This past Sunday, I took the short journey from the northwest suburbs of Chicago to the city proper to enjoy some of the very things that make this town so renowned for its food, flair and fun. My 10-year-old daughter and I traveled to see a live production based on the classic children’s novel Anne of Green Gables at a local theater, owned and operated by a talented art director and friend. Reality was temporarily suspended as we traveled back in time to the year 1908 on Prince Edward Island.
The performances and the theater experience were nothing short of fabulous, and I found myself jumping online immediately when I got home to post a glowing review of the entire experience: staff, performance, seating, and all.
After my review was posted, the thought occurred to me: Our society is especially savvy today in sharing, posting, “tweeting,” and “like-ing” their enthusiasm for great experiences with theater, concerts, food, sporting events, hotels, and ideal vacation spots. The reason for this: We understand the power of “viral.” We genuinely want others to share in our experiences!
Why then, when it comes to proclaiming the greatest news of all, is our willingness as Christians to publicize our enthusiasm for Christ often lackluster at best? What might we be able to learn from our predecessors who displayed abounding fervency and unwavering courage to share the good news of the gospel?
Because of the power of God working through the people of the early church, the message of salvation through Christ went viral. Consider the following passages:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:41-42)
That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:15-17)
Through these passages, we can presume the apostles displayed five traits for “viral” faith:
1. They were emphatic about their message.
Acts 5:41 reveals the passion the apostles shared for their faith when they considered themselves “worthy of suffering” for it. Despite their circumstances, the disciples modeled their solidarity and tireless courage in proclaiming the message that Jesus is the Messiah.
Much the same, Romans 1:16 exposes the social reality that the message of Christ was not a popular talking-point at the time. Even in the face of public shame, the apostles were willing to profess their allegiance to Christ. Their passion, contagious.
2. They were educated about their content.
Acts 5:42 reveals the extraordinary discipline the apostles displayed in order to “teach and proclaim” the message of Christ. “Day after day” the apostles imparted the gospel message through knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of Christ. Their knowledge, unparalleled in truth.
3. They were intentional about building their “fan base.”
Acts 5:42 also informs us that the apostles were methodical with who they were reaching with this message of radical love in Christ. First, “those in the “temple courts” (likely Jews) and then “house to house” (likely Gentiles).
Romans 1:16 further displays the clear intentionality the apostles had to reach specific people groups, including the Romans, for the gospel. Their strategy, intentional and brilliant.
4. They were unwavering about their communication objective.
It is evidenced by the practices of the apostles that they were motivated by one single ambition: to communicate that the power of God brings salvation to everyone who believes through his Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 1:15). Their focus, unwavering.
5. They were faithful practitioners of what they preached.
Christ entrusted his disciples to deliver his perfect message of love through their own imperfections and weaknesses. Despite their inadequacies, by choosing a life of faith, they believed the strength and righteousness of God would be revealed. Their faith, practiced and preached.
Imagine for a moment what the spiritual temperature of our local churches, our neighborhoods, and our cities would be if we took the same approach to our faith as our biblical forefathers? What if we lived our lives with white-hot passion for Christ? What if we schooled ourselves on Scripture and were strategic about the people with whom we spend our time?
Never underestimate the power of a “viral” faith. Let’s put these historical, but relevant, tactics into action for a single purpose – for the glory of Christ alone.