Epidemiology is the study of epidemics. Jesus, the genius that started the Christian movement, focused entirely on an epidemic form of a movement. The Christian movement is intended to grow by multiplication, like a Jesus epidemic. You catch it like people catch the flu. You share it in an up-close-and-personal way of multiplication.
You don’t get the flu by reading a book about the flu. You don’t catch the flu by hearing a lecture about the flu. You catch the flu by being up close and personal with someone who has it. Are you a contagious Christian? Christianity is much more than an academic exercise where someone dictates content to someone else.
Movements reach critical mass, and at that tipping point, they explode. This is called geometric progression. It is just like an epidemic.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, demonstrates the power of multiplication by geometric progression. Take a single piece of paper and fold it over one time. Then fold it again and again and again. Let’s say it’s a very large piece of paper so that you can fold it over fifty times. Once you have multiplied that single piece of paper and folded it over fifty times in exponential expansion, how tall do you think that piece of paper would be? After folding a single sheet of paper fifty times, would it be three feet tall? As tall as a refrigerator? As tall as an oak tree?
If you are a student of epidemiology, or a student of farming, or a student of how the church is supposed to grow, the answer will not surprise you. If you fold a single sheet of paper again and again over fifty times, it would reach from the earth to the sun! And, if you folded it over one more time, it would reach to the sun and back.
Before you say, “That could never happen in my church, in our city, in this country,” remember that this is exactly what happened in the early church. The Mediterranean world was turned upside down. It also has happened in many places around the world. It is occurring today in Ethiopia, parts of Nigeria, a portion of South Africa, Argentina, and Communist China, just to mention a few places. It is also happening in some churches in the U.S. and Europe, today. The word that missiologists use for this multiplication is a revival.
Christians have been lulled into the concept that a revival is an extraordinary act of God that is, in the words of some, “almost beyond belief.” In truth, according to the Scripture, this is normal. Exponential, explosive growth of the Kingdom of God is the way it’s supposed to occur. Revival is not the exception. Churches plodding along at addition are the exception.