I’ll never forget the first time it happened to me.
It was something I had been expecting, and yet, it caught me totally off guard. I had planned for this to happen. I had hoped this would happen. Shoot…I had even dreamed that this would happen. I had felt this rush before, though at first it wasn’t me experiencing it. I was just sitting in the car when my friend took the hit. That’s all I needed to be hooked. It didn’t even have to happen to me and I could still experience the rush… that’s how addicting this was. But when I was the one experiencing it - that hit different. “Dude. Check your twitter.” “What?” “You’re not going to believe this bro. Get on Instagram too. NOW.”
I opened up my twitter account. That’s when I experienced my first hit. I had gained thousands of followers in less than an hour. I had so many notifications that I couldn’t refresh my account fast enough to keep up. My mentions were coming in from all over the world. I literally thought my iPhone was going to break. I closed the twitter app and opened up my Instagram. Another hit. My follower count had jumped from around 8,000 to almost 15,000. Hearts were dancing all over my page. People, who just minutes before didn’t even know I existed, were now reading everything I had ever posted. My DM’s became flooded. Friends were texting me screenshots of their friend’s friends who were sharing my post.
I felt seen. I felt heard. I felt hooked. That night I became addicted to a very real drug.
That drug is called: Going viral.
What is going viral anyway? Maybe you live under a rock or perhaps your parents decided to shield you from the technological world. Instead of giving you an iPhone for your 14th birthday they gave you a telescope or a flute. If that’s the case, I am so sorry. But shout out to all of my flute players, you’re killing it.
The Webster’s dictionary definition of going Viral: A person or piece of content that is circulated or shared widely on the internet. Something that reaches an exponential amount of people or has exponential impact.
Most people don’t join social media with the sole intent being to go viral however; some join social media with the simple intention of connectivity. It’s fun, lighthearted and rarely time consuming. That is, at first. It only takes a small amount of time for them to experience a social media “high”. A post gets more interaction than their others, they see a viral piece of content that they relate to or maybe someone just comments something super nice and suddenly they feel like a pocket full of sunshine. After receiving the dopamine hits that come from being seen and liked online, many of those same people who joined for connectivity are now staying for much more. They look at other online content creators who get thousands, tens of thousands or even millions of “likes” on their photos or videos and they want to experience that same thing; they want to chase that high.
Not only does going viral FEEL good…it improves your quality of life. At least we think.
In the year 2020, companies around the world have shifted their entire marketing campaigns. Instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars on ad videos, these companies are reaching out to content creators with large platforms to pay them directly for an advertisement on their video or piece of content. Being a social media “influencer” has become a quite viable career option. In fact, today, it is just as common for a kid under the age of 12 to say they want to be a YouTuber when they grow up as it is for them to say a doctor or baseball player. Going viral feels good. It makes you popular. It makes you rich. It makes you known. So much so, that it causes us to change our goals in order to pursue it.
That’s where my story comes in. Social media is kind of my thing. I’m in my mid twenties. I haven't grown up with a cell phone in my hand since birth but I’m not asking anyone what “viral” means either. I’d like to think I’m cool (my wife is going to snort when she reads that line). I remember when I logged on to social media for the first time. At 12 years old my parents let me get a Myspace. There’s a good chance you might not even know what that is, so for all you Gen-Zers, it was like a Facebook page except you could customize every thing about your profile page from top to bottom. Pretty incredible right? I had a 1969 corvette background, a profile picture that wasn’t even me (it was a picture of a professional baseball player I found on google images) and when you landed on my page the beginning of a Blink 182 song began to play. I was much cooler online than I was in person and that’s a scary thought. I was thriving.
A passion for social media began to rise inside of 12 year old me. By the time I got to college I decided I wanted to study it. I loved making youtube videos. I loved taking photos of my friends and I on top of mountain tops (making us look way more adventurous then we actually were). I loved tweeting live during football games from my couch. I loved how I was seemingly seconds away from saying something or posting something that could potentially impact thousands of people. And I LOVED seeing my likes and my followers go up. What started out as a creative outlet for me, quickly became about “growing” my platform online. I even started to get paid by brands and companies for the content that I posted. Which, as a broke college student, allowed me to pay for my steady diet of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches. I became addicted to the thrill of growing my online brand.
And the fastest way to do that was, of course: going viral.
Many times, all it takes is one time going viral. One video, photo or piece of content getting the right amount of shares and likes could change a person’s life forever. If a post breaks through once, it could often lead to massive amounts of new followers and a permanent place in the social media hierarchy. One piece of viral content increases the chances of future success dramatically.
Going viral made you last. At least, I thought it did.
I started to study people who were building their online following. I wanted to know how they broke through from “everyday social media posters” to the famous influencers that they now were. I learned quickly that social media is not discriminatory. The people going viral never look the same. You have black people, white people and every color in-between. There are young and there are old. A 9-year-old can go viral playing with Play-Doh and a 90-year-old can go viral talking about world events from the couch with her husband. Anybody, anywhere, at any time could go viral. As long as they do one thing: beat the algorithm.
A social media algorithm is a system. It’s a set of rules that filters posts in a user’s feed based off of the post’s potential relevancy to other users. Think of it like a filter put in place that attempts to figure out if content is good or not. The algorithm tries to distinguish good content from bad content by measuring engagement through watch time, likes and several other factors. The better the content scores on this unwritten social media “test” - the more people will see the content. If the content does extremely well….it might just go viral.
Sure the pretty girl who posts tons of content of only her face has a higher chance of beating the algorithm due to the amount of clueless single boys lining up in her DM’s thinking they can be her “Mr. Right”. Sure Justin Bieber’s video of his dog might go viral because he’s Justin Bieber and people like dogs.
But going viral…is something anybody can do.
There are literally thousands and thousands of people who go viral every single day. Not because they are the best looking, not because they are already famous, not even because they paid a social media platform to boost their post to more people. They go viral because they figured out (knowingly or unknowingly) how to get their content to pass the filter put in place by social media companies. They learned to beat the algorithm. That last line is going to be important in where we are going. I’ll write it again. They go viral because they figured out (knowingly or unknowingly) how to beat the unwritten set of rules called the algorithm. They go viral because they beat the rules.
On January 22nd of 2020, I sat in a coffee shop across from one of my mentors. It was cold outside. I remember it was so cold that I ordered a hot coffee instead of a cold one (iced coffee fam where you at!?). We spent the first few minutes of our conversation catching up on the highlights of the month. We shared goals, wins and even reflected on some losses. Every time I met with this man we would spend the first few minutes catching up and then progress to my little black notebook that I would have sitting on the black mahogany coffee table. Inside that little black book I would have 4-5 questions jotted down to ask my mentor about. The questions could be related to anything. Marriage, pastoral leadership, friendships, sermon writing - even social media.
On January 22nd, however, I only had one thing written down in my notebook. “Why?”Not too long before our coffee meeting, a well known leader, entrepreneur and family man in our area had called it quits on life. It was devastating. This was a man with all of the accolades you could imagine. He was popular, he had money, he had a beautiful family - by all accounts, he was extremely successful by the world’s standards.
He was even viral online. But further than that: his LIFE was viral.
But it still didn’t last. He walked away from it all. “Why?” It didn’t make sense to me. My mind kept racing back to the perfect picture his life had been just weeks before. He had what I was chasing. His instagram feed aesthetic was 10/10 online and his life seemed to be also. He had what I wanted. How could it not be enough? I opened up to my mentor about what was bothering me. I told him I couldn't stop thinking about the man and couldn't wrap my head around what had happened. How could someone be that known, that successful and that viral and it still not be enough. My mentor took a long, deep breath and looked out the window. He told me he was heartbroken too. Then He said words that I will never forget. “What good is going viral if your life doesn’t last?” That line hit me like a ton of bricks.
If I was honest with myself - I had been trying to go viral. Online and offline, I desired more. I wanted more success, more followers, more money, more popularity, more people to look at my life and say “that’s #goals”. But this path…this quest to going viral…would it really last? How could I really last? The algorithm of life and the algorithm of social media really aren't all that different. The blueprints are strikingly similar. The harder you work, the more money you make, the more popular you are, the more power you have and the greater you make your name…the more viral you go. These standards of success become our goals, and our goals, often influence the life we end up living.
This formula for going viral has been the same for the last 2000 years.
Think of the biggest names in today’s society. Names like: Lebron James, Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber and Carrie Underwood. They have figured out how to beat this algorithm. Their methods of getting to the top may be slightly different, but for the most part, they followed this set of rules and did so better than the other people around them, and now they have what other’s do not: they are seen, they are known, and their names are going to last. At least, this is what we are told. But what if we are wrong? What if the algorithm the world tells us we should follow is just a big lie?
Take for example Caesar, for example: the ruler of ancient Rome some 2000 years ago. He was the definition of a big-timer. They named a salad after him for crying out loud (a good one too)! He’s the definition of going viral in life. He had power. His face was on money. That’s how you KNOW you’ve made it. That honor is reserved for presidents and the monopoly man, all of which, are legends. Caesar’s influence was so strong because he beat the algorithm. And yet, Caesar was constantly striving for more power, more land, and more authority. It was never enough. He murdered thousands. He plundered homes of thousands more. How could someone so viral be so…unfulfilled? So unsatisfied? I started thinking about other people just like Caesar. Powerful people. Successful people. Viral people. They all had two things in common:
1.) They went viral
2.) They were mostly forgotten
Think about it. At BEST, their lives have become a sentence in a history book. At worst, they were left out of the history book all together and we’ve forgotten their name and what they accomplished completely. They beat the algorithm but death beat them. But there is one man whose name has lasted much longer than the monopoly man’s, any president’s or even Caesar’s. This man did not seem to have a shot at going viral. He was born to a poor family, He had no military background, He spent his first 30 years in a small fishing village using hand tools to build kitchen tables and Lazy Boy sofas. He did not hold any political office. He did not pursue power or fame. In fact, this man did not try to become more: He spent His life trying to become less.
This man’s name was Jesus and He lived by a different set of rules. His standard was…upside down. In fact - His goals were so drastically different that people often thought He was crazy. He openly challenged the algorithm that others were chasing after. Many times, He did the complete opposite of what someone trying to go viral would do. And yet, He became the most viral person our world has ever seen. Caesar went for it. Jesus did too. Just in a different way. One became a page in a history book and a $2 salad you add on to your entree. The other…He’s still going viral.
Today, people are walking the streets talking about their savior. Not the man who once owned 75 percent of the rotating world. They aren’t talking about the guy who ran for president, or the guy whose face was on money, or the guy whose kingdom they said would last forever. But when you walk the streets of India; when you go to Africa, Queens, Toronto, Great Britain, Iceland, Los Angeles or wherever else you want to travel and you say the name “Jesus”, people still recognize His name as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords more than 2,000 years later. Not because He grew wealth, status or political power, but because he laid down his life for the world.
He beat death so you could go viral, too. Not viral the way the world thinks about going viral — but a kind of viral that means so much more. He beat death so that you could go viral in the Kingdom of God. He beat death so that you could have life. The first time I went viral I felt the rush of thousands of people crowding into my follower count on Instagram. Now that I’m going viral a different way, the Jesus way, I get to feel the rush of thousands of people crowding into heaven. It’s no longer about how “liked” I am. It’s about how loved I am. The rush of my kingdom being built simply cannot compare to the fulfillment thats comes from HIS Kingdom being built. You can’t take your following with you when you die. You can’t take your success with you when you die. You can’t take your kingdom with you when you die. So what good is going viral if your life doesn’t last?
You can be famous on Earth but unknown in Heaven. Jesus wants you to be famous in Heaven so you can be effective on Earth.
What if I told you there was a different way for you to live your life?
What if I told you there was a Kingdom you could build that goes with you when you die?
What if I told you that you were actually created to go viral?
What if I told you there was a way that you could go viral and last?
You were destined for more than the world’s idea of greatness. But in order to see it happen, you have to change what you're chasing. You might have to change your goals. You might have to change your habits and you might even have to change your definition of going viral.
The algorithm of life is fool’s gold: though you might spend your whole life searching for it, it doesn’t work and it definitely doesn’t last. The way Jesus lived is different. If you choose to follow this way, your life will find more meaning and more purpose than you possibly could have imagined. You were meant for something more than a follower count. You were meant to follow. It’s time to go viral.
If you want to go viral the way Jesus intends you to as His follower, you’ll have to do so intentionally. You won’t stumble into a relationship, purpose, and calling as good as Jesus wants you to without making it your desire and intention. We’re talking about living in the kingdom of God on earth…You can’t go viral by accident. What you need is a game-plan.
This book is your game-plan. It’s organized into the same 3-step process that going viral online requires. The Plan. The Post. The Share. As you read this book, you’ll learn that while the process is the exact same, the method to a life that goes viral and actually lasts looks drastically different.
Here’s where we are going:
1.) The Plan.
This section is the foundation to our following the ways of Jesus. These are the things that we absolutely must get right or we stand no chance of making it…let alone going viral. “The Plan” is pivotal. It consists of our convictions, our theology, and our relationship with a real and living God. Allow your heart to receive this plan and you’ll be ready for what’s ahead.
2.) The Post.
This section is about when reality interferes with our plan. How do we stick to the game plan when distractions and temptations are coming at us from all directions? What does following Jesus actually look like on a day-to-day basis? “The Post” is dedicated to taking action outside of your comfortable places and into the unknown: this section is where we learn to follow Jesus through the hardest parts of life.
3.) The Share.
It’s impossible to go viral if your life isn’t shared. “The Share” shows you how to make an impact much larger than you could possibly imagine. This section builds on your plan and your post and gives a blueprint for sharing what’s taken place inside of you with the world. The share is the part of the book dedicated to crowding Heaven.
You have the game plan. Let’s go viral.
Purchase "Viral Jesus" on amazon, and make sure and download the Free Sermon Series so you can walk your entire church through this book.