Monday, June 01, 2009

up twit creek without a paddle

after all the hullabaloo i figure it's time for me to weigh in a little bit on the is-it-ok-to-tweet-in-church dialogue.

but, honestly, it feels like a fantastically stupid conversation to be having in the first place.

i mean, we all agree that worship is about elevating Jesus Christ

we all agree that church is about gathering lovers and followers of Jesus for encouragement, community, mission, instruction (and a host of other biblically substantive ecclesial functions)

we all agree that the container of the church looks different (and, in fact, SHOULD look different) in various cultural settings

and we all agree that the culture of the 21st C West is changing at a rapid pace driven by the powerful forces of media, economy, globalism, and technology context of all that, why is there even a debate about twitter?

twitter is a tool and, like any tool, can be used in service to the mission of the church or not.

it's like a drum can play drums, or stab your sister in the eye.

honestly, that's the entire issue right there.

end of story.

those who say that twitter subverts the spirituality of churches are only right if some moron is using twitter as a way to be cool or try and grab a few headlines.

we're cool.
we've grabbed a few headlines because of twitter.
but we never used twitter for that reason.

the controversy surrounding twitter is much like the controversy surrounding drums in church, contemporary worship choruses, and video screens for use in worship.

there are those early adopters who will use just about anything as an expression of worship. strangely enough, some of us early adopters are actually quite critical regarding the ways we use these things...instead of our oft-parodied caricature which depicts us as rabid, slathering webheads with a fetish for technolust and video games.

on the other end of the spectrum, we have a group of folks who seem content to worship in a time machine. these folks often bring up great arguments against thoughtless uses of new tech/experiences. but, truthfully, i've yet to read one single article or blog post that levels any more significant criticism that the w:impotent thought that we "must be doing this to be cool."

to me, it all sounds like:
   drums? hell, no!
   screens? blasphemy!
   twitter? same to you!

as for john piper, who so recently blogged that he'd never tweet during sex with his wife, or tweet praying with the dying, etc...

i appreciate what he's getting at, but he's really overstating for effect. and, i don't agree 100% with his commentary on the natural fragility of spiritual connecting and exultation.

furthermore, there are many things i'd do in church that i wouldn't do while in bed with my wife.

for example:
   i don't sing songs in bed
   or give money
   or read a bulletin
   or invite thousands of my closest friends to share in the experience with me
   but i do all of those things every week in church.

it feels odd to say it, but - John Piper - church and sex are different.

anyway, on a more personal note, i suppose it's worth mentioning that i was once very opposed to twittering. i don't have the time for new social media (i never check my facebook, and i hardly blog), and some of the fruit i was seeing from twitter in the lives of my friends early on made me suspicious.

but my friend John Voelz challenged me: do we really believe that the gospel should be lived, and shared, and demonstrated in the cultural containers of our day...or not?

i signed up for twitter...reluctantly, almost clandestinely...and had my mind changed through the experience.

as a pastor of a larger church i don't have the time for 1-on-1 counseling like i used to.
i can't afford to take everyone out for coffee each week like i did as a college pastor.
i certainly can't seem to squeeze in time to discover everybody's personality quirks and idiosyncrasies - those things that make them beautiful.

but - once i began the T - i found that i got 90% of what i used to get through some basic, mostly banal, 140 character exchanges.

don't get me wrong: twitter isn't the shiznit.

it's just a convenient little tool
   that almost 1/3 of our church uses every single day
      to stay in touch
      to laugh
      to pray
      to encourage
      and to be together.

so of course we'd use it in church. our people were using it in church before we ever had a "tweet during church" event. it has been a natural extension of who we are and how we live in this liquid world.

but church isn't about twitter. the tweets are just a way to probe, locate, ask questions, reflect, play, and make the worship gatherings more interactive...more participatory.

after all, we want our people to engage what's happening

especially when we're teaching the scriptures

and - like it or not - people don't do that well when they're told to just sit still and listen to the old white man behind the pulpit.


for what it's worth, you might also check out my friend John's thoughts on the matter here.

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