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WWJT: What Would Jesus Tweet (!?!)

16 Jun

In my ever-continuing conversation with folks out there about the uses of social media, from Facebook to blogging to Twitter, I’ve encountered another bit of fodder for the conversation.

It came via a Twitter re-tweet that I read entitled “7 Reasons Christians Should Twitter.” Before I make any comments on this let me say that, in all fairness to the author – whom I have never met – I can see a clear desire for ministry and creativity at work in life. That being said, I felt like the author’s framework for thinking about use of social media generally, and Twitter specifically, was simplistic.

The author of the article was essentially saying, ‘If we care about Jesus’ mission for the lost then we should be tweeting.’ That’s a bit like saying, if we care about Jesus’ mission for the lost then we should be bicycling. Now, I love bicycling, but the point of bicycling is not to connect with the lost. It’s to get from one place to another or to get exercise, to name a couple of things. Sure, bicycling – and Twitter – can be a means by which we share the message, but to say we should use those things solely because of that gospel reason, in my opinion, loses the tool’s purpose. This was not helped by having WWJD as the seventh reason, stating: “Jesus Would Twitter; the message doesn’t change, but the methods must change!” This could be happily rephrased as ‘What Would Jesus Tweet’!

Twitter exists as a means of social connection and community building. Bicycling exists as a means of transportation and exercise. If we ignore their purpose for existence with a missionary over-purposefulness, then we can easily abuse the means. It’s no longer redeeming the means. Twitter can be a powerful means for making connections amongst people, who otherwise would  never meet or would not maintain connections. It can also be a meaningful force for social change and influence.

While Twitter is misused by many propaganda artists as a means of promoting a product, most Twitter users recognize that for what it is. We do not want to do that with the gospel. We should look for ways that thoughtfully recognize the tool for what it is – Twitter as a form of social media – and then use it within its purpose to achieve a greater end.

Given this, WWJT?

 
 

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2 responses to “WWJT: What Would Jesus Tweet (!?!)

  1. Neal Patel

    June 16, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Matthew,

    Thanks for the discussion. I have thought about this a bit, and my own opinion is that the social medium Twitter is wholly inadequate for purposes of evangelism. I wonder whether bumper stickers and church marquis signs, with their trite and clever sayings are really very effective at evangelism. They usually serve to entertain the initiated, and offend the uninitiated. Twitter is more versatile than a bumper sticker or a church marquis, but it is on that trivial end of the communication spectrum. There just isn’t enough room for substantive, thoughtful, communication, which is what the gospel demands. I don’t think it is useless for purposes of evangelism, but it is far from ideal. That is my opinion, but I am usually the last person to get on the bandwagon.

     
    • Matt Erickson

      June 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Neal, you make a good point about some of the limits of Twitter. I agree with you that the mono-directional messaging of bumper stickers and church signs don’t really serve the purpose that people intend. Mono-directional communication can entertain at best or alienate people at worst. In this era, mono-directional communication is generally irrelevant. From a Christian perspective, and more particularly as an evangelistic perspective, mono-directional communication is not useful or reflective of God and His ways. God is the great conversationalist. He speaks and listens. We get the high and holy privilege of engaging in conversation with the holy God.

      While some people tweet in the some mono-directional manner, this is not really the intent of Twitter or other social media like Facebook. In my opinion, as Christians we should thoughtfully engage with people through social media like Twitter. It provides us with an unprecedented opportunity for conversation that can be redemptive. Unfortunately, we instead can be washed away in triviality or one-way “bill-boarding.”

      With one caveat, I do agree with your comment that “there just isn’t enough room for substantive, thoughtful, communication, which is what the gospel demands.” Twitter is like small talk at a party. It is the chit-chat of everyday living. However, it can provide the opportunity through which you can go to another setting for deeper conversation. It reminds me of how at a social gathering you will chit-chat with people for awhile before sitting down at a table or bar with a few people to talk further. Twitter is the chit-chat that precedes the deeper conversation. Thus, we can interact more deeply at this blog, via email, or even a phone conversation if we would like.

       

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