By now you’ve all laughed along with the Chewbacca Mom as she shared her joy “with her friends on the internet-webs.” The boys and I heard Tennille shrieking upstairs as she watched it through her first time and we joined her for a second round of laughter.
Viral videos fascinate me. I love how they spread from friend to friend, network to network, moving from a few people to millions sometimes overnight. United Breaks Guitars, the Ikea Punster and the WestJet Christmas Miracle–to name just a few of my faves–always leave me wondering: what made this video go viral? And as I reflected on this latest explosion of Chewbacca mom–now the most viewed video on Facebook–I had to ask:
What does Chewbacca mom’s success teach us about the viral spread of the greatest news ever, the good news about Jesus?
First, by definition, viral messages are something you want to share. No, that’s too tame. Messages that go viral are messages that you just have to share. They can’t be kept to yourself. Even though we live in a media-saturated, YouTubed world, certain videos still gain traction because they are shared so enthusiastically with friends. Do I need to even make the connection with the news about Jesus, the greatest news that we’ve just got to share? There’s a reason the good news about Jesus swept the Roman world in the century following Jesus’ death and resurrection–it was viral news that spread from network to network, impacting everyone who heard it, because it just had to be shared.
The second thing, which comes out very clear in the Chewbacca mom original video, is how she is simply sharing her joy with others. Her infectious laugh, her delight in the big reveal, her irrepressible enthusiasm as she dawns the mask and then shrieks and roars into the camera is pure, unadulterated joy. She just loves what she’s got!! When we experience joy, we want to include others in the delight.
The third thing that really struck me is her willingness to put herself out there. Now, I’m sure she had no idea she’d become an internet sensation overnight, and she’s likely reeling from all the attention she’s getting. But on that day, following her celebrated purchase, when she propped up her phone on the dashboard to share with her friends, she put herself out boldly and without reservation. That’s part of the charm of the video: it’s just her–normal, awkward, unscripted, bumbling, honest, and so, so thrilled that she wants everyone to get in on it.
So what can we learn from this? The good news of Jesus, the most viral message ever and continuing to spread, fans out through similar means. Based on these three observations, here’s how the good news about Jesus goes viral.
3 Ways Chewbacca Mom’s Video Shows Us How the Good News of Jesus Goes Viral
First, it’s irrepressible news: The good news of Jesus is so good, so delightful, so amazing that when people discover what they have, and really get it, they just have to share it! I’ve seen this over and over again, as the good news spreads unstoppably through friendship and family networks.
Second, it’s all about joy: And this good news is shared not out of duty or compulsion, but as an expression of pure joy. Lesslie Newbigin, the missionary-theologian, likened the spread of the good news of Jesus to an “explosion of joy.” And that’s what we see, down through history and into today: when people really meet Jesus, the joy explodes!
And third, it’s shared boldly: With the innocent boldness of a child, we put the good news of Jesus out there for our friends to hear. We simply want others to get in on what we’ve found, so we prop up the phone (metaphorically) and share it out on the inter-webs, to our friends, neighbours, streets and homes, not knowing where the message will spread. And though it often goes unnoticed, there are those times when someone else hears it and catches the joy, and shares it on. And from person to person, family to family, the greatest message of all time, the most truly viral news out there, takes hold, transforming whoever hears it and responds to its invitation to follow Jesus.
Did you notice any other connections between her viral video and the way the good news of Jesus spreads?
Why does the most viral message of all sometimes feel like “old” news and how can we change that?