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Posts Tagged ‘viral marketing’

marketingI know it feels like marketing sometimes, this “evangelism” or spreading of the gospel, the good news. Back in the day, it was a little different since communication was a personal craft. People who could speak well or or turn a phrase, or read, were the ones who led the way. People who had miraculous experiences were quick to tell (for a season) and eyewitnesses retold what they saw and/or heard again and again. But, have we been playing “chinese telephone?”

The Lord has commanded us to do this. Remember His words:I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel, so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth.” [Isa 49:6] These words created two strong reactions. The outsiders were thrilled and praised God’s message, and all those who had been appointed for eternal life became believers. Through them the Lord’s message spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders united the aristocratic religious women and the city’s leading men in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and soon they were persecuted and driven out of the region. They [Paul and Barnabas] simply shook the dust off their feet in protest and moved on . . . [Acts 13:47-51a]

Oral traditions are powerful. The personal telling of a story or episode is always more compelling than a newspaper article or textbook telling of the same event. We have all read about the execution of 6 million Jews in the second world war, but meeting and speaking with even one survivor of the Holocaust will sear the mind forever.  Just last week, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, we were appalled and even fascinated, watching hour after hour for the smallest bit of news. And yet, the reality of that story was much more immediate when I spoke to Mary whose daughter was in the race. She was there.

Over the Easter season, I watched the old movie, The Robe, again. The phrase that keeps ringing through my mind was, “Were you there?” And this was the point: being “there,” being at the crucifixion was the turning point for Marcellus Gallio [Richard Burton]. And, in the end, when he finally embraces his first hand experience, he is changed.

It is our own first hand experiences that change us as well. Some of those sagas are dramatic and others are not. We cannot all have a “road to Damascus” [Acts 9] story. And yet, there is something personal that moved us from one place to another, from one belief to another, from one understanding to another. Each moment is different and even unique. When did you come to believe?

But I urge us all to take care. We are not longer living in an oral society. We are living in the Twitterverse where Google and Facebook have become verbs, where the image now trumps words, and “reach” means how many “eyeballs” we can accumulate and entice to land on a web page or a flat screen.

The gospel is not a show. It’s not some event that we are “marketing.” The gospel is only as dynamic as your story is for you.

The rest is hype. And just as you get sick of seeing the same commercial over and over again, so people grow tired of hearing and seeing the canned gospel.

If it really means something to  you . . . to me, then that is story I have to tell. And if it resonates, that’s great. If not, then I simply knock the dust from my shoes and keep on keeping on. Because I know my story is true. I cannot convince anyone to believe it. It just is what it is for me.

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Acts 5:14-16
Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number… Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

This kind of momentum is like a snowball. Once it gets going, there is no stopping it until it reaches the bottom of the hill. And even then, it keeps going as long as their is energy behind it.

This type of momentum is not peculiar to the time of the apostles. There have been equally amazing periods in our own recent history: The revivals sparked by Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley (1700’s), Charles Finney in 1821, Azuza Street (California) in 1906, Asbury College, Kentucky in 1970, the Toronto Blessing of 1994, and the Pensacola Outpouring also known as Brownsville in the late 1990’s, just to name a few.

People flock to these places from all over the world and all over the country, looking for signs and wonders, looking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and most often looking to be healed (physically & emotionally).

We experience this phenomenon in smaller doses every day: if we’re “on a roll,” we want to keep going.

But how does momentum of this kind start? The apostles only did what they knew to do, what they felt called to do. They were not trying to create a maelstrom. They just wanted everyone to know what had happened… and that Jesus was coming back. They had a natural urgency in their message.

Marketing people try to create urgency in whatever it is they sell: “gotta have it… gotta have it now.”

I think it begins with commitment, passion, and singularity of purpose. And of course, the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit, which cannot be bought, sold, or replicated.

In our times, we call this “viral” marketing. Some people try to create viral strategies through guilt, sending “touching” messages via email and challenging the receiver to “pass it on.” But that’s not how it works. When an authentic message reaches my heart, I don’t need someone to tell me to “pass it on.” I can’t wait!

Christ’s message has been around for 2000 years… the only thing that gives it momentum is the story in which it lives and thrives: my story… your story.

The momentum can start today…

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