Jesus and the Twelve "Strong Social Ties" (Apostles)
Obviously, Jesus Christ has built the largest "social network" on the planet, incorporating almost 2 billion people. I find it interesting that this network started with four fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22), a tax collector (Matthew 9:9) and other tradesmen, a limited network of a few "strong" local social ties. He focused their efforts on the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel and not the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5,6), purposefully keeping an initial small, yet strong social network.
M. S. Granovetter’s classic work, “The strength of weak ties”, published in American Journal of Sociology 78, (1973), exemplified the importance of “weak” social ties in finding a job. Jesus uses “weak” ties, as well as “strong” ties to build His Kingdom.
Jesus developed strong social bonds with these twelve men, and arguably closer bonds with the Zebedee brothers, James and John, over the course of three and a half years.
After His death and resurrection, Jesus told them that they would be developing a social network far beyond Jerusalem, one that would extend to the "uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
But in the early days, the spread of Christianity and its social network was limited to Jews. The apostles did not try to proselytize Gentiles for nearly 10 years after His death and resurrection. It was Cornelius from Caesaria, who was part of an Italian regiment, who was the first "non-Jew" to be converted to Christianity. The apostle Peter was summoned to meet up with Cornelius and his household through a number of God-inspired visions.
But Peter was not responsible for the broad geographical growth of the social network we now know as Christianity. Peter and the Jerusalem church had selected Stephen, a faithful young man, to wait tables and serve the widows in the church (Acts 6:1-5). Stephen would be considered a "weak tie" to Jesus and to Peter. Stephen was persecuted and stoned to death for his faith in Christ (Acts 7:54-58). His body was laid at the feet of another young man, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:58), clearly another "weak tie".
Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4) and it was a converted Saul, who became the apostle Paul, after meeting up with Ananias, who was called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth and to the Gentile nations (Acts 9:15).
So, through a series of "weak ties", the message and faith of Christianity began an explosive trek throughout the known world, primarily through the efforts of the uber social networker, the Apostle Paul.