When we look back on a normal year, we usually remember the things it brought; new relationships, new jobs, new music or movies, new words in our cultural lexicon (Thanks for “yeet” 2017. If you don’t know what it means, don’t worry. I’m a Student Pastor and I still can’t really explain it.). 2020 of course has been anything but normal and will largely be remembered for the things it has taken from us for a time; visits with family and friends, canceled trips, gatherings with our church family, sporting events, concerts, jobs, businesses, or even loved ones.
One thing 2020 and COVID-19 have brought us is this...a new vocabulary.
Flattening the Curve. Social distancing. Shelter in place. Self-isolation. Asymptomatic carrier. Super-spreader. Community Spread.
Words and phrases that 6 months ago were brand new to most of us and seemed so technical and foreign are now part of everyday life. While most of these are words or phrases are ones that we would rather forget, I want to suggest that there is a possibility to redeem one of them for a better understanding of how we live as followers of Christ and carry out our mission to make disciples.
Community spread is loosely defined as the circulation of a disease among people in a certain area with no clear explanation of how they were infected. In other words, the disease is no longer present in a select few and easily traceable in its transmission, but multiplies to the point where it is significantly affecting the community as a whole. The spread no longer travels in a defined line with an easily identifiable starting and stopping point, but starts to look like the crowded branches of a bush or tree. In many ways, community spread is a picture of the Gospel’s spread in the early church and that Christ intends for His church to carry out today. We are meant to be a church that adds daily to the numbers of believers as the Gospel spreads and more people come to know the Savior through everyday relationships and interactions.
It may seem unsavory to compare the Message of Jesus with a disease, but the metaphor carries some helpful insights. We have relied too much and for too long on pastors to be super-spreaders while much of the rest of the body of Christ are content to be asymptomatic carriers. Unlike COVID-19 though, asymptomatic carriers of the Gospel don’t spread. Theologically, we could even argue whether there is such a thing as an asymptomatic carrier of the Gospel (that’s a whole other blog post) because, given time, salvation has symptoms. Salvation manifests itself in works of service, the fruits of the Spirit, and a sharing of the hope that is in us.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28 makes it clear that to BE a disciple is to MAKE disciples. A pastor’s true role is not so much to be a super-spreader of the Gospel themselves but to shepherd the flock of believers to become better in experiencing and manifesting the symptoms of salvation in their lives so that they spread the Gospel. When that happens, the church becomes not a place you must visit to be infected by the pastor’s message but a people who begin to introduce community spread of the Gospel. And when the Gospel begins to spread like that, lives are saved for eternity, communities are transformed, and cultures are redeemed.
How can you become more contagious with the Gospel in others' lives? How can you be a part of spreading the Gospel in our community?