Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been reading and blogging my way through Leonard Sweet’s latest book, Viral. Though the book was a complimentary copy from Len, my reflections have been honest and intentional. If you’re interested in reading any of my commentary, simply drop by my blog and you’ll find them there, for a fee…just kidding!
The final chapter in the book was short, but powerful. Entitled Infectious Faith, Len laid out how the TGIF generation (Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook) is posed to start a viral revival. Why? Read the book. However, the basis of his claim appealed to me, and more than that, made sense. It was based on the foundational premise inherent to TGIFers – namely its embrace of the ordinary.
Think about it for a moment. What baseline feature would best describe the TGIF generation? While a variety of responses would prove valid, I think the best word to describe the ethos of this movement would be social. Making connections through social media, made possible by smart phones and tablets, extends the picture of the traditional backyard, over-the-fence chat with neighbors, into a super-social, instantaneous and constant conversation. And, while flashes of brilliance and other profound thoughts are shared with friends in any given moment, more often than not, the vast majority of conversations, like those in the backyard, center on the everyday. In essence, we have a fascination with the ordinary.
As Sweet points out, “follow a friend’s tweets or read status updates on Facebook. We describe a good meal, an inspiring movie, the break-up of a relationship, our pet’s bathroom habits. And notice the imaginative ways people express the ordinary. There is passion, avid glee, and clever aphorisms” (187-188).
What does this mean? “Our everydayness is sacred to us” (188). We value the commonplace. We create a contemporary village commons where life is shared with our friends and other connections. We plant “gardens of ordinary words” that have the capacity to germinate and grow into a viral-like, global phenomenon. All because of our fascination and proclivity for the ordinary.
Does this mean, then, that we have no room left for the spectacular? Not at all. Room is made for all kinds of experiences. However, most of the space is designated ‘ordinary’ because that is where we all live – in the ordinariness of the everyday.
Sweet believes, and I concur, that any contemporary experience of spiritual renewal/revival will happen within and flow out of this commonplace, mundane garden.
It will happen in the midst of conversations with friends, family and other social connections. The large, stadium-sized, superstar style of communicating the gospel will be replaced with the low key, everyday, one-on-one, back garden, over the fence chats with those we have befriended along the way. We will learn to appreciate and embrace the beauty and grandeur of the daily, while cultivating a sacred awe for God’s ability to move in the spaces of ordinary living.
The gravitational pull will move us away from the spectacular and shift us towards the normal. We will move away from the burning bush, and embrace the glory of the forest. We will see life, not as a sprint, but a walk. We will learn to stop, sit and share life with friends.
The center of connection between us will be the place where the glory of God will rest. Broken pots will display the Shekinah of God. Status updates will be the breeding ground for a natural move of God. Story will be the vehicle for renewal. Social media will become the backyard where God dwells and speaks between friends. The line between the natural and supernatural will be blurred. Heaven and earth will kiss each other.
So, learn to live in the sacred space of the everyday and you’ll find that God was waiting there all along. Live in the viral world of the normal and share the infectious message of Christ with the world at your back door.
In other words, let’s go viral.
Jeff K. Clarke currently serves as the Christian Life Coordinator for Fairview United Church in Ontario, Canada. An accomplished writer, Jeff has also served in a number of Pentecostal churches over the years, and has spent three years as the Associate Director of Admissions at a Canadian seminary. For more information about Jeff and his writings please visit his website at www.jeffkclarke.com.