This is my monthly column from "River Region's Journey" magazine, the June 2009 edition. You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bobcrittenden.
Jerry was enthralled by the worship at his local church. The worship leader helped the congregation connect with God’s presence, and Jerry really liked to sing the strains of “How Great is Our God” at the top of his lungs. As the worship time transitioned to other things, Jerry took his cell phone out of his holster and typed out a simple message, “Worship was AWESOME today. Psalm 22:3”. Those 36 characters were fewer than the required 140-character limit for Twitter, a new social networking service that is being used in a number of rather creative ways, especially within the world of Christianity.
I admit, I got caught up in the Facebook craze – for a few weeks. It was fun to see who I went to high school or college with that was on the site, and to reconnect with some old friends. However, when the format changed to put a greater emphasis (in my opinion) on the status updates, I found that a few people basically dominated the conversation, and I didn’t care to jump through the hoops to regulate the banter. Plus, I grew weary of seeing who had played Celebrity Agent, or who had Easter Eggs hidden on their page.
I had, in the meantime, signed up for a Twitter account and discovered that by receiving these “tweets” (nickname for the short messages generated), I could keep up with a host of people and organizations of interest, including news and information sources, ministry leaders, and more. For my content-driven radio show, this became helpful to me in keeping up with the pulse of what was taking place in Christianity and the culture. I could also post information about “The Meeting House”, send it out, and embed it in my website, www.meetinghouseonline.info. So, I became Twitterized – not sure if the founders of Twitter, Evan Williams (creator of Blogger, which was bought by Google) and Biz Stone (originator of the cool name) envisioned what could be done with this catchy little service, but they, along with Jack Dorsey, have people across America “tweeting”, and in very unique ways of interest to people of faith.
TIME Magazine has picked up on this, and in a recent article, “Twittering in Church, with the Pastor’s O.K.”, writer Bonnie Rochman highlights a church in Jackson, Michigan, where the pastors educated their congregation about Twitter and began to encourage banter – during the service – with selected “Tweets”, pasted across the church’s video screens. The article mentions that those attending Mars Hill Church in Seattle regularly tweet during the service. At Trinity Church in New York City, attendees used Twitter messages during their Passion Play, detailing the story of Christ’s crucifixion in short bursts. Next Level Church in Charlotte is encouraging tweeted prayer as a means of expression to God.
Now, I am by no means endorsing this form of communication during your Sunday worship service. I am not planning to pull out my cell phone and start Twittering points of the pastor’s message, at least not anytime soon. I would imagine that this type of behavior could become a distraction, and you might miss a sermon point if you’re tweeting the previous one. But, I do believe that God has given us the Internet as a tool for our individual spiritual growth, and as a means of communicating what He has done in our lives. In that context, a Twitter message in a service might work, as long as it has the pastor’s blessing.
There are hosts of other ways that Twitter can be used for God’s glory. I located recent tweets from Max Lucado, who was in Honduras with evangelist Mike Silva – Max asked for prayer as he sensed the people’s hearts were not receptive to the message, then later on, gave God praise for a spiritual breakthrough…what a tremendous opportunity to ask for prayer, and track the hand of God!
Then, there’s the case of a young man named Scott Harrison – he left the high life in New York City to sign up for volunteer service with Mercy Ships, which takes free medical care to poor nations. After that experience, charity was part of the fabric of his life and he founded a charity to bring clean, safe drinking water to developing nations. In February of this year, the organization, charity: water sponsored “Twestivals” in a reported 202 cities around the world to build awareness and raise money for the effort, and in April, the first Twestival well was dug in Ethiopia. Twitter participants communicated offline and in-person to raise over a quarter of a million dollars!
Imagine how we can use this and other technological tools to communicate prayer needs, ministry updates, devotional thoughts, and ways we’re seeing God working in our midst - encouraging one another and reaching people for Christ!