Thursday, May 3, 2012

Viral by Leonard Sweet: A Must Read!

While Leonard Sweet has written this book specifically to help the body of Christ minister to today's culture, the information in this book can also help parents and teachers  bridge the technology/culture chasm that separates them from their kids.  Technology has not just changed the devices we use for communication--it is changing the ways we think, communicate and relate.

Sweet dubs the emerging culture TGIF: Twitter, Google, iphone, Facebook.  The two groups of Christians he addresses are the Gutenbergers and the Googlers, the word-based Christians and the relationship-based Christians.

Gutenbergers, named for the inventor of the printing press, value the written Word of God.  Over the past several centuries they have expanded global missions, translated the Bible so that diverse peoples can read the Word for themselves, created an impressive array of church programs, and given humanity big ideas like religious toleration, the rule of law and freedom of speech. They tend to value individual effort and the accomplishment of goals.  Their methods were amazingly effective in many ways for the culture that preceded the recent revolution in communication technologies.
Googlers, named for the dominant search engine on the internet, value relationships.  In many ways, Googlers seek to reestablish the human relationships that formed the backbone of pre-industrial societies—and to accomplish it using cutting-edge technologies.  Like neighbors over picket fences, they read each other's tweets and status updates.  They are lost if their phone battery dies and they lose connection with their network of friends.  While Gutenbergers fear that Googlers' relationships are shallow, many Googlers would counter that they interact with their family and friends more regularly than a workaholic Gutenberger.  Through blogs, tweets and social networking profiles, Googlers can create a network of influence and relationships that can lead to opportunities to advance the Kingdom.

If the church is to reach a lost world, it must reach the world as it is, not as it was.  Gutenbergers like myself need to learn the culture and learn to value human relationships over church programs, people over policies.  Working together, Googlers can help the Gutenbergers enjoy relational evangelism (the kind Jesus did) and avoid nasty legalism.  Gutenbergers can learn the language of the new culture while maintaining their rightfully high regard for the Word of God and helping Googlers achieve depth as well as breadth in their lives.

I highly recommend this book for bookish curmudgeons and iphone addicts alike.  Sweet's writing style is conversational, but he includes enough footnotes to let you know he's not just making this stuff up.  This book is practical and theoretical, broad and deep--great reading for everyone.

Please be aware, I received an electronic review copy of this book free from the publisher, Waterbrook-Multnomah.