Leonard Sweet may not have been born a digital native, but he has fully embraced the digital life. In Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival, Sweet details the differences between the Gutenbergers and the Googlers. The differences are, in part, generational, but as Sweet himself demonstrates, reach across generational lines. Sweet doesn't go so far as to say the printed word and the long-form written work are dead, but he calls on the church to embrace Googlers: "the primary challenge of the church will be to incarnate the gospel in a Google world."
Googlers are characterized by TGIF culture: Twitter, Google, iPhones, and Facebook. Those who resist should just stop resisting. Sweet writes, "It is time for all of us to move into the TGIF world, and to move the TGIF world toward the gospel. Social networking has created a culture that breeds virility. And this virility could easily become the virtual petri dishes of Christian revival."
The strength of Viral is Sweet's emphasizing the many positive qualities of TGIF culture and contrasting it with Gutenberger culture. Tools like Twitter and Facebook have been criticized for trivializing or diminishing personal relationships, but Sweet points out ways they can be used for discipleship and evangelism.
While the sociological descriptions are spot-on, and surprisingly relevant even now, four years after the original publication, the leap from "this is culture" to "this is revival" seems too bold. "The TGIF world could be the impetus for an infectious epidemic of monumental proportions." No doubt he's right. We have seen, obviously, major movements in the last few years that have been fueled by TGIF. Now, whether a major move of God will be fueled by TGIF, time will certainly tell. Sweet's case in Viral is more for the medium and the culture itself, not what it spawns.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
2016 Reading Challenge: A book about revival