I respond or if I respond at all. Are all pastors, priests, vicars and bishops control freaks with evil intentions? Hardly. Are a few? Yep. Can God still call people to the institutional pastorate? Yep. So I need to tread lightly and with discernment when I address issues and not paint with too broad of brush. Nevertheless, the problems associated with institutional leadership within the Bride of Christ should be addressed, honestly, clearly, graciously and with discernment.

I get quite a bit of flack for some of the issues I addressed in Viral Jesus, not necessarily for the way I addressed them but that I brought up the issues at all. While that is not always pleasant, I’m encouraged that most who criticize me are merely angry because I brought up the issues, or that I come to conclusions they don’t agree with, not because I did it harshly. And, those who think I did so with evil intent (there are a few) do so by placing motives in my heart that actually aren’t there.

Pick a question and respond:

  • Do you believe that we can ask good questions in ways that give us wrong answers?
  • Do you think we should be angry at the institutional church and those who are in it because of its problems? Would you want to be treated that way? Do you think your theology and behavior is absolutely perfect and above reproach?
  • Do you believe that we should avoid fellowship with those with whom we strongly disagree about issues of faith or ecclesiology?
  • Do you believe every difference needs to be discussed and confronted?


[1] A term I don’t particularly like because it is so commonly used by some house church people as a pejorative term. It is often used as a bludgeon not merely a description.

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Our lives should write God on the people around us.

There has been a lot said lately about the “person of peace.” This is the person that God leads us to who opens the door for the gospel, not only for themselves but for their sphere of influence. This person of peace seems to be the key to Jesus strategy in spreading the Kingdom (see Luke 10:1-23 especially verses 5 and 6). I discussed this in more detail in my posts: Finding the Person of Peace and Peace to This House. I tell a story of finding a person of peace in: Cesar, Man of Peace. But I’ve been asked by a number of people if we shouldn’t be the person of peace. Isn’t that our job? In effect, aren’t we told by Jesus Himself to be salt and light? My answer to that question is a clear and unequivocal yes and no. Let me explain.

We do need to be people who are actually living the Gospel. We do need to be salt and light. But I wouldn’t call that being a person of peace, I would call that being a peaceful person. I’ll explain the difference. A peaceful person, as I’m using the phrase, is someone who is controlled by the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:22-23). As such they will demonstrate the peace that comes from the Spirit of God. And such a person is yeast (Matt. 13:33) as well as salt and light because their life not only reflects God, but will be guided by God to be doing good in the world. Such a person is ready to give an account for the hope they have (I Pet. 3:15). In other words, their life is so attractive that people want to know why.

However, Jesus uses the term “man of peace” often now referred to as the “person of peace”[1] (Luke 10:6) in a more specific way. It is the person God leads us to so that we can not only preach the Gospel to them but take it to their “oikos” their household or sphere of influence. They are the human door opener into the network of relationships in a given place.

So yes, we should be people of peace ourselves if we are talking about being the peaceful people I mentioned above. But when we are on mission with God to extend His Kingdom, we are not the people of peace Jesus was talking about in Luke 10. If such were the case our ministry would become attractional and not viral. We would be drawing people to us instead of seeing the Gospel spread powerfully outward through the network of relationships that occur in all cultures.

So, we are to be peaceful people who are salt, light and yeast. If we really are such people, our life itself becomes a testimony, so much so that we need to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. But we do this with gentleness and respect (I Pet. 3:15). Note that our life is a witness and then we are prepared to make that witness explicit verbally by giving an account for our hope; in other words, preach the gospel. Let me say that more succinctly. When we are peaceful people it leads us to people of peace.

One of our problems nowadays is that we don’t know what to do with a person of peace when we find one. Our natural instincts, breed into us by many years of congregational church life, is to invite them to a church service. Don’t do that. A slightly better tendency is to lead them to Christ and figure the job is done. Don’t do that either. Still better is to realize that we are not meant to make converts but disciples so we start to disciple them. As good as that is, don’t do that either. Here’s what Jesus taught us to actually do. When we find the person of peace we are to make them a disciple and allow them to lead us to their oikos, their household, their sphere of influence. When we do this Jesus becomes part of that household. In other words, we make sure they all get introduced to Jesus. Further, we encourage each of these new peaceful people to take Jesus to their own spheres of influence. That’s how the Jesus becomes viral in a society. When we do less than this, we stop the flow of the Kingdom dead in its tracks. That is what my book Viral Jesus is about.

So, by all means be peaceful people. And be encouraged that when you do so Jesus might just lead you to people of peace. Which just might allow you to sneeze Jesus and see him go viral in the society around you.

Pick a question and respond:

  • Do you agree with my distinction between peaceful people and people of peace? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever found a person of peace? Did you know what to do, so that they not only became disciples of Jesus, but that they were the first among many?
  • Do you agree or disagree with my assertion that taking a new convert to a preexisting church is not usually a good idea, because it can impede the flow of the Kingdom? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever been asked to give the reason for the hope that you have?


[1] Women are just as likely if not more likely to be people of peace than a man. For two biblical examples notice the woman at the well in John 4 and Lidia in Acts 16.

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This book helped in understanding the difference between being indwelt and filled by the Spirit.

My spiritual formation was in a context were I was trained to be afraid of the Holy Spirit. We would have never actually put it in those terms, because it would sound bad; but our actions and actual words either avoided the Holy Spirit or taught us to avoid potential contact with him. This context was called cessationism, which is a theological theory which states that all miraculous experiences with the Holy Spirit ended either at the death of the last of apostles[1] or at the completion of the cannon of Scripture. So somewhere between about the year 100 AD and the Second Council of Carthage in 419 the miraculous stopped. You’ll have to pick a more specific date yourself in this gap of about 320 years. In my book Viral Jesus I actually had an appendix about cessationism because I don’t believe we can see a viral movement of the Gospel if we are working within the framework of cessationism.

But my real problem wasn’t even that I was taught to avoid the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, with a special fear and loathing for the gift of tongues, but that the Holy Spirit himself seemed to be pretty much off limits for conversation. Let me give you an example. I went to a very fine Bible college.[2] We even had a required course called God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Here’s what I learned about the Holy Spirit in that course: The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Next question?

Here’s the problem with the Holy Spirit. He is experiential. And we were trained that we could not get good theology from our experiences; and good theology is all that counts. Therefore any experience one had with the Holy Spirit was suspect and probably either worked up in the mind of the person having the experience or was demonic in nature. I know that’s not even a logical syllogism, but that’s how our thinking went. And yes, I’ve heard many times that what my Pentecostal or charismatic friends would state as experiences with the Holy Spirit were actually demonic. These of course would be things like speaking in tongues, which is obviously bad, but also prophecy and especially anything that would be socially inappropriate like being slain in the Spirit or even trembling.

How do we actually live and work in the power of the Spirit?

The problem with this thinking is the Bible. The Holy Spirit ends up being extremely experiential in the Bible. Jesus didn’t tell us to avoid Him but to look with wondrous anticipation for him. And when he came it would involve actual experiential power which led to Kingdom work being done. Oh, this reminds me of something else I was taught. We can get no theology from the book of Acts because it is an historical book. Who makes up these rules? I could go on and on with verse references but I won’t. Here’s a little exercise I’d suggest for the curious. Look up all the references to the Spirit in the New Testament. Ask yourself how experiential that is.

I became frustrated because what I was actually seeing and experiencing on the mission field had no actual correlation to what I had been taught. I ended up seeing demonic possession. I heard precise, accurate prophecy that lead to significant ministry. I saw people healed. I experienced miracles…real miracles that would have made it into the book of Acts or the gospels. So I took a four credit independent study post graduate course to focus my thinking. Was cessationism real or just an incorrect theological theory? The appendix I have in the back of Viral Jesus is a synopsis of the paper I wrote after studying it from a Biblical, theological, hermeneutical, historical and sociological basis. But my synopsis is amateurish compared to Dr. Stephen Crosby’s Your Empowered Inheritance NOW! A Critique of Cessationism. If you want a thorough scholarly understanding of the issue buy Crosby’s book.

Here are two further books that have helped me actually experience the goodness of the Holy Spirit as he is actually described in the New Testament. The first is Experiencing the Spirit: Developing Relationship with the Holy Spirit by Robert Heidler. Heidler is a pastor and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He helped me finally understand the difference between being indwelt by the Spirit and being “filled” with the Spirit and why both are essential to spiritual life and ministry.

The second book is Miracle Work: A Down-To-Earth Guide for Supernatural People by Jordan Seng. Seng explains the dynamics of spiritual power and how to learn to minister in it. Of particular help to me was his “power equation” on page 51: Authority + Gifting + Faith + Consecration = Power. If you want to know what that actually means you are going to have to read the book. But it clearly lays out how Holy Spirit power works and how we can live and minister in it. I would suggest reading Heidler before Seng. If you read Seng without understanding what Heidler explains, you might end up frustrated and confused.

Pick a question and respond:

  • Why do you think those who come from my spiritual background are so shy about the Holy Spirit?
  • What part do you think the excesses of some Pentecostals and charismatics have played in other Christians being shy about the Holy Spirit?
  • Do you agree that experience plays no part in our understanding of theology? Do you think the Book of Acts is off limits as a source of theological insight?
  • What do you think the difference between being indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit is? Do you think they are the same thing?


[1] By “apostles” cessationists mean the twelve Jesus trained…and Paul. They don’t have room for apostles apart from those, even though the Bible itself mentions them.

[2] I’m very grateful for all I learned there, it just wasn’t all I needed to learn.

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Click here to order this book.

How do we actually follow Jesus into the harvest? What are the practical steps? If we were to actually do ministry like Jesus did and as He taught his disciples, would we get the same results? These are good questions. I wrote Chapter 9: Viral Church Planting in my book Viral Jesus about these very issues. My goal of Viral Jesus was broader so I only gave a chapter to this subject. Viral Jesus was answering the question, what will it take to once again see a viral movement of the Spirit in the West?

However, I’m not going to pretend that my book is the definitive work on Lk 10 ministry. I’m not going to try to say that I answer every, or even most, questions about this issue. I give the broad brush strokes and tell some stories. Then I show how it relates to other issues. But there are more definitive works on the Luke 10 church planting and I’d like to introduce you to two of them, in this and the next post. In this post I’m going to introduce you to a work by Steve and Marilyn Hill.

 

The Luke 10 Manual

Steve and Marilyn wrote this work out of their experience in Central Asia. I’m not going to explain the book other than to say it is extremely practical and if you want to know how to “do this stuff,” it is an indispensible resource. Instead of explaining the book, I’m going to just list the table of contents. That should give you a pretty good idea of what the book is about.

Introduction for our Western Friends

Introduction for our Eastern Friends

1/ The Problem of the Laborers

A/ Heart Problem

B/ Training Problems

C/The Vision Problem or Blaming the Harvest

2/ Prayers and the Geography Problem

A/ Wasted Prayers

B/ The Lord of the Harvest

C/ The Mandated Prayer

3/ Danger Ahead

A/ It is supposed to be Dangerous

B/ the Life of Jesus is Manifested Through Suffering

C/ Blessed to be a Blessing

4/ Money Bags, Knapsacks, Sandals and Purpose

A/ Money Bags and Mission

B/ Knapsacks and Culture

C/Sandals and Methodologies

D/ The Camel Tracks Story

5/ Your Peace and the Man of Peace

A/ Peace be with You

B/ Finding the Man of Peace

C/ What about Urban and Western Cultures

6/ The Eating and Drinking Mandate X2

A/ Remaining: Relational Integrity and Multiplication

B/ Eating, Drinking and Acceptance or Belonging, Behavior and Belief

C/ Wages and Responsibility

7/ Demonstration and Declaration of the Kingdom

A/ Heal and Demonstrate the Kingdom

B/ Declare and Model the Kingdom

C/ Who is in Charge?

D/ Always a Servant, Never a King

E/ Jesus, the Real Head, not a Figure Head

8/ Rejection/ Acceptance Realities

9/ Rejoicing over Relationship

A/ All Authority

B/ The Highest is Relationship

C/ I have Called you Friends

D/ The Responsibilities & Freedoms of Friendship

Appendix #1, Apostles, Slaves of Christ

Appendix #2 House Churches in the New Testament

Appendix #3 The One Another Commandments

Appendix #4 Full Time Ministry and Finance in the New Testament

 

Now, come on, if you haven’t read this book and that table of contents doesn’t get you salivating you probably not cut out for this kind of ministry. Click on the picture above to order the book directly from Steve and Marilyn.

Pick a question and respond.

  • Do you think this can happen overseas but never in the West?
  • Do you really think Jesus expected us to do ministry like He did and He taught his disciples to do?
  • Have you ever noticed that ministry in the New Testament follows the Luke 10 outline?
  • Why do you think we don’t do this very often today?
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Click here to buy the book.

I remember coming back from Spain in 2006 and almost immediately ending up in Luke 10 church planting in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, like I had been doing in Spain. People started coming to Christ and my friends and I began to plant churches among these people. Yet every time I talked to someone who had never seen this kind of ministry the response would inevitably be the same, “that can work overseas but not here in America.” Funny, in Spain they were always telling me “that stuff can work in America, but it won’t work here.” I’ve done this in both places with similar results.

With that in mind I’d like to introduce you to a practical book about Luke 10 church planting among Muslims. If you think wherever you are is rocky soil you’ve never worked in Europe and you’ve never worked in the Muslim world. We need to learn that the problem is not with the harvest field. Jesus told us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Lk. 10:2). Wherever we are the fields are white unto harvest, we just need to see how Jesus sees and do what Jesus did, under his lordship.

And as a second practical resource on how to do that I’m going to suggest Jerry Toursdale’s book. This is a book filled with wonderful stories of God’s supernatural power in ministry fields that are most likely tougher than where you live.

Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus

As I did with The Luke 10 Manual in the previous post, I’m just going to whet your appetite with the table of contents.

About the Team and Author

Introduction

1.            Unprecedented!

2.            Jesus’ Counterintuitive Disciple-Making Strategy

3.            Pray the Lord of the Harvest

4.            Inside Islam: Disillusionment and Discontentment

5.            Engaging Lostness

6.            Discovery Bible Studies and Obedience-Based Discipleship

7.            Simple Churches, Dramatic Transformation, Rapid Replication

8.            Dreams, Visions, and Miracles Among Muslims

9.            “Of Whom the World Is Not Worthy” Learning from Heroes and Heroines of Faith

10.          The Hardest People Yield the Greatest Results

11.          Ordinary People Achieving the Impossible

12.          Seven Paradigm Shifts

13.          Getting Started: Biblical Practices for Engaging Lostness

Appendix 1 (List of Bible Studies for Non-Christians)

Appendix 2 (About City Team International)

 

Before you say, “Hey, the people I work with are just too hard for this to work,” note the title of Chapter 10: The Hardest People Yield the Greatest Results. Are the people you work with hard? Good. And before you say, “the people in this book are special people, I could never do that,” pay attention to the title of Chapter 11: Ordinary People Achieving the Impossible. Are you ordinary? Good. Now, consider buying this book then following Jesus into the harvest.

 

Pick a question and respond:

  • Why do you think almost everyone thinks their context is hard soil?
  • Beyond the resources that this book provides, what else would you need to get started?
  • Both The Luke 10 Manual and Miraculous Movements emphasize prayer. Why?
  • Why do you think we don’t see more people doing this kind of ministry in the West?
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It's great while it lasts. We need to learn to not take control from Jesus so they do last.

When viral Jesus movements (also called revivals) happen they are exciting, powerful and fruitful. They can also be surprisingly fragile. God begins many of these but they are killed because of inappropriate human activity. I want to discuss this activity so that none of us are ever a part of killing a movement of God.

The Wrong Wineskins

In my book Viral Jesus I note that what I call partial Jesus movements normally last twenty years or less. By partial Jesus movements I am referring to a movement of the Spirit (revival) that gets snuffed too early. I would include in this list the 1st Great Awakening, the 2nd Great Awakening, The Moravian movement, the Welsh revivals, the Azusa Street Revival…I could go on. Here’s the sad point, we have not seen a single viral Jesus movement go for more than about twenty years between the Edict of Milan in 313 AD and the current viral Jesus movement in China in 1949. That’s 1,636 years. Let me be clear, a number of these movements sparked significant lasting change. Both the 2nd Great Awakening and the Azusa Street Revival gave birth to current denominations. But the lasting power and presence of the Holy Spirit was gone, as was the rapid in gathering of souls. The Assemblies of God denomination was born out of Azusa Street. Is the average Assemblies church having a rapid in gathering of souls? Is there a pervasive holiness among members that is any different than say a Baptist church? The revival had long lasting effects but the revival itself has gone.

In contrast, the first viral Jesus movement, the early Church lasted about 280 years. Honestly it was losing its power before the Edict of Milan but that was the largest and last nail in the coffin. The viral Jesus movement which is currently happening in China has been going on since 1949 (63 years and counting). What’s the difference? Put simply the difference is wineskins. The way of doing church which we now think of as standard practice, (congregational meetings in dedicated buildings with a hierarchical leadership structure) is a hostile environment to the Spirit’s powerful work. For specific details of this read the chapters The Crumbling of a Viral Jesus Movement and The History of Partial Viral Jesus Movements in Viral Jesus. How could the early church sustain a viral movement for nearly 300 years? They didn’t have our current church practice. When it finally became formalized the viral movement stopped. How can our Chinese brethren sustain their movement of the Sprit for over 60 years? They don’t follow standard church practice. You can read about that in Thank You Chairman Mao. Following are some of the more specific reasons that our more traditional practices kill viral Jesus movements.

Human Control

The Church was specifically designed to function with Jesus as Lord and his servants to listen to His specific instructions because of the new covenant. In the new covenant Jesus the Lord gives us specific directions to our hearts and minds (Heb. 8:10). Have you ever seen footage of a SWAT team entering a house to make an arrest? It is confusing and chaotic. One guy is yelling POLICE! Another is commanding, “PUT UP YOUR HANDS!” The next is screaming, “GET ON THE GROUND!” Another is saying, “DON’T MOVE YOUR HANDS!” All the while there are flash bang grenades going off. Chaos! That’s what we have now in the Church, thousands of human leaders “leading.” There is so much human noise it becomes difficult to hear the still small voice of the Lord speaking into our hearts and minds. This human domination can also manifest itself in a leader, group or denomination trying to control what happens.

Focus on Manifestations or Avoid Them

In my last post Characteristics of a Jesus Movement I mentioned two current tendencies, to bask in the glow of supernatural manifestations or shun them. Both can kill viral Jesus movements. To encounter God’s supernatural power is wonderful. But God gives this for specific reasons, to change our lives towards holiness, to show his power to the world and spread his Gospel. It is not a spiritual drug for us to merely enjoy. When we focus on the manifestation and not the Master we risk losing both. In the opposite direction we have brethren who are so steeped in secular rationalism that they are offended by supernatural manifestations. They seem weird, inappropriate and distasteful. In fact, to many they seem satanic. I give a sound test to see what is from God and what is from the devil in my post Is This God or the Devil? However, both of these fleshly tendencies create a hostile environment for a viral Jesus movement.

Fail to Become Missional

There have been a number of truncated viral movement in the US in the last thirty years. They started out fine, despite the bad wineskins, but they fizzled. What happened? Two things happened in my opinion. First, people were curious about the supernatural manifestations but weren’t serious about God’s plans. In other words, it quickly became human focused instead of God focused (see above). But the second problem was that there was little focus on allowing God’s work to become missional. In my post Characteristics of a Jesus Movement I noted, “true Jesus movements start out attractional and very quickly become missional.” That happened in the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings, the Moravian movement, and the Azusa Street revival. Currently the tendency is to come and observe, come and experience, come and enjoy; but there isn’t a lot of going unto all the world to preach the Gospel. These truncated movements have died or will shortly if they don’t take God’s purposes in mind and follow Him out into the harvest.

  • Do you see any common factors in these fatal behaviors?
  • Why do you think the form of the wineskins makes so much difference?
  • Why do you think Jesus movement die if they don’t become missional?
  • Why does human control (not the same as human participation) truncate viral Jesus movements?
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A Small Part of the Meeting at Cane Ridge

In my last post Running on One Leg  I described the spirituality required for a viral Jesus Movement. In this post I’m going to describe what just one of these movements looked like; although there have been many in Christian history. In my book Viral Jesus I devote four chapters to this issue: The Early Church: The First Viral Jesus Movement, The Crumbling of a Viral Jesus Movement, The History of Partial Viral Jesus Movements, and China: A Current Viral Jesus Movement.

It started with a covenant with God

In the wilds of Kentucky in 1799 the members of three churches in Muddy River, Red River and Gaspar River signed a covenant with their circuit riding Presbyterian preacher named James McGready. They promised to pray every Saturday evening, Sunday morning and fast the second Saturday of every month. The covenant read in part:

When we consider the Word and promises of a compassionate God, to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith—to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow men…With these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unite our supplications to a prayer-hearing God, for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children, and sinners generally, may be converted.

The Movement Spread from Red River

In June of 1800 while McGready’s Methodist friend John McGee preached passionately at a communion service at Red River the Spirit came in power. Here’s a portion of McGee own account of what happened as he preached:

Several spoke to me: “You know these people. Presbyterians are much for order, they will not bear this confusion, go back and be quiet.” I turned to go back—and was near falling, the power of God was strong upon me. I turned again and losing sight of fear of man, I went through the house exhorting with all possible ecstasy and energy.”[1]

Here’s how Peter Marshall and David Manuel in their book From Sea to Shining Sea described what happened next.

With that, the dam broke, and the floods of salvation swept through the assembly. In a moment, the floor was “covered with the slain: their screams for mercy pierced the heavens,” and according to McGready, one could see “profane swearers and Sabbath-breakers pricked to the heart and crying out “What shall we do to be saved?”[2]

This powerful revival swept through the other congregations in the area to the point that in 1801  McGready, McGee and their other Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist preacher friends decided to make a clearing in the deep woods at Cane Ridge to hold a large revival meeting. The preachers were stunned when twenty-five thousand people showed up in the middle of the wilderness. This was about one eighth of the entire state’s population.

Demonstrations of the Power of God

Powerful but strange manifestations of a Viral Movement

Here’s the weird thing. This revival in the middle of the woods was accompanied by some very bizarre manifestations of the Spirit. Here’s how James B. Finley, who came to observe as a skeptic, described just one of those strange manifestations, people all shouting at once.

The noise was like the roar of Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm. I counted seven ministers, all preaching at one time, some on stumps, others in wagons…. Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting most vociferously. While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lips quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. A strange supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected…. Soon after, I left and went into the woods, and there I strove to rally and man up my courage.

After some time, I returned to the scene of the excitement, the waves of which, if possible, had risen still higher. The same awfulness of feeling came over me… I saw at least five hundred swept down in a moment, as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens. My hair rose up on my head…. I fled into the woods a second time, and wished I had stayed at home.[3]

What Finley, who became a frontier preacher himself, describes is actually quite mild compared to some of the other powerful manifestations that happened at Cane Ridge. But what was the result? Did this really result in the Kingdom moving forward? Let’s hear from a contemporary skeptic.

Personal holiness was not the only result from the 2nd Great Awakening

How this affected society

Dr. George Baxter, a minister was sent to Kentucky by Presbyterian officials in Princeton to put an end to such shameful nonsense. Keep in mind that Kentucky before the revival was an evil place, nicknamed Rogue’s Harbor for all the outlaws that congregated there to avoid more organized society (i.e. the law). Here’s part of Baxter’s report to his superiors.

The power with which this revival has spread, and its influence in moralizing the people are difficult for you to conceive, and more so for me to describe…. I found Kentucky, to appearance, the most moral place I had ever seen. A profane expression was hardly ever heard. A religious awe seemed to pervade the country…. Never in my life have I seen more genuine marks of that humility which…looks to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of acceptance with God. I was indeed highly pleased to find that Christ was all and in all in their religion…and it was truly affecting to hear with what agonizing anxiety awakened sinners inquired for Christ, as the only physician who could give them any help.

Those who call these things “enthusiasm,” ought to tell us what they understand by the Spirit of Christianity…. Upon the whole, sir, I think the revival in Kentucky among the most extraordinary that have ever visited the Church of Christ, and all things considered, peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of that country…. Something of an extraordinary nature seemed necessary to arrest the attention of a giddy people, who were ready to conclude that Christianity was a fable, and futurity a dream. This revival has done it; it has confounded infidelity, awed vice to silence, and brought numbers beyond calculation under serious impressions.[4]

In the next three posts I’m going to ask the question, how can we determine if strange behavior is from God or the devil? In the subsequent post I’m going to talk about common characteristics of viral Jesus movements. Finally, in the last post in the series I’m going to talk about how to kill a viral Jesus movement.

  • Have you ever been a part of a viral Jesus movement like this?
  • Would you want to be a part of this or is it just too weird?
  • Do you think this kind of thing can be counterfeited by the devil? If so, how do we distinguish what comes from the devil and what comes from God?
  • What do you think the common characteristics of a viral Jesus movement are? How do these things get started?
  • Why isn’t Christianity like this all the time? How does this get suppressed?


[1] Charles A. Johnson, The Frontier Camp Meeting (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1955), 35.

[2] Peter Marshall, Manuel, David, From Sea to Shining Sea (Old Tappan, New Jersey, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1986), 62.

[3] Marshall and Manuel, p. 68 quoting Johnson p. 64-65.

[4] Ibid., 69.

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To order This Is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended click here.

So often when one reads about the Church nowadays we end up with a work that doesn’t really question the status quo. The assumption is that this is what we do, and therefore it is pretty much how it ought to be. Then we get a slightly new twist on some cool iteration of the status quo, perhaps a change in the standard order of service or a new trendy way of doing worship and we are done.

For anyone who is aware of how Jesus actually designed His Church, as described in the New Testament, what the Church was like in the first few centuries, how the church has changed through 2,000 years of history compared to how it is today, the typical analysis leaves a whole herd of elephants standing in the room. Keith Giles in This Is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended graciously and passionately takes us on an elephant hunt.

Jesus designed His Church for a purpose, and the purpose was not looking in the mirror at itself and admiring its own beauty. Nor was it to be insecure about itself finding every flaw. It was to be His people on mission with Him to extend His Kingdom. All the while it was to be His loving bride, the receptor of his loving affection and the bride who loved him back. There was a design and there was a purpose.

The Church has strayed away from her God given design and she has become distracted from her purpose. When God’s people Israel strayed away from their design and their purpose God sent prophets to call them back to what they were really supposed to be and how they were really supposed to live. Keith is doing the same for the Church today. Keith told me recently that he almost titled this book something like Jesus Called and He Wants His Church Back. He decided that title might drive away the very people who needed to read it so he refrained. But I do think it’s about time someone told us Jesus wants His Church back.

Keith is not angry. He is not trying to merely poke holes and express pet peeves. Nor is he the prophet of doom shouting on a street corner in a tin foil hat. Instead his is that wise yet passionate voice; the voice of Jimmy Stewart speaking to the Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  We may not necessarily want to hear it but know when we do we are listening to solid wisdom and truth. In the video below start at minute 1:51:40.

If you were an athlete in training for the Olympics what kind of coach would you want to have? Would you want a coach that constantly praises you and tells you whatever you do is just fine? Or, would you want a coach that while being encouraging, takes you back to the fundamentals, teaching you step by step how to excel? Honestly, some of us just want to be praised and don’t what their status quo questioned. If you are that person, this is not the book for you. Others of us, though, long to learn how to be the bride that Jesus deserves. They long to be with Him as he goes about His world setting things right. And they long to be the bride He lovingly describes, to be on mission with Him as He designed it. If that expresses your heart, you have found your book.

One last thing; Keith is an excellent writer. His book is a pleasure to read. I found myself wanting to post quote after quote on Twitter and Facebook. I quickly realized I was republishing Keith’s book a Twitter snippet at a time, so I tried to restrain myself, not completely successfully. You are going to find a lot of gems in this book; enjoy the search and recommend it to your friends.

This Is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended is Keith’s work of love. He is so passionate about his message that he has made the book free to anyone who wants it. If you want a free e-book version you can download it here.

If you want a paper version you can hold in your hands you can order it here along with Keith’s other books.

  • Do you think it is right to question the status quo of the Church we’ve always known?
  • Do you want to hear what Jimmy Stewart has to say at the town hall meeting or are you content with the status quo?
  • Do you sense that Jesus wants His Church back?
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Is this really the only way to preach the Gospel?

The following is an abbreviated version of a blog interaction I had concerning the role the Old Testament takes in the Christian Gospel. You can see the entire exchange in the comments of Scot McKnight Interview: “The King Jesus Gospel” & McKnight Responds to Critics .

Hey, Ross

I wanted you to know that I’ve been enjoying your book greatly. Also, some of the things you’ve said there have encouraged me to go back and actually begin reading McKnight’s “King Jesus Gospel.” (One of McKnight’s theses is that one can’t truly understand the Gospel without understanding its roots in the Old Testament.)

I’ve been pondering for a long time now just what the gospel IS, and not knowing exactly what I’d say if I were called on to actually give a sermon on it. I mean, we’re promised that we’ll be given the things to say, but all the same it might be good to have SOME idea what’s going to come out of our mouths. I gave up the Four Spiritual Laws gospel long ago as woefully inadequate. While I do know the OT, I can hardly share the whole thing with an interested friend in one go.

I think part of this is to get the knowledge internalized via the Spirit to the point where it is no longer necessary to intellectually construct an argument or thesis; it just grows out of you as a flower does out of a plant. That’s my goal, anyway. But I did want you to know that thus far, I love your book.

Blessings, Cindy

Hi Cindy,

As you read Viral Jesus you will note that I place a high value on two issues, the lordship of Jesus (which needs to be played out in all that we “do” not just “say,” and the new covenant. This new covenant is a living contract/arrangement/lifestyle that we enter into with Jesus. At that point he becomes our God and we become his people.

When I preach the gospel I find that I often (not always) mention the new covenant because at least one way to understand the gospel is that they are entering into this agreement/contract. That brings in the Old Testament. Israel also had a covenant with God call the law or old covenant. At least one thing McKnight is saying is that we can’t understand the new covenant unless we understand the old one.

How are the Gospel's roots sunk deep into the Old Testament?

Now here’s a mind blowing thought. The words for “testament” as in Old Testament and New Testament can be equally or even better be translated “covenant.” The Old Testament revolves around the old covenant, before Israel had it, what it was, and what happened when they obeyed and when they did not. The New Testament is exactly the same thing for the new covenant. Remember Jesus said “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk 22:20). Semitic/Hebrew covenants were sealed with blood. That’s what the animal sacrifice was about in the OT. Jesus sealed his part of the covenant with his own blood. He became the “lamb of God” the sacrificial lamb of the new covenant just like the lambs and goats were of the old covenant. Our sealing of the covenant comes with baptism which symbolizes death, burial and resurrection (i.e. we are sealing the covenant just like Jesus did); he did it literally, we do it symbolically. Now does the OT part of salvation make more sense?

Finally, the Holy Spirit really does give us words at the right time. Part of our new covenant agreement is that He will put the law in our hearts and minds (Jer. 31:31 and Heb. 8:10.) That means he can speak to our hearts and minds, it’s part of our covenant arrangement. And, because of this arrangement the Holy Spirit can put words in our heart and mind and just the right time. We have to be attuned to Him and listening but I’ve learned that when I am in a witnessing situation and paying attention just the right analogy or way of being comes up. I’ll mention this more than once in Viral Jesus. Note for example how my friend Vincent listened to Jesus in the Introduction. Note how Jesus told me to work with Amado later in the book.

Cindy, you are person with a sensitive spirit. That’s a huge advantage. It means that your heart is an excellent receptor to the voice of God. Trust it, or better said, trust Him. The only homework you really need is to learn to discern His voice from others. For the basics on that I’d like to point you to the post Four Voices.

Your Friend,

Ross

  • Do you think we need to understand the Gospel’s Old Testament roots to truly understand it?
  • Do you believe that there are many ways to preach the Gospel?
  • When we reduce the Gospel to a few propositional facts (such as the Bridge Illustration or the Four Spiritual Laws can it have a negative effect? What would that be?
  • Is it possible that every way of preaching the Gospel has its drawbacks? If so, how do we decide how to preach the Gospel in any given situation?
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Following is a link for a full interview between Frank Viola and Scot McKnight as they discuss McKnight’s Book The King Jesus Gospel. This interview was originally on Frank Viola’s Blog Beyond Evangelical. Click this link to read the unedited interview: http://frankviola.org/2012/02/08/scotmcknight.

I highly recommend reading this interview as McKnight is touching on some of the same issues I discuss in Viral Jesus about the lordship of Jesus Christ.

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