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Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival Paperback – March 13, 2012
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“There are plenty of books on technology by writers who don’t understand Christianity. And there are plenty of books on Christianity by people who are lost in the world of technology. The genius of Leonard Sweet is that he navigates both worlds, and his insight into living as a believer in today’s media-driven culture is not just helpful, it’s critical.
Viral connects the dots between social media and our witness to the world.”
—Phil Cooke, PhD, filmmaker, media consultant, and author of Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing
“Viral is culturally astute, Christ centered, gospel focused, kingdom oriented. Tweet that! Leonard Sweet captures the zeitgeist of our age in a biblically subversive way that redeems our technoculture for Christ. He explores the promise and the peril of our brave new world of electronic connectivity, while showing Christians how to apply the gospel at the crossroads of modernity and postmodernity, individualism and community, rational and relational faith. If you are skeptical of TGIF (Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook) or want to learn more, you must read this book.”
—Brian Godawa, screenwriter of To End All Wars and author of Hollywood Worldviews, Word Pictures, and Noah Primeval
“Leonard Sweet has always been Patient Zero for Spiritually Transmitted Dis-ease, and Viral transmits the pathogen of the Paraclete better than any other work I know. Sweet connects the incarnation to the web, taking readers beyond the vapid and introducing us to the layers of meaning behind the pixels on the screen.”
—David McDonald, author of The Undwellable City
“In Viral, Leonard Sweet paints a fascinating picture of today’s highly creative TGIF culture, while inviting the Gutenberg Generation into a new experience of Jesus’s timeless campfire story. The Googler Generation’s passion for spreading the divine viral epidemic through their passion for social media and narratives, as well as their longing for connectivity and participation, provides fascinating challenges for all followers of Jesus. Christians need to become part of God’s viral revival. Sweet shows us how.”
—Stephan Joubert, extraordinary professor in New Testament studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa; extraordinary professor of contemporary ecclesiology, University of the Free State, South Africa; research fellow at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; and editor of Ekerk /Echurch
“The church has never been more equipped to reach people with the gospel. With that opportunity comes a tremendous responsibility to communicate the unchanging message of the gospel in an ever-changing, hyper-connected culture. Leonard Sweet shares how Christ-followers can spread this life-changing message and bring about a revival unlike any we have seen before. He provides practical ideas and pastoral insight into leveraging the exponential opportunities available to share our faith through social media.”
—Tim Schraeder, co-director of the Center for Church Communication and editor of Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication
About the Author
LEONARD SWEET, PhD, is founder and president of SpiritVenture Ministries and is a professor at Drew University and a visiting distinguished professor at George Fox University. A leading social critic and cultural observer, Sweet is considered one of the most influential Christians in North America. He is the chief writer for sermons.com and has authored numerous books that have changed Christian thinking, including The Gospel According to Starbucks, Soul Tsunami, and Jesus Manifesto (with Frank Viola). Sweet lives in northern Washington.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
But not Sweet - he may be the one honest participant observer left within the confines of Western Christianity. He knows his gospel, and he knows his google, and he knows how the two can be made to play well together.
Viral teaches us how to incarnate the gospel in the digital era. Sweet doesn't just tell us we should (though, we should), he also tells us the "rules of enagement." And it's not all theoretical; he's a guy who practices what he tweets.
This book will stretch your thinking in two directions: first, you'll have a new appreciation for the movement of God's Spirit within our contemporary world; second, you'll feel prompted to follow suite, to continue the incarnation as part of the body.
In this book, Sweet works on breaking down two main topics and explains their impact on culture, relationships and communication; and then relates that information to how it has affected the spread of the Gospel. The first topic is that of the two generations we see in USAmerica—”Gutenberger” and “Googler”— and weaves the comparison of these generations through each main category of the second topic—the “TGIF culture.”
Sweet goes through a great effort early in the book to help the reader understand the difference between the “Gutenbergers” and “Googlers.” This greatly solidifies the significance of the message, as it enables you to put his argument into proper context, how social networking is poised to ignite revival. If you don’t grasp the generational differences from the beginning, then it would be difficult to follow the rest of the book, as it leans heavily on understanding the differences. He then builds on this foundation with a great teaching on the significance of the “TGIF culture”—Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook.
I have the privilege of approaching this book from a unique position—I have my degree in Youth Ministry and have been a Youth Pastor at 2 churches, am currently starting a new church, and also work full time as the Social Media Manager for an international non-profit organization. So to see the significance and importance of Sweets proposal is an understatement. I live what he is teaching here on a daily basis beyond being an early adopter of Facebook, Twitter, and the iPhone.
This book is highly recommended!
Since I began reading this book, every person I have come in contact with that works with youth in any fashion, as well as anyone involved in church ministry, has heard me rant about how important it is for them to read this book. To date, I believe it is one of the most well-written books on the subject of the cultural significance of social networking and it’s affect on the Gospel.
So, are you a Gutenburger or a Googler? Are you a catalyst for sparking revival, or have you become irrelevant to this evolving culture? Get your copy today and find out!