by Scott Greening
One of the beloved studies of the Bible is the examination of the “one another” passages. We are told to love, not oppress, be at peace with, show hospitality to, honor, and serve one another (among others). Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to tweet one another. So we are forced to consider the validity of using and embracing Twitter within our local churches. In part one of this article I proposed several marketing uses of Twitter that churches can and should embrace in their efforts to communicate their identity to the community. In part two we will consider extending Twitter beyond a marketing tool to becoming a tool for facilitating corporate community.
Churches are meant to be communities of interconnected individuals who are in relationship with one another due to their common salvation. Churches must actively seek to generate this interconnectedness between individuals. At first glance Twitter and other social networking platforms seem to be ideal means of facilitating community within churches. In my opinion, Twitter has both positives and negatives when it comes to building church community.
Twitter’s Positive Contributions
Twitter does provide positive contributions to developing genuine community. First, it provides a vehicle for achieving the “one another” exhortations of Scripture. A melancholy tweet could generate replies of encouragement. These replies could take the form of tweets or amazingly real interaction by phone or face-to-face. These actions could be described as loving one another (John 13:34), caring for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), and bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
One could also use Twitter to greet one another (2 Corinthians 13:12). A hermeneutics book considers the validity of transposing greeting with a holy kiss to greeting with a handshake. Perhaps the next edition of this book will have to consider transposing the greeting with a kiss to greeting with a tweet. A tweet stating, “Dreading to pack the truck for our cross-town move tomorrow” could elicit fellow church members’ aid in the process. These responses would demonstrate kindness toward one another (Ephesians 4:32). Tweets communicating a loss in life, sickness, or significant events provide opportunities for church members to pray for one another (James 5:16). Churches that embrace and facilitate these usages of Twitter could be described as stirring up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
Twitter’s second positive contribution in developing genuine community is the real-time, viral nature of Twitter. As church members interact and move in real life, they are building community through tweets. This can all happen because the communication platform has been decentralized. Communication does not need to wait until Sunday or Wednesday night. Twitter also facilitates members’ communicating with one another directly rather than relying on church leadership to receive and then redistribute information and needs to other members. All of this promotes believers’ ministering as priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
Third, Twitter can reveal common interests among church members. Twitter is often maligned because some people feel compelled to broadcast the most trivial aspects of their lives. Tweets such as, “I am eating a kiwi” or “Off for a bike ride” may cause some to groan and raise the question, “Who cares?” However, these trivial tweets can foster genuine community. Friendships are formed over shared interests and abilities. Church members who may have never known about a shared interest can discover these and forge friendships that might not have occurred otherwise.
I generally take a positive stance toward Twitter in relation to generating genuine community, but I do have some cautions. First, Twitter interactions are only a means to genuine community. The growing popularity of online social networking may be producing in individuals a lack of skills to interact in real life. Genuine Christian community and fellowship must happen in face-to-face, real life scenarios. The Biblical injunction to not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25) must continue to be proclaimed to people who are always “socially networking” but rarely interacting in person.
Second, Twitter may foster unwise communication. Proverbs 10:19 reminds us that “when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” The usage of Twitter must be filtered by the precepts of Scripture. It may be easy to send off a snide, hurtful tweet due to the distance and anonymity that the Internet provides, but that makes it no less sinful.
Third, Twitter may be a tool for fostering pride. Twitter “success” is often measured in numbers of followers. This may cause some to sinfully feel superior to others because they have more followers. Twitter may also reveal the sin of pride by those who do not have more followers but think they should. Twitter is set up for individuals to broadcast their thoughts, opinions, and activities to the world. Individuals not using the principles of Scripture in these interactions can quickly slide into pride and self-centeredness.
Twitter can be used as a tool to generate genuine Christian community. It must be used skillfully and with Biblical wisdom. Tweets must never replace real life, face-to-face interaction. If these principles are observed, I would encourage you to go ahead and tweet one another!
In the next part of this ongoing article we will consider the appropriateness of bringing Twitter into corporate worship. Keep sharing your thoughts with me through the comments below or tweet me @chicagoscott.