Ross Rohde's book Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel is a bit difficult to codify in terms of what exactly it is. It's not exactly a critique on modern church structure - although there is plenty of what can best be derived as "loving correction." It's not exactly a "how to" instructions book with five easy steps you can replicate in your own church - although he gives plenty of historical background and examples of how it has been done in the past. And it's not exactly a post-modern, emergent, traditional or blended theological treatise - although there are plenty of ideas which could easily be implemented in any of these kinds of churches.
Viral Jesus is a statement, a bold statement, on the organic nature of the church. Many traditionalists wince at the use of "organic" to describe how church should be (thinking it to be too soft and lacking in stricture), and many post-moderns embrace it and rally around it (often to the detriment of planning for the future, opting to just see "where the Spirit takes us"). By looking at and approaching the topic from a non-Western point of view, Rohde presents not so much an argument for but discussion areas on what and how early Christian discipleship looked like, felt like, how far the church has come from this notion.
As someone raised in Western Christianity, the book felt a tad offensive at times - and I'm glad that it did. It caused me to pause and think about how we (the church) look and act to the world at large, which nine times out of ten is represented by the person who walks by our doors but we would dare not to invite in. Traditional, structure-centered churches could learn a great deal from getting a little more organic - which translates to getting your hands dirty in the lives of the people around you. Post-modern churches could stand to spend a little more time honoring and studying the history of our faith, and not just adapting what other modern churches have done or simply doing what seems "cool" at the time.
Since the book IS written from a non-Western perspective, it may take several reads through to truly grasp the complexity of what Rhode is trying to convey. The ONLY staunch critique I had about the entirety of the manner in which he suggests we approach discipleship or the church is when he recommends to not spend as much time in preparation or study. Granted, the Western church has become in some ways hyper-pseudo-educational in its structure, and it sometimes gives weight to the degrees held by those in leadership than to their gifts or abilities. However, as someone who comes from a background in education - as well as someone who would probably stammer on with no direction when he speaks without taking all the time for preparation that I do - I see the importance and necessity of proper study. There's a balance between staying married to the script you write and being flexible to the urgings of the Spirit, and this balance can be found without sacrificing the other.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.