The ideas in Viral are about two years old now and are already out of date in policy but not in principle, because social media changes quickly. In fact, things have changed so much with tools like Facebook, iPhones, Google, and Twitter that you might be better off buying guides on those subjects.
But you will not find those books bent on inspiring you to navigate the digital landscape as a rescue pastor. Social media allows us to get into our van and drive the electronic highways with an eye to those in distress. We pull over because we can, and change flat tires, clean battery posts, and help the stranded motorist get connected with the tow truck Operator.
Viral excels at inspiring you to take the tools of social media and the larger Internet and incorporate them into your ministry. The tools described in the book, Facebook, iPhones, Google, and Twitter, will probably still be around in a few years, but you can be certain that they will look and operate very differently. So banish the idea that this book comes as a guidebook to such.
If your heart burns with passion to share the gospel and you expect to be on this earth for any length of time, go buy this book. You may say, “I don’t care about having a smartphone.” I say, “Do you care about people?” If your answer is what I think it is, then you will get into their world, and in many cases, that means using social media.
But social media can be confusing, like a shark tricked into chasing a whole school of shiny fish and missing out on its prey. Because there are too many twisting, flashing, darting targets, the shark gets confused as it tries to zero in on one bite-size meal. Sometimes I feel like there are too many things to get involved with. Life has become a digital Babylon—confusion.
Man still builds towers, brick and mortar, computers and code, yet God calls for missionaries to digital Babylon—some part time, some full time, all learning enough to get connected and move seamlessly between our real world and our digital world. In fact, the boundaries between the two are fast disappearing. They are coming together, and we are struggling to navigate them as one, much less two, separate worlds. Sweet’s book has become a primer on this navigation, a compass to carry into the digital world to help us find our bearings when we swipe our smartphone, lift the covers on our laptops, or clean the screens of our tablets. Once that is done, where do you go from there? And where do your church members go? They are very connected already; who helps them navigate the connected world? Get Sweet’s book and find out as he offers travel advice and adventure.
—Reviewed by Marty Thurber, pastor of New Creation and Capital View Seventh-day Adventist Churches, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States.