Tuesday, June 02, 2009

25 things no one is yet saying about twitter in church

i thought i'd try and punt us into some more critical issues concerning whether or not Twitter has real value...

1. One of the dangers of church-tweet is the desire of users to get their words/thoughts up on screen, making the experience less about engaging the material and more about the self-satisfaction that accompanies recognition

2. Twitter can be distracting for those who don’t tweet, don’t understand the jargon, and get lost whenever a comment is made to insider-tweeters

3. There are only a few ways to display tweet roles, and none of them work really well in large gatherings…consequently, every time the page is refreshed, the visual impact on the congregation is a little jarring and removes people from any real benefit Twitter might actually provide

4. Twitter is a fantastic way for those who are out-of-town, absent, or not-otherwise connected to the local community to be connected with the experience and engaged in the teaching and with other believers

5. Twitter gives skeptics and initiates an easy way to ask questions for clarification as things are happening…consequently, their initial hang-ups and confusions are addressed more quickly, so they can engage more deeply, with the added bonus of ensuring that our own people are empowered and equipped to help others in their spiritual journey instead of just leaving it up to the religious professionals.

6. Social networking and new media have been used in churches like ours (and ours especially) for years. We’ve been doing online devotionals, mixed-media experiments, and collective blogging for almost 20years…so why is Twitter such a big deal?

7. Not everyone pays attention to everything that’s said or done in church…Twitter gives us a way to aim their inattentions back to the things that deserve their focus, though in a different way.

8. People have different learning styles and different ways of being smart (there are multiple “intelligences”), giving people new ways to digest and interact with the material we teach in church allows those whose primary method of learning is not auditory or musical to learn more effectively and more personally.

9. Twitter is a great way to have experts weigh in on key issues, with special highlights given to those “guest tweeters” so the people know they speak with a certain authority.

10. Twitter is a way to remind everyone that they have something to offer the world – a platform, a perspective, a story – and also to hold them accountable for misusing their privilege to tweet inane things like “nice shirt” or “feeling sleepy today.”

11. Twitter can be a wonderful tool for the pastors/leaders to reflect personally on the experience of preaching/teaching/singing/leading after their part of the liturgy has concluded…this gives a much more personal, stripped-back, look at our leaders and their concerns, loves, and insecurities thus reminding us that they are real people.

12. Using Twitter in church grounds our people in an understanding that the media of this world is changing quickly, and our preferred methods of communication are often outdated and decreasingly effective in incarnating the gospel.

13. Using Twitter in church gives us an opportunity to probe deeper into people’s reluctance for change and experimentation…to ask ourselves why we get angry when new things are used, particularly when those new things are used in service to the gospel.

14. Experimenting with Twitter in church gives us a context to approach faith from a new perspective, to use our sanctified imagination and wonder how the message of Jesus might first have been communicated were he born in the 21st C.

15. Using Twitter in church is a way of reminding ourselves that the gospel needs to be heard in the ordinary, everyday, language of the common people in our culture…new media is our koine, and music is our Torah.

16. Twitter can be a negative experience within a church because it creates a sense of hierarchy…those who are uncomfortable with new tech feel stupid and left out (no matter how many disclaimers we make to the contrary), and have a host of new hurdles to overcome in church other than simply the ones they brought in with them.

17. Using Twitter can be a misleading experience in church if people are somehow given the impression that this new tech will actually make them more spiritual…instead of understanding the basic truth that we are all fundamentally spiritual people and everything we do is spiritual regardless of the media we employ.

18. Twitter is uber-valuable insofar as it reminds us of our non-local connectedness…that we are united across boundaries of space and time…it is this invisible connection, the spiritual connection, that unifies the Church universal and eternal

19. Twitter is a spiritual discipline if-and-when we understand that any new tech provides new space and new opportunity for being present with God in new ways…it can be distracting, but so can driving a car, and we better learn to hone in on the presence of the Spirit by conditioning our hearts to become increasingly hospitable to God regardless of our context.

20. Twitter is meaningless and dull when our attempts at spiritual wisdom are exposed as fake and trite…because we’ve tried so hard to sound “spiritual” that we forget to sound human…though, if we’re willing to engage these failings, we find new opportunities for the Spirit to instruct us in a deeper experience of divine-human partnership (i.e. once we relax, God has space to liberate us from our need to try so hard)

21. By exposing just how silly our “spiritual” tweets are, our entire spirituality is exposed as something far more trivial than most of us would freely admit… once you see your “wisdom” on screen (and once everyone else sees it too), you have to acknowledge that your juicy little gems of Max Lucado-ness are embarrassingly poor…and so you either drive deeper into Christian Spirituality and mine meaning, or you walk away from God even further because you realize that the Way of Jesus is just too damn hard…sometimes this walking away looks like an altogether abandonment of faith, and sometimes this walking away looks like an increased enamel of Christian pop culture and/or an affinity for the Bible belt ghetto.

22. Twitter isn’t really here to stay…not for long, anyway…and neither is Twitter in church; but, the ire and futility of this conversation (“is it good to tweet during service?”) will undoubtedly resurface again and again and again…one of our goals is that fewer and fewer people will be uncomfortable with both thoughtless rejection or sheep-like acceptance…we aim to make disciples that learn to dream, to engage, and to think creatively about the future

23. Despite the fact that everyone thinks it’s silly to fight about Twitter, we all continue to do so with increasing verve…this is dumb, and we all know it, but we are now confronted with our lack of maturity…likewise, those who follow the conversation (lurkers) but neglect to participate are guilty of a different kind of immaturity: keeping their truth to themselves for fear of isolating those on the other side…what we have not yet learned is that there are no real sides on team Jesus, except those that force us to ultimately break fellowship…this is a family squabble that’ll go away in a month when the young and the sharp do something else worthy of attention.

24. Twitter is a great way for teens to begin engaging what happens in adult church in ways that make sense to them…likewise it is probably quite healthy for teens to see themselves as reverse-mentors to their technophobic parents and grandparents who may need help engaging the teaching via their tweets

25. Twitter, if nothing else, has provided a great forum for conversation between everyone who thinks they have the corner market on what church should be and how church should be done…as if there were only a couple of different ways


  1. Nathan Randall5:47 PM

    RE: #3, the limited ways to display Tweets... Have you looked into anything like http://twistori.com ? The desktop version for Mac (http://twistoridesktop.com/) might be what you are looking for.

  2. #25 encapsulates the whole 'arguement' over the twitter/church debate. Who really does have the corner on worship? No one.
    Obviously, the Time article leaves most of the story out on the experiment but just the same, I've found most of the blogs are nothing but a bad game of "telephone line."

  3. Insightful post man.