witnesses, passion, and “going viral”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” – Hebrews 12:1

12473566_10100674280783202_8175380971496909437_o-002We’ve all read invitations such as, “Click here to increase your website traffic,” “Make your site go viral,” “Enhance your web presence,” and “Maximize your SEO.” But the fact remains that no-one can make something go viral any more than they can stop the spread of the common cold; both examples illustrate aspects of the same phenomenon.

But sometimes something will grab people in such a way that they can’t help but share, and it’s the passion associated with the sharing that seems to replicate itself and spread, more than the words, or the photograph, or meme that’s being passed around.

“LIKE” vs SHARE” – And there is a huge difference, it turns out, between “liking” something and then taking the next step to actually “share” it with your friends.

My work, for example, is “liked” a lot (this blog has over 6,000 followers, and I always receive enthusiastic testimonials from people who read my books), but I am seldom “shared.” In consequence I grow by addition rather than multiplication and – to be honest – sometimes it drives me crazy!

I like to share the following two-part observation when people ask, “How are your books doing?”

  • An evangelical pastor reads a great inspirational book, talks about it in church and then recommends it to a couple of study groups. “Pastor says read this book” goes around the congregation, and pretty soon a bunch of people do. Church members buy copies for friends and family, and before long there’s a bump in the sales figures. The author then gets invited to talk, and maybe even scores an interview on Christian television. The ball starts rolling….
  • A Presbyterian pastor reads a great inspirational book (maybe one of mine)…. “Hmmm…” …. …

CLOUD OF WITNESSES: All this thinking came from wondering what made the family photograph – above – garner so much interest and attention?

It’s a great photograph, yes, but it actually represents something far beyond the small grouping of happy grandparents and squirmy, beautiful, children.

Here’s the story: First, our daughter Naomi fixed her camera on a tripod, set the timer on “delay,” then ran into the picture. The result was a shot (you can see it in the slides below) featuring Naomi and Craig, Rachel and Tom McMahan, my parents, Naomi and Craig’s pastor – along with her husband, and then me and Rebekah with the kids on our laps.

I liked the picture. But the picture within the picture happened to be the best grandparent image taken all weekend. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to extract a group of four people from a crowd (I seldom do any editing other than add light and crop). But cropping would have left pieces of other people – legs, arms, chopped off heads – all around us.

Being me (translate as, “unknowledgeable but determined”) I thought I’d play around with what I know. I have a circular “retouch” tool that subtly blurs flaws using ambient color. So what I did was to repeatedly click and drag the surrounding “noise” until it all resembled a watercolor that had run.

GOING VIRAL: Okay, so that’s what happened. At first glance nobody would realize that the background is comprised of blurry, runny, partially vaporized people. But the information is in there – subliminally, I guess – and I suspect that the fact of the presence of the “cloud of witnesses” pulls the viewer into the image.

In fact, I’m wondering if – maybe – there is a collective sense of “I am in that photograph too!” running through the minds and the spirits of the people who take a moment to wonder why it grabs them so much.

My theory, then, is that work – writing and photographs – always has the potential to “go viral” when it reaches in and touches the soul.

I believe that the act of sharing also touches our own soul. In other words, when something speaks to us, it only takes hold to maximum effect when we take the next step to pass on that blessing – or that sense of excitement – to someone else.

We were created to be people of community, and to be people who live in community. The only way this world is going to be healed is if we each apply the same level of passion to sharing our faith as we do to all that other stuff we pass around.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” – Hebrews 12:1




Categories: faith, life, media, message, writing life

Tags: , , , , , ,

1 reply


  1. witnesses, passion, and “going viral” — Life, Gratitude, Faith, & Passion – thefacemasterzblog

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