Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival



Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival
Leonard Sweet

The gospel is nothing without relationship. And no one gets it like the Google Generation.

God came to earth to invite us, personally, into a relationship. And while Christians at times downplay relationships, the social-media generation is completely sold on the idea. In Viral, Leonard Sweet says Christians need to learn about connecting with others from the experts—those who can’t seem to stop texting, IM-ing, tweeting, and updating their Facebook statuses. What would happen, he asks, if Christians devoted less attention to strategies and statistics and paid more attention to pursuing relationships?? ?The current generation is driven by a God-given desire to know others and to be known by others. Most of them, in seeking to connect in meaningful ways, have found a place of belonging that is outside the organized church. Why not bring the two together?


Great concepts
By J. Johnson
There are two disclaimers that I have to put at the beginning of this review.
The first is an official one. I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books by WaterBrook Multnomah. This does not mean that the review has to be favorable, so the review is my honest opinion, but I do have to notify that it was a review copy. Consider yourself notified.
The second is unofficial. I am a huge fan of Leonard Sweet's books. I have read almost every single one of his books, so the fact that this one came up for review was awesome! The fact that two came out in one month is even better (the second Sweet book is I Am a Follower which I am also reading for fun). So, I am a little biased when it comes to Sweet's stuff.

With both of those disclaimers typed, onto the review. In Viral, Sweet introduces two concepts namely the Gutenberger culture and the Googlers culture. The Gutenberger culture is defined by Sweet as those who were raised with type and paper while the Googlers are defined by Sweet as those who were raised in the computer age. I am going to stop there before going on since this was one of the sticking points that kept nagging at me as I was reading this book. Dividing people into two groups is going to be problematic since people tend not to fit neatly into categories. I understood what Sweet was doing and even he acknowledges the difficulty of dividing at the very end of the book, but there are whole groups of Gutenbergers who are very comfortable in the Googler world. As I wrote, that was just a sticking point, but throughout the book his point isn't to divide the groups to define them, but rather to talk about how each group views God, Jesus, the church, etc. His point is that both groups come to know Jesus in very different ways and the church will need to embrace both ways eventually moving to the Googler world, but tends to reside in the Gutenberger world.

Since the Googler world is the main focus of the book, Sweet goes deeper into the world by calling them TGIF Christians. The TGIF Christian is the second concept and takes up the end of the book. TGIF stands for-Twitter, Google, iPhone, and Facebook. Googlers are comfortable in these social worlds. He uses each social network to not only show how the church should address the Googlers, but also how they see God. He uses each Social network to name to define certain views. For example, he uses Twitter to talk about Following and following Christ, iPhones for connectedness, etc. He not only shows the pluses of these, but also some of the difficulties that the Googlers will have with each of these especially around the idea of false communities.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. As I wrote, I had a stumbling block with the division in the beginning and I could not get "Thank God It's Friday" out of my head while reading the acronym in the beginning of the book. I will also say that on some points I felt that Sweet was trying to wedge Jesus into a great concept and Jesus could have been left out of that concept and it would still have been valid. Other times I think he pulled back too quickly when he could have connected the concept to Jesus easily. For example, during the Facebook discussion, he talks about the desire of Googlers to be face to face with people. I felt that he could have talked about the connectedness that Jesus had to people, but the concept never made it. I would say the book is worth reading though and it has some absolutely wonderful concepts.

Using the Power of Social Media Ignite Revival in our World!
By rawhitfield
Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival, Leonard Sweet. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2012, 2011. 229 pages. Reviewed by Russell A. Whitfield.

Using the Power of Social Media Ignite Revival in our World!

Leonard Sweet has attempted to navigate the TGIF (Twitter, Google, I-Phone, Facebook) culture and believers towards uniting the Google and previous generations together for effective evangelism and discipleship. He is noted as a provocative thinker/writer that preaches and writes in a way to communicate the gospel effectively to bridge the worlds of academe and popular culture. Sweet's book VIRAL has been written to appeal to the media-driven culture at the moment one first glances at it. Its content offers some fresh and practical insights that will help readers, young or old, use the power of social media to communicate the message of the gospel effectively. Sweet has diligently identified and distinguished between two different generations as a way to portray the need to embrace the changes the culture has seen towards a highly creative TGIF culture. The two generations, Google and Gutenbergers, have effectively demonstrated the truth of how culture shapes behavior and how we express our beliefs.

The Gutenbergers generation, of which Sweet identifies himself, represents those that bring the influences and insights that come from the fifteenth century to the twentieth century. This generation has been shaped by the space race, John Kennedy, the Cold War, the Beatles, and the movable-type technology perfected by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400s. The second generation identified in this book is called the Googlers. In a world of the digitized, globalized group that spends much of its life getting to know one another in a virtual world, one finds a generation being comfortable in the twenty-first-century age of media. The task of reconciling these two unique cultures in today's media-driven world is no easy task. As Sweet envisions, the primary missional challenge of the church, for the next two decades, is to incarnate the gospel in a Google world.

As founder and president of SpiritVenture Ministries, as well as E. Stanley Jones professor of Evangelism of Drew University, and visiting distinguished professor of George Fox University, Sweet has communicated a passionate and visionary work for the purpose of uniting the Gutenberger and Googler generations towards the primary focus of the gospel. As a recognized Gutenberger, Sweet understands the evident changes technology has made on the world, and has embraced these changes in order to have a greater impact on the culture around him. His understanding about the common denominator of the basic needs of human longing, nourishment, community, and shelter that shapes how one thinks and behaves has launched his drive to incarnate the gospel in the media world. This book is described as a tale of two tribes that expresses the potentials, perils, promises, and problems of both the Googler tribe and the Gutenberger tribe. It offers a combination of humanities need for connection, acceptance, community, as well as sense of belonging with the challenge of connecting to a Google world that faces all churches.

In his introduction, Sweet recognizes a Christian life that is a "viral" and "dynamic" life that results from a faith being lived out. At the end of the introduction, the author offers his belief that the primary missional challenge of the church is to incarnate the gospel in the technological generation we face today.

The book is divided among five parts outline among fourteen chapters that includes end of chapter interactives for unpacking the challenges faced by these two generations. The first section, Where are We?, includes four chapters to help its readers understand fully these two generations.

The chapter Logos and Logo, clearly distinguishes between personal connections and proving a point. Sweet points out the differences of the two generations as they individually approach the expression of the value of words. There is an urgent sense for the church to be working to relate with the culture just as much as understanding the right words for right theology.

The next chapter, The Tale of Two Cultures, invites the readers to minister in a culture that may or may not look like theirs. In his description of the two cultures, Sweet makes a valid statement concerning individual preferences of these cultures and admits the frustration at times to be able to choose one's own moment of ministry. As the church, we are to embrace the generation we have been assigned to with the love of God. Sweet ends the chapter with a section called "Getting to know your neighborhood" to enlighten the church of the urgency to adapt faith to another culture.

After a chapter of discussing the two cultures and the changes that occurred among them, the author begins his next chapter, The God of Creative Change, with the idea that change originates from God. Sweet states that fear and trembling are two ingredients required of us all as we face the future generations. His readers will get an overwhelming sense for simplicity as the world becomes more complex.

The fourth chapter, Singing Strange Songs in the Lord's Land, discusses the idea that every Christian should be "in" the world and not "of" the world. As an "immigrant", as Sweet identifies himself, recognizes the tendency to feel out of place in a world that is not familiar. The reader is urged to move into the TGIF culture with hopes of a Christian revival breeding from their acceptance.

The next part of the book deals with the first part of the acronym (TGIF) which is Twitter. The following chapters in this section deal with the ways Twitter can produce a better Christ follower, and how Twitter can change the world. Sweet informs the reader that from the start Twitter was poised to change things, which could help one become a better Christ-follower. The author gives five ways that Twitter can change a follower of Jesus: the art of following, the need of more sound bytes that can bite (concise truths that supply substance), it explores the surface levels, a new global community, and social solitude. They help the reader become transparent, stay in touch with so many people, remind the individual that they are human, reveals great value in keeping things simple, and help open the books to the stories that lie within each person's tweets. In summary, Sweet refers to social media such as Twitter as a discipleship tool that can be used to transform and evangelize.

In the evangelical world, the idea of storytelling has become a hot topic of discussion. The concept of storytelling has been around since the days of Jesus. As the author moves to the Google section in the TGIF acronym, Sweet divides the book into three chapters titled: Jesus, Master Storyteller, The Infallible Story, and Turning a Tin Ear to Poetry. The culture today turns to Google for more than just learning, but a lifestyle. Instead of the use of drugs and alcohol to glue things back together, this generations turns to Google for the glue. A short phrase, just google it..., is the popular answer for those who have grasped the Google world of today. This culture look for images and a story that is tangible with the use of the same ingredients Jesus used such as metaphors, paradox, parables, and stories. St. Francis of Assisi said it best as he worked to convey the Christmas story to an illiterate congregation. A familiar saying that has been coined to express St. Francis' aim to use images as the sermon goes like this, Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words. This saying emphasizes the need to bring one's "A" game to the task of sharing the greatest story ever told through scripture. Googlers are appreciated for their constant reminder to consider Jesus, the Master Storyteller, and accepting change that comes through a changing culture.

In the same section, Sweet makes a valid push for the power of poetry to be adhered by this generation. He uses the language in Ephesians 2:10 describing creation as God's poiema (poetry) to encourage readers to adhere to the reading of poetry. As the author stated, "...our best hope for reorienting the church in the West and reversing the sundering of society from faith will dim" if this generation does not acquire the taste of poetry.

The fourth part of the book, iPhones, includes two chapters: The Advantages of the Whole Fruit and Trading the Orange for an Apple. The question is asked, "why would you want a device that only does one thing?", when you can have one device that does it all. It is noted that Googlers approach life as "holistic thinkers." In a comparison of apples and oranges, Sweet categorized Gutenberger generations as an orange and Googlers as apples who long for the "holistic" experience. He ends chapter ten comparing the body of Christ with an apple because with all its functions, they are all connected with each other. The next chapter in the fourth part of the book takes the metaphor of the apple and orange a step further to express pros and cons of the two approaches. The author's aim is to bring the apple (Googlers) and the orange (Gutenbergers) back into working relationship. He ends the section emphasizing the need for the whole-brained approach for the "mind of Christ", and unite these two generations.

The Fifth part of the book, Facebook, also includes two chapters: Cloud and Fire and Me and We in the TGIF World. The first chapter of this section begins with a discussion of how the two generations understand the idea of the "cloud of witnesses" or "communion of saints".