Four separate times in the Book of Acts one can find the phrase: “So the word of God spread (NIV).” In the English Standard Version it says “And the word of God continued to increase.” Perhaps in the version you have the key word might be flourish. Regardless, in the original language it all boils down to GROW.
The Word of God grew, spread, increased and flourished. It was anything but stagnant. It was viral.
In each of the four texts, there is a context for this viral growth. The context gives us some understanding about how The Church grows today.
Viral Growth Text: Acts 6:7
Viral Growth Context: Practical Ministry (Acts 6:1-6)
In Acts 6 we read how important duties were being overlooked or poorly executed within the upstart ministry in Jerusalem. These duties included such valuable things as the care of widows, prayer and the ministry of the word. The disciples, however, were not establishing a ranking of value. Each were important. Each were necessary for the health and welfare of The Body of Christ.
Often this passage is studied or taught as if the ministries of prayer and the Word are of greater value than that of the care of widows and the distribution of food. Subtly the message is communicated that preachers have the highest role and that all the lay people would be smart to quietly handle their “piddly” duties so that the “men and women of God” can devote themselves to their loftier callings.
Not true at all. We are ALL ambassadors of the King. We ALL have a valuable role in the Kingdom. Don’t think the role of a pastor as being better than the role of a lay person. Perhaps we need another Reformation to firmly reestablish the priesthood of the believer!
Each believer in the context of this passage had to discover their role and fulfill their task. Some were chosen to distribute food, others designated to pray and preach.
Everyone a minister.
It is this spark that I believe caused the Gospel to spread. Practical, heartfelt ministry to one another made an impact. Believers served according to their gifts and callings. Perhaps this was so foreign that many people sat up and took notice. The number of disciples grew within the context of practical ministry.
This makes me think of Amy Carmichael in India. Her story is so powerful and inspiring. Amy discovered that little girls were being sold into prostitution at and near the Hindu temples. In 1901 she rescued her first girl, one that had been branded with hot irons. Fast-forward to 1943 and Amy and her ministry was taking care of almost 800 children. This is practical ministry. The world cannot help but take notice of this. Simply put: when believers speak the name of Jesus and attach it to care and practical love people will respond.
The Word spread because the believers were not only doing something but they were doing the right thing. They were ministering in the name of Jesus, and within the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit.
That’s the kind of stuff that can go viral.