This posting is inspired by an article on The Vatican Today titled “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization”. I quote the article: “During a time in which technology has emerged as part of the fabric of connectivity of human experiences, such as relationships and knowledge, we need to ask: can it help men and women meet Christ in faith? It is not enough to find an adequate language, but rather, it is necessary to learn how to present the Gospel as the answer to that basic human yearning for meaning and faith, which has already found expression online.”
Viral video clips can be viewed by millions of viewers in just a couple of hours or days. As of this posting, the “Gangnam Style” video clip has been viewed by over 420 million viewers and the “Super Kan Cheong Style” clip has been viewed 425 thousand times in less than two weeks. These are just video clips that entertain, with little meaning and purpose, but I’m quite sure they have beaten most evangelical Christian websites/videos hands down in terms of viewership. Even my favourite Christian video clip “Father’s Love Letter” has only been viewed 1.36 million times over many years.
I’m sure most Christians will find it absurd to benchmark/compete against such secular productions. However, that should not stop us from promoting online evangelical materials to benefit the souls of viewers/readers.
So how can we improve the viewership/readership of evangelical materials online? Can it be left entirely to divine providence? Perhaps we can turn to the bible to get some inspiration on how Jesus and His disciples made Christianity ‘Go Viral’ in the first century. Jesus knew what the ordinary people needed, healing (both physical and spiritual), food, hope, meaning and purpose in life. Many people came to Him not to pay homage but to ask for healing, some even followed Him for the food He provided (Mt 14:13-21, Mk 6:31-44, Lk 9:10-17, Jn 6:5-15). Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Mt 9:35-38).
What can we learn from the above bible passages? Perhaps the church could focus more on the healing ministry and to provide counselling and advice to those who are lost in this secular world. There could be more healing services and Masses throughout the world. The Lourdes experience should be brought to every part of the world that requires healing and not confined to France. Testimonies could be posted on youtube, and I’m sure the evidence of God‘s work will ‘Go Viral’ as it did two thousand years ago and win the hearts and souls of many.
Just like how the fish and bread drew the crowd, there could also be online contests and game shows to draw netizens to Christ. Contestants could be rewarded with attractive prizes if they are able to answer challenging questions on Christianity (e.g. which is the oldest bible, what is the meaning of “consubstantial”, etc.). This is one way to draw people to the one who can award the everlasting prize of eternal life (in the Kingdom of God).
To help solve the problem of “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”, the church could also explore crowdsourcing, for example, in translation services of the testimonies/videos posted online. Crowdsourcing is defined as a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and offline. The difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public rather than a specific body, such as paid employees (Wikipedia). This posting can also be considered the product of crowdsourcing.