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Discuss and Win @LenSweet’s New Book, Viral

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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viral-book-leonard-sweetToday we’re reviewing, discussing and giving away Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet. Keep reading to learn how you can win one of three signed copies.

When I first saw Len Sweet’s new book, Viral, I assumed it would be about how social media tools like Facebook and Twitter present an unprecedented opportunity to spread the gospel. While there is necessarily some reference to the tools, Sweet’s optimism for revival is based less on the technology itself and more on a seismic shift in the values and ways of thinking of people under the age of 40.

Gutenbergers and Googlers

Sweet draws a line in 1973, the year the cell phone was invented, and throughout the book refers to those born before 1973 as “Gutenbergers” and those after 1973 as “Googlers.” Gutenbergers are holdovers from the print era while Googlers are “digital natives.” According to Sweet, the differences between Gutenbergers and Googles goes far beyond their familiarity and comfort with the Internet and mobile devices. He writes:

Gutenbergers: It’s necessary to be right.
Googlers: It’s necessary to be in relationship.

Gutenbergers: God is in charge.
Googlers: God chose to be among us.

Gutenbergers: Capital campaign.
Googlers: Homeless campaign

Gutenbergers: Statement of faith.
Googlers: Life of faith.

Gutenbergers: Build something.
Googlers: Meet someone.

Gutenbergers: A culture of words and individualism that has lost its ability to propagate.
Googlers: A culture of images and relationships that breed virility, the petri dish of revival.

In Viral, Sweet is critical of Gutenbergers for being overly left-brained and focused on using words to debate, divide and isolate. Meanwhile he sees the right-brain dominance of Googlers as being more in line with how Jesus lived – telling stories, using metaphors and imagery, accepting mystery and paradoxes, and most of all pursuing relationships.

Sweet characterizes himself as a “digital immigrant,” someone who grew up in Gutenberg culture but has made the transition to the world of Googlers.  Much of Viral seems to be an attempt to help those of his generation who are still holding on to their Gutenberger ways to understand Googlers and immigrate themselves to Googler culture. He also takes time, though, to point out the dangers and pitfalls that Googlers are prone to.


Overall, I found Viral to be very insightful and thought-provoking.  While the underlying theme is about social media, the book is really a broader conversation about Christianity and culture. It’s not written specifically for techies but for anyone who wants to understand the cultural shifts taking place in our midst.

If you’re of the Goolge generation, you’ll enjoy reading Viral because it will validate  the way you think and challenge you to live your faith more virally. And after you’ve read it, you’ll also probably feel an urge to “accidentally” leave the book on your senior pastor’s desk.

If you’re of the Gutenberg generation and maybe you still think social media is time-wasting drivel about what you ate for breakfast but you want to understand, connect with and empower the next generation, this is definitely a book you should read.


  1. Do you agree or disagree with the ways Leonard Sweet characterizes Gutenbergers and Googlers? Why?
  2. Do you share Leonard Sweet’s optimism for revival because of the social media tools now available and mindset of the Google generation? Why or why not?

Get a Free Book

Len Sweet has offered to make 3 signed copies of Viral available to Christian Web Trends readers. (Yea!) If you’d like one, all you have to do is

  1. Retweet this post or share it on Facebook, and
  2. Post a comment that addresses one or both of the discussion questions above  (include your Facebook or Twitter usename in your comment so I can connect your comment to your share/tweet).

Three winners will be selected Friday (3/16/12) afternoon.

You can also purchase a copy through Amazon.

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


    • Leonard Sweet has just helped my own classification of these two groups of people. I am a Gutenberger but have become a digital immigrant because of my love of technology. My frustration is watching many older people not getting the new generation and still wanting to do things "the old way". God is life which means that there is movement and we need to get the relationship right and move with God. He is always ahead of us so let us follow Him and not reminisce about how we always did it but look at what wonderful things God is doing now.!/stm101

      • Stan, even though Gutenberger's probably frustrate you a times, it's digital immigrants like you (and Len) who have the best opportunity to inspire and help Gutenbergers to immigrate. You're living proof it can be done and you have insight gained during the "immigration" process that you can share.

    • Let me answer the questions like this. I think absolutely that there is a shift from Gutenbergers to what Sweet seems to call Googlers even I think it is more difficulties to define the later then the former who has been dominating so far. Historically there must have been other similar shifts like Radio, Movies and TV even they were not as interactive as internet and smart phones.
      Born myself before 1973 I more a Gutenberger even I gone through a shift to Googler. Yes my own experience is that it had created new relationships. Still I think words are important and that you can´t put relationship and right as two opposite.
      I don’t know if I like a Gutenberger are more critical, but at least there are pitfalls like this recent report discussed in Swedish media showed. People using smart phones are more egoistic then others. See

      Nils Malmström

      • Nils, the classifications of Gutenberger and Googler isn't black and white, it's more like a continuum of gray, so you could be somewhere in the middle. The book has an exercise in it to help you determine where you fall in the continuum.

        Thanks for sharing the study. It's rather surprising to me. I also wonder where they found a control group. Doesn't everyone under 40 have a cell phone now?

    • In the film, The Gods Must Be Crazy, a Coke bottle that seemingly falls from the sky creates far-reaching ripples of change for a traditional culture. Len Sweet's characterization of the cell phone that fell from the sky is similar. His Googlers vs. Gutenbergers distinction is brilliant as a communicative device. We used to think the advent of the PC was the game-changing event; reading arguments like Sweet's make me think it's really the handheld that's changing the world forever. It makes sense: tools in the traditional sense are things held in the hand, and this is a new tool that's well on its way to getting into the hands of everybody on the planet. OK, so maybe experts will quibble about his having just two categories or about whether he's chosen the right birth-year for the break-point. The G. vs. G. catchphrase fits on a Tweet and is meaningful enough for even an old Gutenbergers to understand. I've gotta read this book. Facebook: Carlos Wilton Twitter: @carlwilton

      • Thanks Carl. While Len uses the invention of the cell phone as the demarcation point between generations, he regularly uses the acronym TGIF culture which stands for Twitter, Goggle, iPhone, Facebook, which implies that the cell phone is just one of several technologies that has impacted the "Googlers"

    • Love Len and his insight. Don't let the book be your only connection, even if it's a good initial step… meet the man. He truly is an immigrant.

      He and I eating lunch are like a coupla immigrants discussing our amazing luck to be living in the era we find ourselves. Ain't goin back to Guttenburg… only buy paper if the Audio book isn't available, or the PDF can't be had.

    • of course we are on a seismic fault as great as the printing press. none of us can be completely certain what lies on the other side. not that we should turn our brains off or stick our head in the sand – which is why I appreciate Leonard Sweet.. but the very nature of "virality" is rapid change. i too sense we are on the verge of a Great Awakening, but awakening into what? there are hopeful signs – the growing realization that God has saved us into Community and that our Gospel is shallow unless it really is good news to the poor. But are ideas enough? faith without works is dead. we can zoom information around the globe in the blink of an eye (Kony 2012), but will it bring about systemic change or will our ADD culture quickly switch gears because – oh look – a certain prince likes Katy Perry!? there is still something to be said for flesh and blood and the spoken Word. here is hoping the social revolution opens doors to those meaningful and eternally significant conversations. and I do hope the majority world catches up technology wise and begins to feed us moderns from what we have been famished – miracles, signs and wonders. i too hold out hope as our world shrinks.

      • Stan, you make a great point. Both social media technology and the changing values and thinking of our culture have the potential to lead to revival… or to 6 billion people playing Angry Birds all day. Only the Holy Spirit working through people who have fully submitted themselves to the Lord can bring about revival.

    • I agree that we are poised on the verge of revival. The moral failures of the Gutenbergers have had a negative impact on the Googlers. We have left them a legacy of broken families and moral chaos. Governmental attempts at solving these problems have not produced the desired results. I see the potential for a new movement of God to bring the disenchanted to Christ. New communication tools will play a major role in this revival. My Twitter handle is @mhmcintyre

    • I love Len Sweet's books. The gospel according to Starbucks and Carpa Manana really inspired me when i was preparing to lead a church community. Personally though, whilst i haven't read "Viral", i am intrigued to read it. Firstly because i don't often disagree with Len. And secondly because i'm not sure that i agree that social networking has poised us for revival. It has poised us for sharing revival, and showing it all over the world in minutes, or even live. But it's merely a new platform, a platform on which to show the world what God is like.

      If by revival you mean people meeting Jesus for the first time then i know that that can happen. I have facebook friends i introduced to Jesus whilst playing live facebook games, by sharing what i felt God was telling me in the moment and then praying for them online. I got to encourage them to go to a church and connect with others, and begin to follow Jesus. However I'm yet to see the blind eyes open, and the deaf hear whilst online with others, but then they probably wouldn't be online playing poker. Revival is so much more than people giving their lives to Jesus. Revival is heaven on earth. It means the broken hearted are bound up, the sick are healed, the demonized set free, the lepers are cleansed and the dead are raised. I'm not sure how that is going to happen over facebook or twitter, but i do believe they would make great youtube video's on someone's wall. The whole world could see a revived church. The "guttenbergers" would see the good news of the kingdom thanx to the "googlers"……hopefully.

      My biggest concern for this premise is that the western social networking generation doesn't seem to know how to do relationships, and community with people in person. They are so used to cropping themselves, portraying an ideal self that is realistic and palatable to others, that i think it could be difficult for them to show Jesus their "withered hand". Just as the man with the withered hand chose to show Jesus his brokenness and what he was most ashamed and embarrassed by, i'm not confident that social networking helps people to do this. When jesus asks us to show him our hand, would we show him and everyone in the room (chat room) our hidden stuff, or would we continue to show our cropped self. Would we show him our withered hand or good hand. Especially in a climate where what we share online leaves digital finger prints, and is visible to future employers, future partners, family, friends and many other significant people in our lives. It raises many questions over the "googlers" way or relating, and the culture of sharing that has been constructed in which they live.
      Yes it encourages creativity, communication and connectivity, and even sudo-community, but does it produce free flowing honesty, intimacy and reality. Does it release the love and power of God, or is it just a new way to record it all and share it with the rest of the world? Everything has a dark side, and mankind are really good at finding the darkside of every good thing, and being creative in the shadows of it's goodness.

      Maybe this is Len's point, and as i say i've not read the book, but i'm looking forward to reading it soon. He's a very provocative thinker and i always enjoy his books.
      @comefollowshane on twitter

      • Shane those are all great points. I think what's key about Viral is that Len is not saying that the technology is going to bring about revival – that's what I was expecting before I read the book. He's saying the cultural changes make that more apt to happen. I share your concern about authenticity in social media, but I see a genuine yearning for authenticity in this generation. Most people under 40 don't trust big business, big government or big church. They want real more than polished and so they themselves want to be real more than polished.

    • I don't totally agree with how he views the Gutenbergers because there are always going to be people who will respond better with the traditional methods of the past. However, Revival is totally possible (and maybe even probable) with the ability to reach more people through new and exciting venues such as Google and the internet. God works through many means, as long as the heart is sincere toward Him. This sounds like an exciting book.
      @schoolmomred on Twitter

    • I'm a Gutenberger but I linked to this article through it being shared on Twitter. It really frustrates me when people "assume" that because I was born in a certain era, I'm afraid to embrace digital technology. I work for someone who is much younger than I am and I manage his Facebook, Twitter and blog accounts.

      I find the comparisons between Gutenbergers and Fooglers to be very divisive. There is not one positive attribute to describe my generation. How in the world did we raise such wonderful young people if we don't have a single redeeming quality?
      @DawnMedley on Twitter

      • Thanks for your comment Dawn. I apologize if my review gave you the perception that Viral is "divisive" and contains "not one positive attribute to describe my generation." There are a lot of generalizations made in the comparison of generations, but a few things to note… First, there are always exceptions, such as yourself. Second, it's written with the goal of helping more Gutenbergers understand and embrace the digital era. Third, Gutenbergers and Googlers need each other to succeed. Fourth, the Church and the world need Gutenbergers and Googlers to understand each other and work together to advance the Kingdom of God.

    • I'm interested in reading the book because I generally like the author's messages but also as a Gutenberger who seamlessly transitioned to being a Googler, I'm intrigued with his insights on how to help the groups understand one another. I find labels get in the way of conversation and that when we take a moment to get to know one another then we see that across the generations we are not that different in how we view the world's problems, challenges and opportunities.