Gone Viral is a concept woven through Scripture. God thinks by faith. We mostly think by reason. Gone Viral requires faith. Abraham comes to mind as the classic example. He also serves as the model for the concept as presented here. Going viral has become a computer cultural phenomenon. Most of us relate it to the biological example of when a virus grows and potentially spreads exponentially. But let’s consider giving God the credit for the concept.
Most readers know the biblical story. Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of nations. The Jews claim him as their father. New Testament thought clearly portrays him as the father of all who believe in Jesus as the Christ. When God called Abraham, He used figurative speech to describe what He would make of him, multiplying his descendants as the stars in the heavens, as the sand on the sea shore. This was before Abraham had any physical offspring. And we know that the promised son did not come through his own ability but by Divine enablement. Both Abraham and his wife Sarah were as good as dead in that regard, far beyond the physical years for reproducing.
Let us consider church growth from the same perspective that Abraham viewed physical reproduction. Though he later was labeled as the father of faith, his first actions were not so much that way. It typifies our human condition. God, infinite in faith and thought, speaks things into existence (by His Word). We, on the other hand, sample the infinite as God reveals it to us. Then we spend a life time unraveling God’s DNA through human effort. He gives us His Eternal Word. We are born again of the same. Then while often staring at His Word, and even viewing results affected by His Word, we revert to human means and methods. Abraham accepted by faith what God spoke to Him. You could almost say that he was born again. When he looked up into that night sky and saw the stars, he must have wondered how his descendants could ever multiply to that extent. When he pondered the math picturing his seed as the sands of the seashore, he must have at least once wondered if he had lost his mind. Sarah’s subsequent laughter leaned toward confirming this hypothesis. Was Abraham the father of faith by default? No, he became such by revelation.
Common church growth has followed this pattern. We read and try to understand the words of Jesus referencing the church He would build. We repeatedly ponder the implications and application of being among those commissioned to go into the entire world preaching the gospel. Contemplating the multiplied growth in the book of Acts and hearing others expound on the exponential growth curve demonstrated there, we labor to teach about and reach for multiplied growth in the church. But like Abraham we struggle to fully embrace growth as God intends it. History shows that the church has likewise failed to maintain a God-perspective regarding the Great Commission. Human effort has foiled God’s purpose and plan. Yet, as in every generation since Christ’s ascension into Heaven, we have the potential to realize the Church’s designed purpose. Gone viral is at the heart of it.
What are some of the dynamics associated with the idea of going viral? And why choose to use the past tense, gone viral. At its root is life. Only something that God gives life to can multiply. Even inanimate things can multiply when God speaks life to them. Jesus multiplied loaves and fish. Astronomers state that the universe is yet unfolding. Even though science sets forth the law of thermo dynamics …things deteriorating continually, God’s creation is still going on. New life is coming forth perpetually. Concerning the church and its relationship to Christ’s Kingdom, Daniel saw it as a stone made without hands, breaking in pieces all the kingdoms of this world and growing eternally. Whenever and wherever the church exists in its purest form, God’s intended form, it is gone viral.
In addition, viral growth requires proper conditions. See the petri dish in the common school or lab experiment. When conditions are right, growth appears almost magical; at least it appears “overnight”. The same is recorded in the book of Acts. When the conditions were right, growth was multiplied, gone viral. They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer. Love ruled. The Spirit embodied and led the church. Life multiplied. Then and now, when the right conditions existed, the church grows virally. Also, growth multiplied when it was uninhibited. This seems obvious. But wrong conditions inhibit growth that is natural. In the case of the church, wrong conditions inhibit supernatural growth. Often it is unintentional.
Many of us, like Abraham, want something so badly that we preempt God. He alone, through His Spirit, is the source of life. We often think that building the container is the cause of growth. Then when we try and duplicate the conditions and don’t see the same growth, we scratch our heads. Or when growth comes we credit ourselves with the creation of the container. Yes, we can input toward proper conditions. But God holds the ace card, life. He can and does initiate life where and when He chooses. We very often find ourselves either playing catch up or structuring the life out of what God has birthed by trying to create or maintain conditions we perceive to be causing growth. Abraham produced one child of promise. It was God’s doing and from then on was basically out of Abraham’s hands. It had gone viral. You could say, it was out of his hands. Though God told Abraham that within 400 years his descendants would multiply in a foreign land, it was beyond Abraham’s control. That his seed would ultimately include all that put their faith in Jesus as the Christ was far beyond the comprehension or ability of Abraham. God’s church will grow and fill the earth because Jesus said it would and because He is building it. Seeing human effort as the reason for multiplied church growth makes no more sense than giving Abraham the credit for the physical multiplication of his progeny. Church growth went viral when Jesus first spoke the process into existence. The church had gone viral without men realizing it. The church had gone viral when Christians or unbelievers witnessed it. The church continues to go viral when men and even the gates of hell try and prevent it from doing so. Our greatest need is to recognize the fact and grow with it.
In our local application here is what I see developing. Decades ago God spoke to Living Stones Fellowship that multiplied growth would come both through our biological and spiritual children. As it has occurred, we have struggled to recognize and keep up with it. We, like Abraham and much of the church throughout history, have at times tried to take matters into our own hands. In addition we have tried to point to conditions that we have had input into as the reasons for failure or success. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.
The wonderful thing about this process is that God’s goodness and mercy trumps our inabilities and failures. Christ in us is the hope of glory. Grace comes in our humility and gives us both the desire and power to do God’s will. Grace provides the perfect conditions for viral growth. So let us depend on grace, not our work to realize growth. And as it comes, let us be careful to give God the glory. One of the things that typifies internet items gone viral is that it is not planned, often unexpected to the point of surprise and delight.
Now, concerning multiplied church growth, we will see how it is gone viral, if we will observe it properly. Whenever we observe growth, let us immediately give God the glory for manifesting His life. When a soul gets saved it is not because of our efforts, no matter how long and hard that we have travailed and interceded. The finished work of Christ is applied by faith. By grace you are saved through faith. It is the gift of God lest any man should boast. When the fruit of character appears it is not because of anything we have attained to. Jesus said that if you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall bear much fruit. So shall you be my disciples. When Jesus said that he would build His church, the gates of hell not prevailing, we embody that process through works that God has prepared for us to walk in. Rather than trying to plant churches and target new fields of harvest, let us simply go into the entire world as Jesus commanded us. As we go, preach the gospel. As another has said, when necessary use words. Heal the sick, raise the dead. Allow the conditions conducive to growth prevail…like love, faith, and hope. Whenever people leave our midst geographically, let us recognize that this is the most spontaneous method that God employs for us to multiply His presence as Living Stones. Let us extend the hand of fellowship even when hurt or misunderstood and endeavor to nurture this expanded expression of Living Stones, aka the church. As five-fold ministers, let us establish and encourage the church wherever He calls us, equipping the saints to be the habitation of His Spirit (the church) wherever God locates us/them.
Right now, if we look from God’s perspective at the growth that he has given Living Stones Fellowship as relationships located in Duluth, on the Iron Range from Grand Rapids to Side Lake to Virginia and beyond, Grand Marais, Wisconsin, the Twin Cities, North Dakota, Chicago, Nevada, Europe, India, Mexico, etc…we can begin to understand gone viral. Can you see parallels in the area that God has placed you? All we have to do is be the church where we are and follow the church wherever Jesus is building it through the relationships He established, allowing His gifts and grace to flow through us. This is the example we find in the book of Acts: manifesting Christ’s presence beginning on the day of Pentecost; expanding as the Lord added to, then multiplied as “conditions” conducive to growth were evident; spreading, first as a result of persecutions then purposefully growing with Antioch being our model; confirmed and brought into order by the on-going ordination of elders and deacons. The epistles testify of the life-long relationship that equipping ministers had with the churches throughout the New Testament era, giving a model for the networking effort that God is presently unfolding before us. A recent prophetic call for Living Stones Fellowship churches to equip every member, “all hands on deck”, is a fresh indication of God’s blessing upon our past and current endeavors to do the same. Responding to this call, combined with the corresponding burden to increased levels of prophetic worship, indicate that the Holy Spirit is active in our midst, leading and comforting us as Jesus promised.
Even though God has spoken of the multiplied growth that has spread beyond our doors over the years, now is our opportunity to make adjustments to our perspective and efforts via LSN. In times past, when saints from our midst have moved on under the best of conditions, we have sent them away with blessing, consigning them to the process of trying to “connect” to an existing portion of the church with which we have no organic relationship. Would we ever consider launching our children into adulthood with little or no plan of building generational relationship with our grandchildren and great grandchildren, even if they moved to the ends of the earth? Of course we wouldn’t. Why do we do that with our spiritual progeny? When we have “straying” members or even disgruntled saints in our midst who believe that it is time to move on, why should we not view this as a Divine opportunity to bless and encourage a diverse expression of who we are in a different place? Too often our own insecurity and defensiveness creates or enforces a divisive and destructive outcome. Let it be proposed that we immediately implement the following in an attempt to recoup every possible relationship that has transitioned out of our midst and strategically identify all present and future movement of the people God has connected us with in order to fully advance every Living Stones Network opportunity.
While the following plan is not exhaustive, it provides a working outline that can help Living Stones Network develop with God’s growth plan that has gone viral. It is imperative that every segment of this plan is bathed with prayer and loving/relational commitment to one another.
1) Create a master data base of all those we believe God wants us to consider part of the Living Stones Network.
2) Communicate the concept and strategy both initially and as God gives us grace and insight to do so with all those we identify in step 1.
3) Purpose to view every relationship as a multiplying unit within our Network, understanding that God is continually giving the increase in a viral capacity.
4) Ask God to give us His mind in our oversight and equipping of the saints at every stage, including but not limited to pre-evangelism, conversion, water baptism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, assimilation, discipleship, gift discovery and activation, leadership development, and reproduction. Kevin Raihala’s current burden to lead Living Stones Fellowship in the present unfolding of this process can also bless Living Stones Network in the days ahead.
5) Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading as He is currently calling us to a fresh examination and priority of the centrality of worship, realizing that the manifest presence of God in our midst is His greatest gift to us, His church.
6) Allow “functional church government” reflect what God is building.
All who join this network are encouraged to help develop this plan of implementation as God graces you.
We must prepare ourselves continually for accelerated change both personally and corporately if we are to embrace gone viral. Our greatest enemy has been and will continually be the tendency to institutionalize what Jesus is building. Remember, we are Living Stones. We are dwelling in heavenly places. We have died and our life is hid with Christ in God. This is the mystery of the church that is revealed in the New Testament. Identifying and releasing new generations of leaders without limiting them by our restraints will be our greatest challenge. Let us perpetually acknowledge that except the Lord builds the house we labor in vain that build it. Let us rest in the promise that Jesus made, saying, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Most of all, let us alone give God the glory for where He has brought us and for what He will do through us.
Good leaders affirm, empower and release their followers. It’s easier to point the way than pull the team. For those who are being called to participation in Living Stones Network, remember, you are a living stone that God has created to be inhabited by His eternal presence. The way you are connected to every other living stone is a key to what God is building during this church age. The wonder of the church is that Jesus is the Master Builder. He lives and He lives in His church by the Holy Spirit. We cannot lose. Our victory is established by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to God’s right hand. We the church, Christ in us, are the mystery that continues to be revealed from glory to glory as this world races toward judgment. The church is ever changing and demonstrating the eternal life issuing from God’s throne. Living Stones Network can be a timely tool in the hand of Jesus during our life time. And should Jesus tarry, it can provide a platform for those who follow us to more effectively proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations until Jesus returns.