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How Contagious Are We?!

Phil Meadows, International Director of Inspire Movement writes about ‘Contagious Discipleship’ in our new book awaiting publication: Fellowship Bands: Spiritual Formation for Missional Disciples

Contagious Discipleship

A helpful analogy for reproduction in discipleship movement comes from the science of disease control. Think of the gospel as a virulent contagion. Disciples are those who have been infected and transformed as it spreads through their lives from the inside out. Disciple-makers are intentional about coming into close contact with others so they might catch the contagion and become infectious themselves. Discipleship movement describes the conditions under which an infection turns into an epidemic by spreading from person to person and one group to another.

Movement leaders will seek to create an outbreak of disciple-making by putting infectious mentors into a fellowship bands with a few susceptible people. Because of the close relationships in a band, the gospel infection passes from mentors to other members, then out through the church and into the world. Below are the kinds of question that disease control would ask in order to assess the need for quarantine. They are the kinds of question that leaders ask mentors and mentors ask in band to maximise the risk of an outbreak!

How contagious is your gospel? The starting point for developing a movement is being clear that the gospel calls us to a way of life that is contagious by nature. Some versions of the gospel can be infectious but not contagious. There is good news of forgiveness and new birth that comes through faith in Jesus, and it is certainly infectious. We are all broken hearted and have a deep longing to be unconditionally loved. But this good news only becomes contagious when the Spirit actually heals us from the inside out. Then people will see the power of God at work in our hearts through the changes in our lives and want it for themselves. Mentors must cast a vision for discipleship in which the gospel is spread from heart to heart, and life to life.

How thoroughly infected are you? Whoever has been infected by the gospel has the potential to grow as a disciple and a disciple-maker. Our capacity to reproduce depends on how thoroughly the gospel has spread through our hearts and lives. The more thoroughly infected we are, the more contagious we become, as the gospel transforms all the ways we think, feel, speak and act. The more infected we are with the love of God, the more we will love our neighbor, and the more they will want to be loved like us. The more infected we are with the life of Jesus, the more we will long to grow in his likeness, and the more others will want us to share Jesus with them. The  more infected we are with the life-transforming power of the Spirit, the more fearless we will be in sharing the gospel, and the more convinced others will become. Mentors should instil the need to be ever more infected by the power of the gospel so we can increase our capacity to reproduce.

How close are your contacts? Being in a fellowship band can help us become more contagious in our discipleship, but the infection can only spread through contact with others. Keeping the faith to ourselves is a form of self-isolation that kills discipleship movement. Our contacts with non-believers need to be significant in number and in proximity. Fellowship band is so effective because the gospel gets passed from heart to heart through close friendship. Missional discipleship is about taking these skills of spiritual friendship and conversation into the encounters and relationships of everyday life. Mentors should encourage people to recognize their networks of influence, increase their contact with those outside the church, and build relationships that are close enough for the first steps of disciple-making to begin.

How ingrained are your habits? Being in a fellowship band should lead to the formation of three disciple-making habits that overflow into everyday life. First, we develop the habit of close friendship which enables us to share the love of Jesus by opening up our heart to others. Second, we develop the habit of spiritual conversation so we can listen to the hearts of our friends and guide them to Jesus along the journey of discipleship. Third, we develop the habit of forming new bands with those we are befriending so they might encounter Jesus in the midst of one another and hear him for themselves. Mentors should provoke band members to develop these habits in their own lives, as the next generation disciple-makers and band mentors.

The Contagiousness of Hope

Phil Knox is the head of mission to young adults at the Evangelical Alliance UK. He writes: As Christians, we have in our heart and in our hands the most contagious message of hope the world has ever known. The good news of Jesus spreads quickest and most effectively from contagious Christians to the people they are closest to...

…This transformational message has reached billions over the centuries and it is spreading faster than any virus on planet earth today. No amount of handwashing, wearing of facemasks, governmental control or societal structure can stop it. The beautiful, hope-filled, game-changing message of Jesus lives on and in our times will grow faster than at any other time in history. 

Read the whole article from the Evangelical Alliance UK, about The Contagiousness of Hope HERE

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