As I write this, there is a pandemic sweeping the globe. The contagious interactions of a few people have multiplied around the world, changing the rhythms of our lives and keeping us at home for weeks on end. The coronavirus has devastated lives and economies, but there is something compelling about how quickly it spread. I can’t help but think there is an element of the Christian life that should mimic this kind of unstoppable transferability.
Followers of Jesus are carriers of a ‘good infection’. When we put our faith in Christ, there is a transfer of God’s love and life-change that is meant to overtake us so completely that the influence of our lives overflows to others. This idea was described by C.S. Lewis:
[Jesus] came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.
Jesus’ model for disciplemaking began as a sort of outbreak. It began with few and spread to many. In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman writes: “It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow him… His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.” Christ’s mission didn’t advance through stadium rallies or social media campaigns. It was offered as a quiet invitation to a handful of fisherman: “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19).
The disciples were Jesus’ method for “winning the world to God,” says Coleman. They were invited to bear witness to Jesus’ life so they could carry on His work after He returned to the Father. The Master Plan of Evangelism, which I’m quoting heavily from here, goes into great depth on Jesus’ method for disciplemaking and I encourage you to seek it out as a resource.
Disciplemaking, wrongly understood, can feel overwhelming at times: how do I create big impact in my small circle of influence? But even Jesus, with his unlimited capacity and resources, launched a ministry by demonstrating a flourishing Kingdom life to a handful of friends.
For Jesus, large impact began with small influence— not by accident but by design. By focusing on just a few disciples, Jesus banked his ministry on demonstration, not explanation. He invited his disciples to be with him— intending this new way of life to be absorbed in the context of relationship and discovered through lived experience. In Coleman’s words, the life of Christ was transferred “through the dedicated lives of those who knew the Savior so well that his Spirit and method constrained them to tell others.”
It is hard to remember another time in history when we were more aware of the impact of our interactions with others. Discussions of “flattening the curve” and “slowing the spread” are paired with smart graphs illuminating how a couple of touchpoints infiltrate an entire community, then a city, then beyond. Although we are limiting physical contact with others to slow the spread of coronavirus, this historical moment should inform how believers view their missional interactions.
“We are called to go forth with a revolutionary Gospel,” Coleman writes, and the reverberating impact of our faith begins with investment in a few.