Did you know that Office Depot was ranked #1 in customer service last year? They even beat out Nordstrums.
That’s what the manager at Office Depot told me this afternoon. If it’s true (and it doesn’t appear to be) then that’s pretty remarkable. I don’t recall ever visiting a Nordstrum store, but since he mentioned it, they must have impressive customer service too. And the fact that Office Depot beat them (they didn’t) seems pretty remarkable.
The thing is, if I hadn’t looked it up, I probably would have believed him. And in all honesty, he might be right according to some rating system that I haven’t found. My point isn’t to consider the impressiveness of customer service at retail stores or even the truthfulness of salespeople in these stores.
My point is about remarkability. If I hadn’t looked it up, the next time I drove my family past Office Depot, I might have told my wife about the little factoid my friend told me at the cash register. I might have remarked about it. I knew something she didn’t and it was at least nominally worth sharing.
What makes something remarkable?
I’m reading a terrific new book called Contagious by Jonah Berger. It is about why things go viral. It just happened to be published a couple of months after I started working on a little manifesto about evangelization I’m calling Viral Catholicism.
I can’t help but apply everything he writes to our Catholic pursuit of a new evangelization. In chapter 1, Berger focuses on what he calls “social currency.” His theory is that ideas spread because people share things that will give them social currency.
We have an inherent desire to be accepted and loved and one way in which we satisfy this desire is by sharing ideas that make us seem like we’re “in the know.” We like being a part of something exclusive or knowing something others don’t and we like to talk about it. One aspect of ideas and products that have social currency is something Berger calls “inner remarkability.”
The example he uses is Snapple, the iced tea brand of drinks. Under the lids of Snapple bottles you will find interesting and new facts that you probably didn’t know. These facts are, indeed, remarkable. We open a bottle, check out the lid, and share it with the people around us because we have discovered something new that we’ve likely never heard before.
The newness makes it worth talking about.
Something that is remarkable is worth remarking about or as Seth Godin likes to say, “something worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.” (To read more about Godin’s thoughts on remarkability, read his book Purple Cow).
Make Catholicism Remarkable
The challenge of evangelization today is that the people we must now evangelize have already heard the message. They already know the stories from the Bible. Many of them went to Catholic schools or parish CCD programs. They have celebrated Christmas and Easter at some point in their lives. At the very least, they know about Jesus and the Bible from TV documentaries.
In other words, Catholicism and Christianity just aren’t that remarkable to many people today because nothing seems new to them.
This is why we are called to become witnesses as a part of a new evangelization.
We need to find ways to make Christianity and Catholicism remarkable. We need to share concepts and experiences that are new, surprising, unexpected, exceptional, and worth talking about.
Have you ever had a remarkable experience at confession? I have. It is definitely worth sharing. You probably have too, but have you shared it with anyone? Have you shared it with your friends who don’t go to church? Why not? What’s holding you back?
I don’t share my experiences with my faith nearly often enough, yet that is is the only chance we have of creating a Church that grows rather than shrinks. It is the only way to build a remarkable Catholicism–a viral Catholicism.
Viral Action Step:
Reflect on your life as a Catholic disciple. What encounters and experiences with Christ have you had that you would consider remarkable?
In other words, what are some experiences that you have had that you feel must be shared. Imagine sharing it with someone who is already a fully-committed member of the Church. What are those experiences you would want to share?
Write them down. Describe them in detail.
Now, who are the people in your life who have never heard about this side of your life? Do they go to church? Are they fallen away Catholics? Are they practicing Catholics who keep their faith private? Write their names down.
Now go make a plan to share your remarkable experience with them.
Hey Jared, nice article! I guess great minds DO think alike…I am currently reading this book and just posted about it too! Check it out: http://catechistsjourney.loyolapress.com/2013/04/15/faith-that-is-caught-not-taught-what-makes-a-message-contagious/
I’ll be sure to link to your post as well!
Hey Joe, I saw that post. It was funny. I had just written this and smiled when I saw you were thinking the same things I was. Good book so far!