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.
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?
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!
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?
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.
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.