The Gospel Goes Viral

Viral videos are marketing gold in the new economy. In the old economy, you paid a fortune to produce a 30-second TV commercial, then paid even more for a few peak-viewing slots, and you had no guarantee that your target audience would see it; and even then there was no way for them to share it if they like it.

In the new economy, viral videos cost little to produce, and nothing to distribute, as people do it for you by sharing with their friends and followers on social media, who then share it with their network, and so on. No wonder there are now companies specializing in viral videos.

But the Gospel can also go viral, as John 1:36-51 demonstrates. Here are five lessons we can learn about making the Gospel infectious from that passage.

Social Networks
The closer the relationships in any social network, the more powerful the recommendation. For example, a restaurant review on Google or Yelp is more helpful than the impersonal marketing blurb on the restaurant website. But a personal recommendation on Facebook is even more influential than a Google or Yelp review.

The two social networks in John 1 are effective because of the closeness of the relationships. The first one goes from John the Baptist to two of his disciples (36); then one of them, Andrew, spreads the message to Simon (40-41); and, of course, Peter became the great Pentecostal preacher who saw thousands converted, and the great letter writer who has edified millions through the centuries.

The second social network goes from Jesus to Philip (43) to Nathaniel (45), whose story continues to be communicated from pulpits to this day.

Challenge: What is your social network and what are you doing to use these relationships to spread the Gospel?

Simple Message
Although corporations often think that the more information they pack into a video, the more successful it will be, viral marketers emphasize the need for a short and simple message, ideally with a human touch. That’s exactly what we see here.

  • Five words: Behold the lamb of God (36)
  • Five words: We have found the Messiah (41)
  • Two words: Follow me (43)
  • Six words: We have found the predicted Messiah (45)
  • Three words: Come and see (46)

Note how short, how simple, and how personal the messages are. All of them are so focused on Jesus.

Challenge: Are you excusing yourself from witnessing because you don’t know all the arguments, or can’t speak eloquently and persuasively? Look at how short, simple, personal, and effective the Gospel message can be!

Selfless Messengers
Viral marketers tell us that the best way to get people to enjoy your video, share your video, and respond to your message, is not to try and get money from them for your product, but to try and give them something that will benefit them.

That’s what we see here too: John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Jesus, Philip, Nathanael — all of them wanted to give something to people rather than get something from them.  They were not focused on their own gain but on the gain of everyone else

Challenge: Andrew is mentioned three times in the Bible, and all three times he is selflessly bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40-41;  6:8; 12:22). Are we motivated by a desire to bless others and give to others?

Satisfies Need
It’s always easier to market a product to an existing need rather than try to create a new need that a product or service meets. And the more widespread and common the need, the better. Again, notice how the Gospel satisfies such common needs: 

  • The need for a satisfying sacrifice: Behold the lamb of God (36).
  • The need for a satisfying teacher: The two disciples were looking for a trustworthy rabbi to live with and follow (37-39).
  • The need for a satisfying purpose: Jesus gave Peter a new purpose in life — to be a rock for the future infant church (42).
  • The need for a satisfying relationship: “Follow me” (43) meant walking in Christ’s footsteps in the closest possible connection with him.
  • The need for satisfying fulfilment: Jesus was the climactic consummation of all Old Testament prophecy (45).
  • The need for satisfying answers: Jesus answered and satisfied Nathanael’s skeptical and suspicious questions (46).
  • The need for heavenly communication:  Jesus would open heaven to enable maximum communication from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, all via the medium of Christ’s person (51).

Challenge: Identify your needs, and the needs of those around you, and meet that need — no matter how many or how great — with the all-sufficient and all-suitable Gospel.

Significant Impact
The more impact a video makes on a person the more likely they are to share it. Same with the Gospel; the more impact it makes on us, the more likely we are to share it. John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael were powerfully transformed by the Gospel and could not help but share it. They were contagious Christians full of Gospel enthusiasm.

Challenge: Pray that God would deeply infect you with the Gospel so that the health-giving contagion of grace will touch others in a life-changing and eternity-changing way.


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Blogs

4 Ways Pornography Hurts The Environment And National Security | Dustin Murphy, The Federalist
“Some say climate change is the greatest threat to national security, but pornography actually poses a serious national security threat. Pornography is harmful to the environment and a national security risk in four ways: it (1) is an intellectual-environmental hazard; (2) changes our view of sexuality and women; (3) causes selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered (S₃), and narcissistic people; and (4) discriminates against women.”

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship | Danny Hyde, Meet the Puritans
“A while back in my weekly email to my congregation, I gave my people my ‘Top Ten Reasons to Attend Evening Worship’ in an ongoing effort to educate, encourage, and exhort. They are not exhaustive and they apply to my context, in particular, but the principles should be applicable to any who reads this. May God move his people in our time to sanctify the Christian Sabbath, leading to a renewal of evening worship.”

4 Methods To Organize Your Prayer Life | Tim Challies
“But the principle is clear: Give time and effort to your prayer life, not only in praying, but also in preparing yourself to pray. A healthy prayer life consists not only of prayer, but also of preparation. I have long since found that the absolute best motivator in prayer is knowing what I am going to pray for. Vague ideas of prayer promote vague prayers. Disorganized methods of prayer promote disorganized prayers. Methods for prayer promote meaningful prayers. Why don’t you take some time today to organize your prayer life?”

10 Essential Pre-Reformation Writings | Nick Batzig, The Christward Collective
“…below is a list of 10 Pre-Reformation works that I would recommend to every young seminarian and pastor. While many, many others could be recommended, the following works from the Pre-Reformation era have been significant aids to my own Christian life, as well as to my preaching and teaching: ”

What Are We To Do? | Kyle Borg, Gentle Reformation
“What are we to do? I suspect that’s a question many Christians have been asking lately. The rapid sexual descent of our culture either has or will force every Christian to seriously ask it–Christians who might otherwise be content to play the part of the ostrich with their head stuck firmly in the sand. ”

A Q&A with the Apostle Paul on What’s Wrong with the Human Race and What God Did About It | Justin Taylor, TGC
“We sometimes think of the second half of the first chapter of Romans as a discourse about atheists…But in reality, it’s much more than this: a universal text that applies to all of us apart from Christ—what we are, what we do, and what we would do apart from God’s restraining and redeeming grace, with graphic examples to illustrate our truth-suppression and idolatrous identity.”

The Most Powerful Apologetic Tool in the World | Jon Bloom, Desiring God
“The Bible itself is the greatest apologetic device that exists in the world. More people come to know and love Jesus Christ simply by reading the Bible than anything else.”

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


The Christian Mom’s Idea Book (Revised Edition): Hundreds of Ideas, Tips, and Activities to Help You Be a Great Mom by Ellen Banks Elwell ($2.99)


The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God’s Plan for the World by Jared C. Wilson ($2.99)


Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading by John C. Maxwell ($3.99)

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What If I Can’t Find Jesus in the Passage? | Tim Challies


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Preacher’s Toolkit: How Do I Handle an Unbeliever’s Funeral?
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What I Have Learned About Pastoral Care By Going to the Doctor | TGC
Kevin DeYoung with lessons learned from being the one with problems rather than the problem solver.

Why Pastors Have Few Deep Friendships | ChuckLawless.com
10 reasons why pastors struggle to make friends.

God Invites You into His Happiness | Desiring God
Mark Jones: “Of all God’s infinitely glorious attributes, perhaps his happiness should cause us the most envy. In God is the perfect union of all good things. He has an eternally infinite fullness, delight, and joy in himself – such that we shall never be able to fully appreciate what his joy is like for himself.”

25 Ways to Become an Instant Pro at Leading Meetings | Inc.com 

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Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman $3.99.

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word by George Guthrie $0.99.

The Religious History of America by Edwin Gaustad $4.99

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday $1.99. This is not a Christian book, but it provides a fascinating glimpse into the popularity of modern stoicism which makes the Christian alternative shine all the brighter.

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Reformed “Spotlight”: Self-Promoting Wolves or Selfless Shepherds?

After writing the initial posts in my spiritual abuse series, I started thinking more about the leaders who have made the greatest impression upon me throughout my life. I thought about soccer managers, teachers, managers, investment brokers, business owners, and bosses from my pre-Christian life. In the Christian world, I thought about pastors, elders, deacons, professors, para-church leaders, and so on. And I came up with four characteristics that were universal.

Vision

The best leaders were not interested in managing decline, care and maintenance, or just reacting to the latest emergency. Instead, they wanted to lead people or an organization to the next stage of growth or development. They looked much further ahead than today or even the immediate future. They might not have formalized 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans, but they definitely had long-term plans which involved much more than just handing on what they had been given unchanged. They may not have been ten-talent servants, but they definitely were not “bury-the-talent” status quo servants. They might not have plans to take everyone and everything to the next level but they were always working on advancing some part of the team, company, church, organization, etc. If you asked them, “Where are we going?” they wouldn’t reply, “Eh, I dunno.” Rather ,”Here’s where we’re going, and here’s how we’re going to get there.”

Energy

As I look back on forty years of being parts of various teams — sports, politics, churches, businesses, etc — the leaders that stand out most and that did most good are the ones that seemed to have an extra Duracell or two in their powerpacks. Even now, as I think back on them, the Energizer bunny pops into my mind. It’s almost impossible to follow someone that is lazy and lethargic. Enthusiasm, on the other hand, is contagious. A person bursting with it can impact tens, even hundreds of people. That’s true on a natural level; but it’s also true on a spiritual level. It’s a hyper-Calvinist cop-out to say, “Oh, well, unless the Holy Spirit comes in power, there’s no point in trying too hard.” The Holy Spirit uses means, and, in my experience at least, He usually uses leaders — pastors, elders, deacons, teachers — who are characterized by vitality, zip, and zest.

Ethics

No amount of vision or vigor can make up for vice. Talent and tempo cannot replace truth. Innovation and inspiration cannot overcome immorality. Double doses of dreams and Duracell cannot compensate for double standards. The leaders who have inspired me have always been characterized by integrity, just plain old-fashioned honesty and transparency. What you saw was what you got.

Selflessness

When I remember my two unbelieving soccer coaches, three of my four unbelieving bosses in the financial services industry, and my two favorite teachers (also both unbelievers), one quality stands out above all — they put the interests of those they coached, led, and taught ahead of themselves. I think I could even say, they loved us. They sacrificed themselves for our good, often with no apparent benefit to themselves. There were selfless rather than selfish, leaving an indelible mark on me to this day.

How much more important is selflessness in ministry? It’s the most important characteristic of all in Christian leadership, and the lack of it lies at the root of most ministry fails and falls. It’s an utter shameful scandal when the one calling that is defined by “service” in the very name — MINISTRY — becomes a means of self-promotion and personal aggrandizement at the painful expense of those they are sent to serve.

In Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns us of wolves who wear sheep’s clothing. They may look like shepherds and sound like shepherds — note that, they NEVER look like wolves — but they have the hearts of wolves.

In John 10, Jesus warns of those who though they pretend to shepherd sheep, they are only interested in their fleeces. They are thieves and robbers that have come only to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Instead of giving their lives for the sheep, they take life from the sheep. They stand on their backs in their desperate climb for prominence. If any suffer along the way, there are always others to take their place. If I can get the attention of thousands, what does it matter if I’ve destroyed a few lives on the way to the pinnacle. Cheering crowds easily drown out a handful of bloodied, broken, bleating sheep — and my conscience. Why worry about one abused sheep when there are ninety-nine applauding me?

What a contrast to the Great Selfless Shepherd of John 10, the Great Selfless Servant of John 13, and the Great Selfless Sufferer of Philippians 2!

The measure of anyone’s ministry is not how many people are in their church, how many blog readers or Twitter followers they have, how many books they’ve written, how many conference invitations they receive, or how many famous friends flatter us. The biblical measure of ministry is how they treat “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). How does a man treat the least important, least influential, least rewarding members of his congregation. That’s how Christ measures my ministry. That’s how my elders should measure my ministry. That’s how I want to measure my ministry.


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Blogs

Would You Like to Take a New Testament Course With Me? | Tim Challies
“A little while ago I approached Logos to ask if they would be willing to open up a course in their Mobile Ed platform. They said they’d be glad to do so, and after weighing the various options, I selected one that I thought would be interesting, helpful, and appropriately challenging to any Christian. It usually costs $229.99, but they are giving us access for free!”

New poll finds fewer people keep the Sabbath than in the ’70s, but many people still value it | Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News National
“Half of U.S. adults today (50 percent) say the Sabbath has personal spiritual meaning for them, down from 74 percent in 1978. However, 62 percent of people agree that it’s important for society to have one day a week set aside for spiritual rest, the survey reported – and only 11 percent disagree with that proposition.”

Mizzou Firings — Chronicle of a Campus Crisis | Jillian Kay Melchior, National Review
“…freshman enrollment is down 25 percent, leaving a $32 million funding gap and forcing the closure of four dorms. The month after the protests, donations to the athletic department were a mere $191,000 – down 72 percent over the same period a year earlier. Overall fundraising also took a big hit.”

“Great Disputes”: The Conditionality of the Covenant of Grace | Donald John Maclean, Meet the Puritans
“The conditionality of the covenant of grace is indeed an area of ‘great dispute.’ Pitfalls abound on every side. But Sedgwick is a faithful guide. His careful exploration of the conditionality of the covenant of grace is a fruitful model to follow, both in his precise definitions, and in his theological conclusions.”

The Bible says to Writers . . . | Mary Jackquelyn Moerbe, Meet, Write, and Salutary
“Writers can only write as the Lord allows them. If God did not open our lips, gift us mouths and our other means of expression, we would be mute, anguished, tormented. Yet God gives us more than mere physical means. He gives us content, depth, insight, reflection.”

Governed by Bad News or Good News? | Prince on Preaching
“These and many others tragic realities should drive us to our knees in prayer. But we must resist the temptation to be governed by the bad news around us.”

10 Rules of Professional Etiquette for the Digital Workplace | Aaron Orendorff, Lifehacker
“Here are 10 professional rules for the digital workplace everyone should remember. Keep in mind though, the point of this list is to apply it to yourself. Nobody likes an etiquette cop, online or off.”

Confronting the Public Health Crisis of Pornography | Paul S. Loverde, First Things
“It is about time that we as a nation finally admit to ourselves that pornography is not some benign ‘entertainment’ that affects only those who use or produce it.”

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


The Fall of Japan by William Craig ($2.99)


The Lord’s Supper (New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology) by Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford ($0.99)


Six Simple Steps: Find Contentment and Joy as a Ministry Wife by Diana Davis ($2.99)


A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey by Joseph Early ($2.99)

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How Businesspeople Can Reach the World | John Rinehart, Desiring God


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Thoughts On The Rise And Fall Of Pastors | Scott Sauls
“In the past year, five of my friends who are pastors have lost their ministries because of moral failure.”

What Does It Mean for an Overseer to Be “Above Reproach” and “Well Thought of By Outsiders”? | Kevin DeYoung, TGC
“In short, the idea behind ‘above reproach’ and ‘well thought of’ is largely the same: the elder-pastor-overseer must live a life of Christlike character and virtue that is not easily refuted by those who know him best. The closer you look, the better the mature Christian appears.”

9 Research-Backed Ways to Spark Your Creativity | Michael Hyatt
“Creativity is essential to leadership and business. But we don’t always feel very creative. And I know some people doubt they’re creative at all. The good news is that all of us can easily become more creative. How?”

3 Ways College Students Can Do More Better Through Finals Week and Into the Summer | Tim Challies
“With a little effort, we can remove some of your heart’s vexation and some of your body’s pain so you actually can rejoice in your youth. You’ll give God greater glory, and you’ll do more good for others. Here are a few tips.”

What Cancer Cannot Kill | Rick Alcantar, The Blazing Center
“I’d just written a fourth name down from my small church. One of the names was a dad with two kids, another name was a young mom that had recently had another child. My heart hurt for each name on the list, for each family standing behind each name. Around that time an unexpected and uninvited thought began surfacing at different points throughout my day: “What if I get cancer?”"

My Toddler Survived Brain Cancer—Here’s What I Learned | Ellie Poole Ewoldt, ChristianityToday.com
“As Christians living in community, how do we come alongside friends and loved ones with cancer? To answer that question, I want to share some advice and insight from our journey to help explain what it’s like for families going through it-and how the people around them can lend their support.”

Dissertations that are Needed Today | Ed Stetzer, The Exchange
“Today I want to suggest there are certain religious Ph.D. degrees that will benefit the church, denominations, and students.”

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada ($1.99)


War of the World Views by Ken Ham, David Menton, Bodie Hodge, Carl Kerby ($2.99)


Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up by Amy Baker ($1.99)


Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary by Iain Duguid, Richard B. Gaffin, Gregory K. Beale, Vern Poythress, Peter Lillback ($2.99)

Video

Challenges of Teaching the Bible to Other Women | TGC