Today’s guest post was written by Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism & Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Alvin is a long-time personal friend and someone I learn a great deal from. Here he discusses how we could make evangelism “go viral” by applying the marketplace principles proposed by Jonah Berger in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On.
Witnessing, someone said, refers to a conversation between two people, both of whom are nervous. How do we who love Jesus and believe the gospel share His love with others in a world decreasingly aware of Him? How can our evangelism—personally and as a community of faith—be more contagious?
Jonah Berger teaches at the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His book Contagious: Why Things Catch On examines when one idea, product, or trend seems to spread virally while others simply flop.
Berger offers six principles to create contagion in the marketplace. Each of these can help us as we think about effective evangelism in our time.
“Principle 1: Social Currency: Most people would rather look smart than dumb, rich than poor, and cool than geeky. . . . what we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency.” I often talk with people about movies, for instance, and discuss common plotlines and themes, and as I can show how they relate to the biblical storyline. I have on several occasions had neighbors and friends remark they had never seen that before.
“Principle 2: Triggers: How do we remind people to talk about our . . . ideas? Triggers are stimuli that prompt people to think about related things. Peanut butter reminds us of jelly and the word ‘dog’ reminds us of the word ‘cat.’ . . . People often talk about whatever comes to mind, so the more often people think about a product or idea, the more it will be talked about.” Being able to communicate our faith in ways that trigger gospel ideas is critical. The church I serve, Richland Creek Community Church, has done this in some ways. Several times a year we offer “Free Pizza Friday” as a way to serve the community. We’ve served thousands a free meal with no strings. We want folks to think of the Creek as a place that loves our community. Maybe in some cases ordering a pizza can trigger that. What are triggers your church creates in your community?
“Principle 3: Emotion: When we care, we share. So how can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Naturally contagious content usually evokes some sort of emotion.” Here is a simple takeaway: we need to live life with emotion, with passion, and when we talk about our faith do so passionately. Movements are led by the passionate, not the passive. We talk about what we really believe. In the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, a lot of young people came to Christ not because of intellectuals, but because a lot of young believers shared Christ with a passion.
To read the other 3 principles and the post in its entirety, click here.
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