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Friday, December 31, 2010

People Still Talking About Twitter Church

I'm amazed people are still talking about Twitter Church and Westwinds' TIME article. But, tonight I saw a blog post by Rachel Motte in Siren magazine online and I had to respond.

You can read the whole article here but these are the parts that concerned me . . .


. . . Twitter, it’s argued, strengthens community ties and offers church goers a new way to express what they are thinking and feeling during the Sunday morning service . . .

. . . In other words, twitter allows people to begin silently “fellowshipping” with other believers before the Sunday morning coffee hour even starts . . .

. . . But is this genuine community? No, not really. That’s the problem . . .

. . . The writer of Hebrews told his readers, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) He meant that literally. No matter how advanced communication methods become, there will never be an adequate substitute for face-to-face interaction, and there will never be a replacement for real-life fellowship . . .

. . . We have souls, and we crave interaction with other souls, but we also have bodies. When we communicate through technology, we functionally disembody ourselves. There’s a great difference, for example, between talking to your mother on the phone and talking to her in person. When you can communicate with someone unseen without even using your voice, you separate yourself even further. Misunderstandings become more commonplace and relationship building more difficult. Instead of bringing us closer to those around us, technologies like twitter actually tend to separate us – and it’s hard to teach people about the glories of the incarnation while dis-incarnating yourself online . . .

. . . So should you tweet during church? Not unless you are trying to help someone far away (say, in the mission field) feel marginally included. When you are in church, you should be in church, and you risk being less than fully present if you’re busy with your iPhone. So perhaps instead of asking WWJT? “What would Jesus tweet?” the real question should be WJT? “Would Jesus tweet?”


You make some decent points here Rachel and certainly I don’t mean any disrespect but I think your conclusions are a bit short-sighted. I hope we can have some friendly-fire here.

Your presumption is that the weekend gathering of believers is simply about community but I'm not sure that is the biblical apex of gathering together. If community is the goal of weekend gatherings then churches need to make a ton of adjustments. There is no community listening to a speaker for 30 minutes, there is no community watching people sing on a stage, there is no community watching videos, dramas, etc.

I agree face to face communication is preferable but your argument about communication is misplaced. When do people ever communicate with one another during church? It would be one thing if a church was trying to replace face to face communication with technology but instead, a church was introducing another kind of communication into an environment where interaction seldom happens.

You also said, “When you are in church, you should be in church, and you risk being less than fully present if you’re busy with your iPhone.” I see where you are coming from but you are making two different arguments here. You suggest that Twittering isn’t real “community” but you introduce another argument when you mention being “fully present.” If by being fully present you are suggesting one should be still and listen to someone speak, there is certainly no community in that.

At Westwinds we believe the Bible gives an incredible amount of freedom for corporate gatherings. We strive to create an original, unsullied, experience-rich, multi-layered environment where we increase the occurrence of people interacting with God, his Word, his truth, his people, and face their barriers that interrupt and antagonize the life Jesus invites. The only non-negotiable element in the whole weekend experience is God’s Word as the living, enlightening torrent of truth that must be present every week. Other than that one item, everything else is negotiable.

I certainly don't believe Twitter is for everyone. We experimented a few times three years back and we use it occasionally in different ways. One of the things it does is it gives people another way of being involved in the weekend gathering as opposed to just being a spectator. I think we need to think of many other ways of accomplishing this kind of interaction.

John Voelz

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