Eugene Cho

to twitter or not to twitter…at church

twittering at church / time magazineAs you know, I joined Twitter (@eugenecho) about two months ago after asking you for Twitter advice. I’m convinced that it’s very useful – particularly because it is what you make of it. I do find it comical when the Twitter critics chat about how much they dislike Twitter – and yet, they’re updating their Facebook statuses every other hour. Huh?

But why do we tend to go overboard?  For example, I was reading the article below from Time Magazine entitled, Twittering in Church, and while I fully embrace the changing mode of technology, communication, and language (and the church’s need to learn and engage in this language), I’m uncertain about the church encouraging people to twitter through the different elements of a church worship service: singing, sermons, communion, etc.

Maybe, I’m getting old fashioned.  Heck, I joined Facebook after the majority of my church joined and finally caved in to Twiiter. But I’d like to hear your opinions:

  • What do you think of encouraging people to twitter through a service?
  • What are the boundaries?  How far is too far?

I liken this to my post months ago about video venues coming near you.  I support using technology, utilizing videos, and having them available as a resource but think we’re crossing unhealthy boundaries by replacing live and local pastors with somebody on a jumbo screen – even if they’re on high definition!  Just because one can respond “we do it for the glory of Jesus” to everything seems dangerous to me.

Here’s the article from Time Magazine:

John Voelz isn’t trying to brag, but it’s fair to say he was down with Twitter before most people knew it was a proper noun.

Last year, Voelz, a pastor, was tweeting at a conference outside Nashville about ways to make the church experience more creative — ways to “make it not suck” — when suddenly it hit him: Twitter.

Voelz and David McDonald, the other senior pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, Mich., spent two weeks educating their congregation about Twitter, the microblogging site that challenges users to communicate in 140 characters or less. They held training sessions in which congregants brought in their laptops, iPhones and BlackBerrys. They upped the bandwidth in the auditorium.

As expected, banter flourished. Tweets like “Nice shirt JVo” and “So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz” flashed across three large video screens. But there was heartfelt stuff too.

  • “I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything.”
  • “The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful”
  • “sometimes healing is painful”

There’s a time and place for technology, and most houses of worship still say it’s not at morning Mass. But instead of reminding worshippers to silence their cell phones, a small but growing number of churches across the country are following Voelz’s lead and encouraging people to integrate text-messaging into their relationship with God.

In Seattle, Mars Hill churchgoers regularly tweet throughout the service. In New York City, Trinity Church marked Good Friday by tweeting the Passion play, detailing the stages of Jesus’ crucifixion in short bursts.

At Next Level Church, outside Charlotte, N.C., it’s not only O.K. to fuse social-networking technology with prayer; it’s desirable.

On Easter Sunday, pastor Todd Hahn prefaced his sermon by saying, “I hope many of you are tweeting this morning about your experience with God.”

“It’s a huge responsibility of a church to leverage whatever’s going on in the broader culture, to connect people to God and to each other,” says Hahn.

If worship is about creating community, Twitter is an undeniably useful tool. The trick is to not let the chatter overshadow the need for quiet reflection that spirituality requires. At Westwinds, people can ask questions about the sermon that the pastors will answer later, or they can tweet in real time and hope another congregant offers insight. Some use Twitter as a note-taking tool. Often, it’s pastor-directed, with McDonald preaching while Voelz taps out, “In what way do you feel the spirit of God moving within you?” Discuss.
There have been at least a dozen “Twitter Sundays” at Westwinds, but the 150 or so Twitterers of Westwind’s 900 adult members are free to tweet at any time, at any service, whenever the spirit moves them.

The same rules apply at Next Level, where pastor Hahn headed straight to his office to log on as soon as the inaugural Twitterfest ended in April. Punching in “nextlevel” in Twitter’s search function, he read:

  • “had awesome music today and yes i am twittering in church.
  • “nothing u do 4 the lord is in vain.”
  • “I think my thumbs are going to be sore”

Next Level has no plans to make Twitter a formal part of each week’s service, but Hahn advises parishioners that “if God leads you to continue this as a form of worship by all means do it.”

Robbie McLaughlin took him up on it. The graphic designer used Twitter the Sunday after Easter and says he intends to do it again, as he was caught up by the way it transformed how he worshipped. He likes the way it helps him see what God is doing in other people’s lives during the service. (And there’s another benefit too: no more misplaced musings jotted down on that day’s program. “With Twitter,” he points out, “your notes are there forever.”)

Though the Next Levels and Westwinds may be the face of the future, for now, they’re just a quirky minority. But Voelz gets at least five e-mails a week from people inquiring how to launch Twitter within their church. How did you rig the screen resolution so people could read the tweets? What was members’ reaction? And, not surprisingly: Got any tips to persuade church leadership this is way cool? [original article]

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61 Responses

  1. Benny Salas says:

    I’m a Twitter-holic as you might know, but I think it can go to far if people are Twittering while your sharing a sermon. I personally do it while Im sitting in on a sermon to give the twitter/facebook audience a glimpse into some good thoughts from the speaker, so Im not necessarily against it but I can see how if it’s the culture of a church that it can be also distracting because your replying and trying to catch the latest tweet from other followers or people your following. It actually drives my wife crazy when I do it so I have had to chill out…..That’s of course until she got on Twitter @sharonsalas 2 weeks ago and I think she getting hooked…..Maybe having a time during church time to posts tweets from the sermon might encourgae others to tweet more toward the end of your gathering time then during but who knows how that will play out.

  2. your friend says:

    How do you feel when you talk to someone and she/he is not looking into your eyes/face, but her/his eyes are wandering, watching others, smiling at others?

    That I how I feel when I preach and people in the congregation get busy with their twitter.

    I am supporting multi-task gifts and admire those who have and practice multi-tasking, but there are beautiful ways of manner we better encourage one another to keep. 1.Cor. 13: Love is not rude.

  3. Andy M says:

    I’m sure that there are creative ways that it could be used, but here is my opinion off the top of my head.

    Imagine that you and a friend are deep in conversation, and then their phone rings, and they quickly answer it, and then for the next 5 minutes they carry on a complete conversation with whoever called, with you just standing there uncomfortable and not sure what to do.

    Personally I think it isn’t just rude to be so easily distracted, but it shows a persons priorities, and where you fall within them. We desperately need to get back to face to face encounters with people. Electronic communication is not the same as talking with someone face to face and being fully present with them.

    When God told Moses to climb Mt. Sinai there is an odd piece of scripture that essentially says, “climb up the mountain, and then be on the mountain.” There has been discussions about whether this was a typo or what, but there is this idea that God knows that when Moses finished climbing up the mountain, his human inclination would be to begin thinking about his climb down, rather than to focus solely on being on the mountain with God.

    We need to learn to be fully present wherever we are. If we are with our family, then we need to be focused, mind body and soul, on our family. If we are in church then we need to “be” at church, if we are at work then we need to “be” at work.

    I’m not saying that facebook, twitter, whatever cannot be useful and if used creatively maybe can be helpful with a service. But I personally don’t see how. And I also think that people overall are losing their ability to interact with other people face to face.

    It is kind of like how a child, while they may love to watch Santa Claus, the easter bunny, disney characters, whatever, when they encounter someone dressed up as those characters the kid freaks out and starts crying, but put them back in front of the TV and they will gleefully continue to watch those same characters.

  4. I think everybody is overthinking this a bit.

    If something you read or saw that impacted your heart, tweet it. Maybe one line in a praise song that you have sang a million times hit your heart like no other business. Maybe something offtopic that the pastor said hit your heart. Maybe something ontopic that the pastor said hit your heart.

    In other words, if the Holy Spirit moves and stirs your heart, share it however you want to.

  5. eugenecho says:

    @joseph: i get that.

    what are the boundaries? if we’re asking folks too turn off our cellphones? if we’re asking our folks to not bring their laptops to churches and check out footballs scores via the wi-fi, why are we encouraging the usage of twitter (and in some cases, teaching people how to use it) during the actual services.

    i love the idea of broadcasting the mission, vision, and movements of a church community, but you need to define some of the boundaries.

    i also find it interesting that churches aggregate some of the tweets of their services. some = the good things. i’ve never seen anything published (as of yet) where churches are sharing stuff that people have tweeted that are not “edifying” or “complimentary” in some way.

    but maybe you’re right that we’re overthinking.

  6. John Grebe says:

    In some ways I see their point of how people can use Twitter to micro journal their way through their experience of a worship service. While I have nothing against people people keeping spiritual journals and taking notes during church services I am not sure about using Twitter for this purpose. Sure it can be argued to be a form of outreach ministry just like Christians who blog about their faith, but I am not sure given the ego centered nature of Twitter where it seems as if people try to have the most important status update to look good before others. So I think that the question that people should be asking is why does on Twitter or even blog about their faith journey to share it with the world online. Is it share their reflections with others in hopes of blessing others in turn or entering into dialogue with others? To share their struggles with others for support and accountability from others? Or is is to do one’s religious deeds to be seen by others … something that Jesus warns us about in the Bible. If anything it should be determined by a person by person basis as compared to a church by church basis as even though I’m sure at any given Church there is a mix of people that Twitter who can and can not handle Twittering through church with right motives to grow in their walk with God and ministry to others and not to build themselves up before others.

  7. DK says:

    This is my take. We are all egotistical narcissists. We want attention and want to make a name for ourselves. The modern church is no different than the story of the Tower of Babel. But what’s awkward is that we now use the name of Jesus to do this.

    Who are we worshipping again?

  8. daniel so says:

    Eugene – Great question. Although I’m a pretty avid Twitter user, most of our congregation is not (and I’m not in a big hurry to convert them).

    I’m all for the idea of people participating, rather than being passive “audience” members, during church gatherings. I think Twitter has the potential to be useful in engaging people but, as Shane Hipps writes (The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture, Flickering Pixels) there are always unintended consequences when utilizing technology.

    In our church, we try to foster interactivity through face-to-face dialogue (although, we’re small enough so that having a short discussion during the sermon is logistically possible).

  9. I think this could be a great solution to an as-yet-unsolved problem. The structure of Christian sermons is that there’s one person in front dispensing information to a large group of people who are only slightly less informed than the speaker is – and often more informed. For my part I’ve sat through so many sermons where I disagreed, had background info the pastor didn’t, had personal experience the pastor didn’t etc, and there was no way to express that. That’s no recipe for church intimacy.

    It’s my opinion that this 1-to-many sermon structure is fundamentally broken in an age of literacy. I think silent conversations among the congregation is a helpful way to encourage engagement without drowning out the person who’s delivering prepared remarks. I think if most pastors knew how informed and opinionated and interesting the spiritual lives of each of their congregants is they’d find a way to turn the standard “passive lecture” format into a conversation. Twitter is just one way to do that.

  10. anne says:

    as an external processer, i understand the desire to jot down and share blurbs/lines that catch your attention and make you think. but can’t it wait? it sounded like in the article that some churches post the tweets on a large screen during the service – that would be entirely distracting, i would think, and i personally would just read the tweets and not listen. and yes, sinfully, evaluate who said what.

    i also am concerned that this is another example of the church trying to use a modern tool of the world to reach the world, but instead turning it into a separate sub church-culture arena that becomes inaccessible to people outside of the church. are these tweet convos an outreach to the lost and to engage in dialogue, or just a way to be twistedly “in the world and not of it”?

    You know what is next – a Christian Twitter site…

  11. anne says:

    J.D.C. … I get that. Definitely good point bringing out that we are in an age of literacy now. So why dont we change the format in the church, so we can have people to people contact? I.e. relationships?

    And it varies among cultures. In my black baptist church and its tradition/culture, the people respond to the preacher audibly and visibly. It becomes akin to a conversation.

  12. Nathan says:

    I don’t really see the value of Twitter. I understand that others do, and that’s cool.

    I have no problem with twittering during service with one very important qualification – it has to be about worship, not self-aggrandizement. I think John put it very well. If it is essentially an electronic form of journaling, then great. In that case it’s a form of engaging oneself with the message (and sharing it with others, which is also a good thing). I do share his concerns about it becoming self-centered, and I do think that for most of us it would probably be a distraction.

    By the way, lots of unhip things can be distractions too. The “notes” section of the bulletin can be a distraction if it is used for to-do lists or recipe ideas. Videos or powerpoints can be an excuse to mentally check out for a few minutes. Perhaps twitter is more of an “enabling” technology than pen and paper, but our basic flaws and temptations don’t go away when the electronic devices are turned off.

  13. eugenecho says:

    @JCD – great comment.

    but is it that there isn’t an opportunity for someone to share their disagreements, opinions, etc. at all or that there isn’t an equal platform.

    clearly, folks can do that now and do so: blogging, notes, post church meals, community groups… i agree that it’s still lacking and needs more intentional cultivation

    @anne: a Christian twitter site?

    hmm. how about ‘christter”

  14. Joanna says:

    I’d have to wholeheartedly agree with Andy M. I definately agree that it is so difficult to pay attention to anyone talking when you are having a conversation with somebody else via text. Besides, if I was speaking, and someone was texting or twittering while doing so, my natural tendancy is to shut up, and walk away. I find that very inconsiderate and rude.

    It saddens me greatly when we start losing that face to face connection with people. That I have to brodcast my doings and feelings via facebook status or twitter instead of someone actually taking the time to ask me how I am doing. If something strikes you, write it down, seek someone out, and have an in-depth face to face conversation with them. That way you can cry together, or get that hug which you may so desperately need.

  15. eugenecho says:

    @joanna: i’m sorry, were you writing something? 🙂 i was twittering on my cellphone.

  16. Joanna says:

    @eugenecho: lol…I was responding to your blog while at work anyways🙂

  17. @eugene: One of my goals for this next year is to make better use of time with the church outside of the service to engage with the sermon content. It’s tough to do though because it’s hard to be the first voice to disagree and to bring up heavy issues during a social gathering. I usually just wimp out and pretend the sermon hadn’t offended/enlightened/bored/worried/confused me.

    I was just reading yesterday about the way communities would gather on the Sabbath in Jesus’ time. Apparently they sat facing each other with rabbis taking turns reading to the group and discussing with them rather than having one person in front with everyone facing toward that person (Borg, “Jesus…”, 2006). I don’t think it’s appropriate that everyone have an equal platform but I think the current model is too far in the other direction. When there are several M.Divs in the audience it seems like a waste to not have conversation.

    @anne: I’ve grown increasingly appreciative of the call-and-response of black churches. I used to think it just slowed down the educational aspect of the talk but now I’m liking how engaged it makes the congregation. It would do me good to get out of my super-white church for a weekend.

  18. matt says:

    No thank you. It’s not a football game, so I don’t need highlights every five minutes.

  19. tammy says:

    I agree, but keep in mind so many young folks have walked away from the church.. may help them to worship and be connected, eventhough it is not classy.

  20. brian says:

    i’m a pastor and i have mixed feelings about it. on one hand, i love the idea of bringing in more participation into the worship service. i’ve read that just plain doodling already makes ppl better listeners; i imagine twittering does more so. i’m all for moving ppl from spectators to participants in worship. at the same time, i think it may encourage a certain kind of freneticism in spirituality in an age when we already have a hard enough time focusing and giving God our undivided attention. it’s not a perfect comparison at all, but i couldn’t imagine my wife appreciating it if i was twittering while we were out on a date. so my internal jury is still out.

  21. andrew says:

    a sermon is not a conversation, at it’s heart it’s a lecture. to best retain information during a lecture, i take notes. what does it matter if those notes are on paper or electronically, or via twitter or facebook. it’s another way for people to absorb what they’re hearing and then to share this with others while it’s still fresh in their minds/hearts.

  22. I think twittering during church is a great idea. And when someone invents a technology that claims to translate thoughts and feelings, we’ll finally be able to stop talking to each other. Then maybe there will come a device that stimulates your brain to feel like you’ve experienced touch, and it will have buttons for “feel nurtured” and “give affection,” so that we can finally stop shaking hands, stop hugging and stop holding one another. Intimacy will become nothing more than a menu of emoticons. And it will be a glorious day, because relationships will be totally screen-based.

    I assume my point is pretty obvious.

    btw i like JDC’s posts/ideas here but think we can accomplish give and take in service without hiding behind our gadgets.

  23. eugenecho says:

    @jdc: i really like you’re sharing.

    but let me share this one thought. couple years ago, a group of people wanted to get together as a group and just talk about the sermon the past sunday. then, i got couple emails about what an egotistical pastor i was to bless a group of people to talk about my sermon.

    damn. you just can’t win.

  24. Daniel Azuma says:

    Okay, I’m going to have to go on a rant here.

    Pastor Eugene: you made a comment on Twitter vs Facebook that seems directed squarely at people like me (who come in and out of Facebook with some trepidation but avoid Twitter like the plague), and I think I need to address it.

    Facebook is a highly complex platform-oriented ecosystem that functions as a technological enabler. By that I mean it provides a plethora of basic tools that can be extended and combined in a large variety of ways. More importantly, because of the open platform for application development, it can be, and already has been, extended in unlimited ways directed not by the nature of the technology but by the nature of the community that interacts with it.

    Twitter is a highly specific, opinionated service that directs its use based on the limitations of the technology. Where do you think the 140 character limit comes from? It comes from text messaging, the most limited form of communication ever devised by man, the ultimate end of a long history of systematic castration of human communication by technology. The Twitter experience therefore devolves into a flat and highly constrained shadow of interaction, and it takes human community down with it. A short while ago you yourself posted a link to a video that illustrates the point much more beautifully than I ever could here.

    My point is this. If the goal is community, then services like Facebook and Twitter incite a conflict between the nature of community and the nature of the (technological) medium. If the medium is restrictive (like Twitter), then it tends to redefine community in its own image. Technology is in effect more powerful than community. If the medium is more complex and extensible, then it tends to fade more into the background and allows community to direct the technology in its own image. Community thus has more of the upper hand. That latter I think is what we want. In fact, when we say things like “it’s about how we use it” then we are assuming the latter.

    Twitter is almost the purest example of the former in existence. It is such an important and powerful player in the industry precisely because it has been redefining communication in its own image. And that is precisely why it is problematic for our purposes. Facebook itself has the same issue to a lesser extent, and ultimately I’m not really defending it here. But at least it gives community more breathing room, and we have seen much more interesting social phenomena arise from it than from Twitter.

    Put another way, I would say more real and rich communication takes place during two minutes of holding hands with someone you love and saying nothing, than during two days of Facebooking or two years of Twittering. Why is that? It’s all about the medium. Each medium interacts with and directs communication in its own way, but some are more restrictive than others and some are more human than others. It is important to be able to tell the difference beforehand. Because once you’re in it, your thinking becomes accustomed to the restrictions around you and you can no longer see beyond the walls of your shack.

    Now to bring this back to Twitter in the church: I find the idea absolutely appalling. Some of the reasons have been mentioned by other commenters. Andy shows us how it encourages distraction over engagement, scatteredness over presence. DK reminds us of our addiction to attention, and Twitter is all about an attention economy. Anne points out the same tired pattern of uncritically accepting and “christianizing” secular culture rather than working to bring about Kingdom culture. And Ian: amen brother.

    Jack Danger, dang, I have a lot of respect for you and I know what you’re saying: the one-to-many sermon mechanism is an anachronism from an age in which few were literate and almost none theologically intelligent. The problem is real, but Twitter is far from a “great” solution. It fails because it goes to the other extreme, assuming that everyone is (equally) theologically intelligent. This is not the case. People are literate and opinionated, but it can be argued that spiritual maturity and theological intelligence are nevertheless currently at a low ebb. The one thing worse than a clueless preacher (and believe me, I’ve seen them) is a congregation of a hundred clueless preachers all speaking at the same time (and believe me, I’ve seen those too).

    Supporters of social technology would say that the system works anyway because it induces a meritocracy, where the “best” information (e.g. the “best” tweets) tend to rise to the top. Alas, that’s merely wishful thinking, for three reasons. First, who is qualified to judge what is “best”? If the pastor is, as you suggest, not wise and informed, then it becomes a free-for-all of incompetent judges judging incompetent material. Second, especially with something like Twitter that encourages large volumes of shallow information, the task of sorting through the mass of data becomes overwhelming. Third, and perhaps most importantly, as much as we intellectually want a meritocracy to work, our culture nevertheless despises the concept. Our culture thinks that meritocracy == elitism. It thinks so for a simple reason. Meritocracy means that *I* may not be (and in fact probably am not) one of the skilled and privileged few. Therefore, in a culture like ours where *I* is of ultimate importance, meritocracy is the most dangerous of systems.

    Joseph complains that we’re overthinking. I respectfully but firmly disagree. Our problem is not that we overthink but that we don’t think at all. Churches are embracing things like this because they’re trendy and popular, leading quickly and easily to large and happy congregations. But does that mean that such things are *right*? Churches have bought into a culture that values trendiness over criticality. That’s not the mark of a healthy culture, and it certainly is not a mark of Christianity.

    The nature of Twitter is that it is a flat broadcast medium, a means of limited outgoing expression. In tech-speak, it is not full-duplex. That is, it does not encourage two-way interaction; it has a strong one-way bias. Is that what church is evolving into? Just another means of libertine self-expression? Millions of churchgoers tweeting, but who’s listening?

  25. stephanie says:

    I hate technology. Obviously, I use it because it’s now inconvenient to NOT use technology. But it gives us such a sense of self righteousness. True, technology has given way to really great ways to connect with people.. but at the expense of disconnecting with the people you are actually with.

    Recently I’ve been thinking about the days when I would go to camp for the weekend. Without having any contact with my friends at home, somehow I survived. This past weekend we took some kids to camp and some of them refused to even leave their phones in the cabin, because it was somehow so important that people get a hold of them.

    All of that to say that I think we should keep our phones off. Jot down anything important and then share it later, when you’re at home or headed home. I understand the need to “keep up with the times” but I feel like we are sacrificing so many good aspects of life by turning into this technology based society. Why not get together after church to discuss the sermon, or something? It seems so isolated and so about the self to just shoot a tweet or something.

    /rant.

  26. eugenecho says:

    @daniel azuma: wow. incredible comment.

    you just gave me my post for tomorrow. thanks for sharing. lots to chew on…

  27. daniel so says:

    @JDC – Great insights! Have you read Preaching Re-Imagined, by Doug Pagitt? It addresses some of the same issues you’ve brought up here, and has helped our church come to a more robust understanding of what the sermon is all about (is it a speech? a lecture? a motivational talk? or something else altogether? and, is the whole point of the worship gathering the sermon or, again, is it something else?)…

  28. suzi w. says:

    There actually is a Christian twitter site: Gospelr.
    While I don’t use it, apparently there is a way to integrate it with your Twitter stream too, see link:

    http://socialwebtools.info/2008/09/19/gospelr-micro-blog-tool/

  29. @eugene: damn. Sometimes you just can’t win. I often forget that there are people in church that are polar opposites of each other. One person’s sermon conversation is another’s pastor worship:/

    @daniel azuma: “The one thing worse than a clueless preacher […] is a congregation of a hundred clueless preachers all speaking at the same time”

    That alone was worth the price of admission to this blog post🙂 Thanks for your comment. I happen to think 140-character publishing is brilliant and has improved human understanding of constraint and design in even casual writing. Articles force book writers to get to the point; Twitter forces article writers to say only the point. When done well it’s not unlike writing haikus. When done poorly the writer simply has no readers.
    But I appreciate lots of what you shared and I totally agree that the medium shapes the message to it’s own form over time. It’s subtle and devious. I hadn’t thought of that and I’m glad you did.

    @daniel so: Thanks for the book recommendation, I really appreciate the help!

  30. Bo says:

    As mentioned above, I think part of the problem is difference regarding what a sermon is. Is it merely a lecture dispensing information? Is that what MLK Jr was doing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? I enjoy theological conversation – if that was what I was looking for I’d gather at the local pub with my colleagues on Sunday rather than go to church. I host a C Group because it provides a forum to think over and apply the Scriptures in community and here we often discuss Eugene’s sermons with people I am in relationship with. Note also that in addition to the Black church Pentecostal and Quaker traditions have a greater level of interaction. I personally hold to a sacramental view of the sermon – so that I, even though more biblically literate than my pastors, still need to go hear the Word as a means of grace from those specifically called by the church to do so.

    In regard to Twitter – I assume this means that I’ll need a cell phone and be able to text? If Twittering is to build community then I guess I have to find another church because I don’t carry a cell phone. My wife does but even then we don’t text much less twitter. Perhaps the church should purchase cells phones that can Tweet and place them next to the pew bibles and hymnals so I can participate?

  31. I’m on twitter and thought this conversation interesting.

    But as I start my sermon do I now pray..

    May the words of my mouth
    And the twittering of our thumbs
    Be acceptable to you O God
    Our Rock and our Foundation?

    Humm?

  32. We’ve covered a lot of ground talking about the medium but I wonder what the actual messages would be if Quest or my church tried this. So far the assumptions are that people would all try to be pastors like the guy in the screenshot at the top of the page. He’s pontificating some propositional truth. I could see how that might not be an improvement to the service.

    But for those of you who are anti-twitter, how would you describe the change in environment of your church service if these were the messages that flashed across the big screen next to the speaker?:

    * “I know I should… but I just can’t convince myself this is true. I try so hard.”
    * “I usually feel more like a pharisee than a disciple”
    * “This story reminds me of when I was raped. I survive by God’s grace.”
    * “NO! NO! NO! My old pastor said that too and it made me stay in an abusive relationship for years.”
    * “This passage is why I’m a Christian. I don’t think the language is dark at all – it speaks to me.”

    If any of those tweets appeared publicly in my church I would feel as though the ground had suddenly become sacred. I would fit it much easier to quiet my thoughts and disagreements to know that the people I’ve grown to love are really connecting with what’s being said.

    My church is all on Facebook. We’re having to deal with conflict among members much more often now because the medium has provided many new ways to be intimate and offend each other. It may be digital but it’s added realism and life to relationships that were previously formal. If care is taken to make the texts honest and personal there’s no reason a church service can’t be blessed by greater intimacy and sacredness (yes, I understand others may use this word differently).

  33. Daniel Azuma says:

    @jack danger: “I happen to think 140-character publishing is brilliant and has improved human understanding of constraint and design in even casual writing.”

    Yeah, I was thinking about that too, and I agree in principle. It is, after all, what poetry is. But the acid test, I think, is what actually happens not in the ideal principle but in the concrete particular. I give you exhibit A: twitter.com.

    The “medium is the message” concept is of course not mine. A lot of its implications were developed by Marshall McLuhan, and then Neil Postman more recently applied them to technological advance (I highly recommend “Amusing Ourselves to Death”). The Shane Hipps books that Daniel So mentioned are also useful: they provide an accessible forum for the issues in easy-to-swallow tablets. Another book that came out last year that includes some more varied discussion is “Understanding Evangelical Media” edited by Quentin Schultze and Robert Woods.

    The image of tweets appearing next to the speaker in real time is fascinating one. Let’s think about it for a moment. So we see a selection of brief, raw responses while the speaker is talking. Now our attention is divided between listening to the speaker and reading the screen, and where do you think it’s going to be more focused?

    But let’s say we deal with that issue by alternating between speaking and giving time for twitter-response. There’s a deeper matter going on, centering on what sort of thing people are likely to say given such a medium. Maybe tweets are displayed anonymously, or maybe signed by the person’s twitter handle, but in either case they’re public and detached from the person herself. This leads us to try to come up with clever things, one-liners, attention grabbers. It’s a medium well-suited for showing off. But especially with a large congregation, it’s not well suited for “being real” because of audience size and volume.

    Let’s compare that with an alternative. Again we alternate between listening speaking and time for personal response, but instead of twitter, we break into small groups for ten minutes of discussion. Now the communication is richer because you’re face-to-face. The audience is smaller and immediately in front of you, which means you’re less likely to go into show-off mode and more likely to engage in conversation. A real person in front of you says, “I usually feel more like a pharisee than a disciple.” Not an abstract twitter handle throwing it out into the ether. Is that not a better experience on just about every count?

    But, you object, my church tries that and it doesn’t work too well because people are too shy to share in small groups during service. It would be easier and feel safer for people to use twitter. True. But now we’ve finally reached the central issue: We like being consumers; we don’t like being relate-ers. Relating directly to a real person is hard, and risky; merely receiving is easy. But the cost of relating is a necessary one for the benefit that we want, and we as a people of God need to re-learn to do that hard, risky thing. Is that not the core problem we are trying to solve in the first place, to make “church” a place for real healing and fullness of life by making it more interactive than the one-to-many sermon? The twitter solution, while making it easier, doesn’t solve the problem; it merely runs away from it. It’s the quick and easy solution that is not truly a solution at all but merely a way of restating the problem in such a way that we feel less guilty ignoring it.

    There’s got to be a better way to go about all this. There’s got to be another approach that actually addresses the problem, at least partially. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s got to be there.

    Anyway, thanks Eugene for bringing things like this up in your blog. They’re important issues that will have profound effects on how we worship. I think it’s important for everyone that we slow down a bit and give it all some thought. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” is not a very good strategy if we value our health.

  34. JDC- you make a lot of sense (and should be a spokesperson for twitter as you’re about the most persuasive voice I’ve ever heard defending it). anybody who has your level of discipline and uses it to hone a writing craft- more power to you and them. Besides that, I think twitter is really sad. It sure seems like something that plays into our cultural problems like self-worship or this growing trend of relational maintenance vs. experience and authenticity. As Daniel Azuma so eloquently explained- these restrictive forms of communication have a way of conditioning us to view such tools as normal or sufficient. Just the idea that people think “what do you mean we haven’t been in touch- I sent you a 134 character message 8 days ago” is really tragic. Of course there are reasonable exceptions here and there to why people use twitter. I still don’t think that means there should be a rush to embrace it especially during church service. It’s not like American christians are TOO connected and OVERLY relational. If anything we are too far apart. Too many islands, even within church congregations. Twitter may bridge those islands in a shallow way but it’s not a valid replacement for real face-to-face interaction, relationship, conversation.

    In your scenario of those tweets or whatever popping up during service- sounds like a mess to me. That would be about as noisy as a cable news show, with the scrolling marquees and flashing updates. After a few weeks, people would be trying to tweet the most profound or challenging thing and it would become an intellectual competition. We can afford to sit and to listen, and to make eye contact with our pastor and have him see us. To watch his movement and hold the hand of a loved one sitting beside us. The Opinion Nation is not something to strive for. We should be patient listeners who consider and let a message or worship experience effect us and move us over time. An atmosphere of point/counterpoint sounds pretty bitchy for church, even if those involved have sincere intentions.

    Hey Daniel Azuma you should get your comment published somewhere. That was a home run- substantial and important.

  35. Drat. If I knew Azuma was writing at the same time I was, I would have waited to read his before commenting. Looks like he and I are making some similar points.

  36. Eric says:

    I was struck by the difference between this blog post and the post by Gordon Akinson @ Real Live Preacher. He is on sabbatical and visited a Quaker service. The emphasis was on learning to listen to God’s voice in the silence. I’m not sure there is a right or wrong here, but I was struck by the similarities (there are some!) and differences.

    My other thought was that this twittering invites participation from the congregation. All too often we are an audience on Sunday morning wanting entertainment and not actively participating in worship. On the other hand I wonder how worshipful the twittering would be. I sometimes let myself worship and check out during the sermon, no twittering needed!.

    No answers just thoughts.

  37. @Daniel, @Ian:
    While textual conversation is no replacement for face-to-face interaction it’s an excellent supplement. I’ve rekindled real empathy-centered relationships from high school entirely thanks to Twitter and Facebook without having seen the people in person. These are not fake relationships – there’s the same level of prayer, tears, laughter, and awkwardness.

    Perhaps my concern is that I see sermons the way you guys see Twitter. We go to church for a connection with God but receive a sermon that is neither completely new information (which would be faster to read anyway) nor an experience of engaging with Christ. Often it’s little more than a reminder that we belong to a church. Most sermons I’ve heard are to Christianity as “I ate a sandwich for lunch” is to Twitter. All data and no connection.

    I think sermons can be given in a way that’s sacred and true to God’s spirit. And a textual conversation among the congregation can be held the same way. If you think text messages are distracting people from the main point of the sermon then maybe you’re also against the pastor using humorous anecdotes that don’t have sermon content. If you think text messages are attention-getting then you’re probably not a fan of the guy in the front row who always has his hands in the air. It’s the same problem, just a different medium.

    I’m no longer convinced that using twitter during a service would necessarily be an improvement but (if treated with the same respect as the rest of the service) I don’t believe it would be a hindrance. After all, if the medium is the message than this message would be: “You can share but since you’re not the pastor please keep it brief.”

  38. eugenecho says:

    @bolim – your comment raised another issue that we shouldn’t so quickly dismiss: the technological divide.

    had a chat earlier this week about the assumptions that we make about everyone have equal access to technology and its benefits.

    i know what some of you will say: overthinking.

    but if we don’t think about this, who will?

  39. @Daniel Azuma:
    I neglected to respond to most of your last comment because I appreciated it just the way you wrote it. I do want to respond to one part though.

    My church often breaks into small groups during a sermon to share. It works okay despite that it’s really hit-or-miss depending on the topic and the people involved. We also have been trying to encourage our congregation to speak up during the service more. Out of a belief that the holy spirit affects us all and can speak through any of us we’re trying to encourage people to, discerningly, share what they’re feeling/thinking with the congregation.

    So for us it might be worthwhile to try this twitter idea because people wouldn’t have to have some earth-shattering truth that’s worth stopping the service. If people can share smaller – but still important – things without causing much interruption we might hear from more voices.

    This is not to say that twitter is a good idea for all church services but that I can think of a situation where it might help individual people contribute to their church.

  40. JDC- you’ve made a persuasive case here. I love that your congregation breaks into small groups during a sermon. Kindof what I was getting at initially when I argued that we could work towards give and take in service without hiding behind gadgets.

    And you are right that twitter could be a supplement, though not a replacement for real face-to-face. But a supplement should be “in addition to” and in many cases/churches there is no (or very little)vibrant, healthy congregation-wide interaction. So to give up on the pursuit of that in favor of a supplement would be settling for something far easier and far less that real community. Sounds like your church and your thinking are a bit ahead of the curve in this regard so who knows- you guys may be able to pull this twitter-service thing off.

    After a year of attendance I still feel like an outsider or new kid at school at times at my church. It seems like the only in-roads to relationship or friendship or connection that I’ve made have been because I’ve pushed myself a bit to reach out. In other words, I have rarely felt pursued by someone else. I say this because I hear this from people in many churches- i think it’s a tough one that can become personal and painful, and we all know that churches and staff mean well but it can still be difficult for them to accomplish. I firmly believe that we as individuals need to step forward in service of our churches, and also towards community at our churches, and not just expect everyone else to shoulder that responsibility by reaching for us. But at the same time, there needs to be more than just events and avenues offered. Not just “here it is” but also “hey you- will you be there?” Plus inclusion once people actually show up for these events. Which is difficult to achieve all the time for every person, I get it.

    So JDC I like what your church is doing and you appear to have a passion to get things more connected which I totally applaud you for. I’m just arguing that in the case of many other churches, some divides or disconnects need to be patched or healed and worked at before we call ourselves “in fellowship.” At the point that existing members and newer folks are not only seeing opportunities to connect but ALSO are being personally approached and persued by others in the church on some level, any and all supplements are then worth considering.

  41. daniel so says:

    @Daniel Azuma – I agree with Ian; your comments should definitely get published. Great insights; way more thoughtful than much of the “let’s get on the Twitter” bandwagoning I’ve been seeing around the church blogosphere.

    @JDC – Our church’s experience is very similar to yours. Small group discussion during the sermon almost always depends on who is in the group and how good the questions are. In fact, during my sermon preparation, I’ve been spending more & more time trying to craft meaningful, engaging questions.

    Re: the unspoken assumption of sending tweets live to the big screen: “You can share but since you’re not the pastor please keep it brief.” Ouch. Brutal, but spot-on.

    Without trying to sound like I’m copping out too much (although, I probably am), I get the feeling a lot of this boils down to knowing our communities. If, as Ian described, using Twitter live during services “would be about as noisy as a cable news show, with the scrolling marquees and flashing updates” for a particular group of people, then it doesn’t make much sense at all.

    At The Idea Camp a couple months ago down in SoCal, we used Twitter & text messages to send in questions during sessions. However, the participants at The Idea Camp were a particularly tech-savvy and committed bunch. And, even then, questions were not transmitted directly to the big screen — they were still mediated by a live person.

    *shrugs*

    Thanks to all for the great thoughts. This has probably been the best conversation I’ve seen (or been a part of) regarding Twitter & church life.

  42. “This has probably been the best conversation I’ve seen (or been a part of) regarding Twitter & church life.”

    Amen to that, you guys are amazing. I really appreciate how much you all can see that I don’t have enough perspective to see. And I think I learned a lot about my own biases and desires in this discussion. I didn’t realize I liked Twitter so much😉

  43. Rachel says:

    Be still and know that I am God.

    I think the better question is–when should we not be still and know that he is God.

    In my life, the Spirit speaks when I am still.

  44. […] church of twitter Yesterday, I asked you for your opinions about “twittering” during an actual church service.  And wow, it generated some incredible dialogue.  I was almost inspired to do that […]

  45. anne says:

    Gospelr?? reallly? dang……..

  46. Andy M says:

    This has been quite a discussion, with a lot of good thoughts being shared. I just now came back to it.

    So, in keeping up with this conversation, here is what I am thinking.

    JDC mentioned the possibility of sacred moments with people’s comments coming onto a screen. I can understand that, though if it is unfiltered then I would fear that someone else, right after a powerful sacred moment, would tweet something like, “Mmmm, tacos” Even if everyone there agree about the tacos, it would still take away from the moment.

    But if you filter the comments, who gets to choose what gets through? I recently listened to the audio of a conference at a church where a person in the audience during a Q&A time shared his thoughts and feelings that were heartfelt but would be considered extremely controversial, and in many churches the guy would probably have been asked to leave (because of his language and his question), but it was an incredibly powerful moment, even through the audio. Depending on the context, filtered twitter might be good, or it might filter out something bad. And it would all be left up to one person who decides what is what.

    But really, my next thought is this, not whether it is good or bad, but how can we facilitate what we would want from twitter, without using twitter? If we are only being creative enough to use a service like twitter in order to further dialogue and create community, then I think that we have failed to access the creativity that God has offered us. I agree that a typical sermon given by a single guy isn’t enough, but we can come up with better ways to bring people into discussion without resorting to interfacing through technology.

    Most of the things that I have learned about the scriptures, about life, about God, have come from face to face conversations with people, not from books, not from the internet, etc. Those things have started many conversations, but it was the conversations where I have learned the most.

    We need leadership from people who are educated with the scriptures, but we need more voices than just that one. And I am convinced that we can creatively engage this situation without relying on technology.

    That being said, this is a great discussion and a pleasure to read everyone’s comments about it. I actually meant to mention that Shane Hipps book that Daniel so mentioned. I have not read it, but I heard a teaching from him about the subject and it was very interesting.

  47. eugenecho says:

    great thread for sure but i still want some thoughts on the previous post about what people are dreaming about (and what impedes our dreams:

    https://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/do-not-be-afraid-dream-pursue-and-jump/

  48. Gregory Walker says:

    … Twitter during worship? Which are you engaging worship of the true God or the technologies? The face to face fellowship with other believers is lost if you have to hit somebody back. I’m suggesting that we can find a use for twitter in the church however it’s outside the boundary during the sermon. Allow the sermon and invitation to discipleship its time then twitter!!

    Peace

  49. […] the next great burst of religious innovation? Please don’t say Twittering at church! […]

  50. Bill says:

    I think Twitter has a great role within the church,

    See article:
    http://www.ministrybestpractices.com/2009/02/why-should-your-church-invest-in-social.html

    and

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/orl-church-twitter-facebook-youtube-051009,0,4485452.story

    and

    http://timmybrister.com/2009/04/29/twitter-for-the-local-church/

    but I think the question of Twittering during a worship service is another issue.

    Worship is to ascribe worth, glory and honor to the Lord..Twitter has been accused as being narcissistic and the very nature of Twittering during worship may in fact undermine one’s focus on the transcendent while all the while drawing more attention to oneself.

  51. […] Twitter can be very useful for collaboration, and even building friendships. Eugene Cho hosted a  thoughtful dialogue about Twitter, faith and church life a little while […]

  52. davey says:

    I am part of the westwinds congregation and am at least part responsible for introducing these guys at westwinds to Twitter… I had no idea how far they would go with it and it is great to see all the amazing stuff John Voelz has done with it.

    This is a great discussion about how to use or if to use Twitter in church and I will for sure send it their way. Love the discussion and it is good to know that wear are all in it together.

    Davey

  53. schreiberwriter says:

    Left my comment on my blog. Summary: probably shouldn’t Twitter in church.

    http://schreiberwriter.blogspot.com/2009/05/be-still.html

  54. […] of a small but potentially disrupting trend of tweeting during sermons. This is becoming quite the hot topic of the day in the church circles. I’m still torn between the benefits of having a back-channel to discuss the sermon and […]

  55. I think that this was a monumental breakthrough and perhaps a stepping stone to other great advances of instant communication with the masses. Businesses do it, so why not the church. Businesses use Twitter to advertise: The Trinity Church used it to let more people know simultaneously what was happening as the Passion Play unfolded. Although it is true that nothing can be as good as being there and visually seeing the play as it goes from the arrest of Christ to him climbing up Calvary to his crucifixion, there’s no accounting for technology playing a roll in this year’s play being heard of by more people than last year’s. Next year will be even bigger when it is performed in Oberammergau, Germany (only once every 10 years) where the production involves the whole community and is quite vast.

  56. JVo says:

    This is great conversation. I certainly don’t feel like we have to prove why this is a good idea. Although, it was for us.

    Often, people fear what they don’t understand. These are the same questions and conversations we had 20 years ago about big screen projection in some ways.

    It’s all about context. It may be a horrible idea for some. For us, it was one of the best experiments we ever tried.

    A word of caution: a lot of these responses sound like we are trying to make this a theological issue. It is not. We have great freedom in worship.

    We went to great lengths to educate, train, bring people along, etc. Sure, distracting to some. But, so were the drums 25 years ago.

    Bottom line, there is a community of about 50 at Westwinds so far who have got plugged in and feel part of the family in no small part because of Twitter. The stories are amazing. I wish I could share them all.

    It’s in the way that you use it. It’s in the how and the why. If you don’t have a good answer for the why . . . don’t try it.

    To be fair, Westwinds is always trying new things. Some are horrible failures. But, we try. Our congregation is very prepared for these kinds of ventures. We feel like the R&D wing of the church in many ways. Ha. Not every church is there. It’s part of who we are.

    Good discussion. Thanks!

    John Voelz
    Westwinds Church

  57. Karen - is long says:

    Sorry this is coming so late — I did not twig to the Time Mag. article until the hardcopy hit our USPS a day or 2 ago. I really value the analysis and discussion here, as it has helped me tremendously in processing the article. There are some exquisite comments posted here which I will be chewing on for a while yet, and which will help me as a regional church staffer in helping churches to sort through the social networking developments.
    Sorry this is going to be so long — but there are so many more huge aspects to this discussion which haven’t even been touched-on yet:

    ‘Be still and hear the ‘I AM’ ‘ …
    I am a trained musician, which means that I not only went into music because it intrinsically connected me to the divine; but I also have pursued the deepest training I can find in order to more effectively and deeply connect to that divinity which speaks through the music — and through we who give voice to that divine, non-verbal media. In a more pure form, this is an ego-less process, because the music which *Connects* is that music which the player gives by serving the Voice of the music. To insert one’s ego or will into the delivery is when the music loses its power. It is the difference between hearing music and having a good time, vs. hearing music that moves not just your emotions but your soul to exultance or to profound tears.

    So for someone to interrupt their experience of a heart-powerful moment by twittering and interrupting others’ immersion in that powerful moment, is – to my process – the worst rudeness and destruction. It is also a display of inserting ego and will in the midst of a moment of divine connection. It is the worst kind of desecration. It is why it is so rude to be on a cell phone while in face-to-face situation: the person in front of you is an opportunity given to you that, as Jesus said, ‘as you do to the least of these, so you do to Me’ — if you ignore the person placed in front of you, you are devaluing a child of God — demeaning a presence of God to focus on the workings of a piece of plastic.

    Famous bluesman Buddy Guy once performed a concert in my town. The crowd was too rowdy and he finally stopped in the middle of his solo and told the crowd that he had to give play to this particular part of the music softly, and if they didn’t listen to what the music had to be, then he was going to pack-up and go play in his bedroom where he could play it properly (i.e., that would be the musician’s sacred conversation with his Creator). The crowd immediately backed-down, so Buddy played the Music extra-extra-soft (on an electric guitar even). He had to give that Music in the way the music longed to be played, and he served that Voice — he did not compromise that integrity which made the music divine, valuable and meaningful for listeners and players. That kind of music is a conversation with the Creator. Who are we to interrupt that conversation, or say ‘yah, God, that’s nice you wanna talk that way (in that still, quiet Voice), but I wanna go play the Bunnyhop insteada play whatcher sayin to me’ ??!!

    There is a huge problem with Western Church, in that leaders are trained to believe that a connection to the Divine is made through words. The problem with this is that the most instant and profound connections to the Divine are made through connecting to attendees’ subconscious: it is purely experiential. Written words do not connect directly to the subconscious — written and even aural words have to be filtered through the brain’s frontal lobe/ego and then further filtered through a process requiring the reader to have to take time to further generate the hearer/reader’s own internal imagery — and only THEN does the word-msg finally reach the subconscious — but in a greatly reduced way, after all that filtering and extra time racing around the brain’s advanced-level circuitry. It is a much more round-about, slower process, requiring a lot more time, energy, physical resources to process, and conscious effort involving the reader’s ego.
    So how is the subconscious directly connected to the Divine? – the same way young children experience the world (since they are in a biologically subconscious state until around age 8) — through all the experiential senses, especially: via visual SYMBOLS, SOUND, TASTE, SMELL, TOUCH. [Do you notice that age I just mentioned? – Kids usually begin to learn to be effective readers in school around age 7/8, AT THE TIME WHEN their brain patterns begin to emerge from a subconscious state.] The subconscious seizes on imagery and sound and senses immediately, without extra filtering through a conscious process. This is why smells or favorite songs, for instance, trigger intense and lifelong experiential memories for most people, trigger immediate immersion into things that are often the most meaningful for them, and trigger it in that moment. Those kinds of deep sense-triggered experiences usually trump whatever other stimuli are occurring in the person’s environment in that moment. The subconscious connection trumps.

    Do you want to connect people to God, deeply? then the most effective, profound way is through symbolic imagery and music, in that order, and involving as many of the other senses as possible.
    What are the moments I remember in church? It’s the ones that involved happenings, experiences that had little to do with words — like the pastor THROWING SEEDS into the congregation, or the guy who made the announcement about the steak dinner in a COW costume, mooing down the aisle. Unforgettable! – and it happened 25 years ago. What did the preacher say for 30 minutes? Have no idea. But I remember how I felt and how those moments appeared and instantly grabbed/held my attention — then have stayed with me — without needing any microjournaling to remember it later.

    This use of senses & reaching the subconscious is why the Catholic Church was effective for 1000 years while the population was without word tools/tech (illiterate), and one reason why people continue to convert to Catholicism. The icons in Eastern Orthodox involve this same deeper understanding, and they are claiming increases in membership also. They use smelly incense, sprinkling water, bread, juice, kneeling, moving, singing, BIG music (pipe organ, choir, brass, etc, in a hall built to make it overwhelming to the hearers), and lots and lots of visuals – light, color, pretty, sparkly and artistic visual stuff. How many senses were just invoked statement, and used for the church’s message?
    It’s the same principle that makes sparkly Barbie dolls and colorful moving cartoons so popular with those young kids, holds their attentions and stays with them for years.
    It’s the way our brains are wired. This is how we are built biologically.

    I completely understand and agree with the immense amount of education, training, and prep which pastors go through for church (i.e., those who have done the seminary routes); but their training usually focuses so intently on word-training that most of the Revs. I know operate with a dislike or bare tolerance for the presence and ‘use’ of the worship musicians, not-so-secretly restraining their distaste for musicians or artists as ‘distractions’ taking away from the premier importance of the SERMON. Then the Revs. wonder why people treat the sermon as too dry or boring. In my town, people have been flocking to the local contemporary-style megachurches, but when you interview the attendees, they say they don’t get anything out of worship there except the “good” music, as the “lecture” (their word) is still ‘boring’ — they ‘sit through the lecture’ like it’s the admission cost they pay for being able to get “the good music.” — sorry, that’s their comments, not mine.

    I’m not saying that sermons, meditations, homilies, spoken word should be removed. I’m saying that the Western Church has a tendency to focus almost all of its importance on the sermon, and dismisses the experiential aspects. There needs to be balance and a realization of what all the ‘too circus-y’ parts are actually FOR, and why people like them — it’s not a competition, staffers!

    So, the Time Mag. article made me quite angry. I understand what is going on in that article and how our culture and tech got to this point, but electric cyberspace cannot substitute for a real person, real physical presence and interpersonal action.

    The younger generations — including me — are not being taught, by parents or teachers or mentors or older generations, about social skills. Dammit, I had to go to a WORKSHOP at age 35 in order to learn how to have an effective conversation with someone in ways which would not accidentally push buttons or falter by failing to ask questions that would create a positive and sharing interpersonal bridge-connection with someone. I never got this info from parents, school, or my peers. I was lucky — I got a workshop on how to do it! The 60-something woman who went with me grouched about the workshop being “nothing more than that touchy-feely crap from the ’60s.” She could afford to complain, because she’d already been taught those skills in previous decades — but I had never heard it before, and it was all new insights for me. Most younger people do not get even that much.
    My Twitter trainer admitted that the younger generations who are utilizing Twitter and Facebook are using it to compensate for not having sufficient social skills to feel comfortable trying to create these types of deeper inter-personal relationships. Our grand- and great-grandparents went to church and made deep, personal, lasting bonds with the other churchgoers which helped them survive the hard times and thoroughly enjoy the good times; but they had the skills to do that (that was also the tech available to them at the time). This modern lack of social skills is a symptom of personal dysfunction and imbalance — it is using an electronic crutch for our emotional and social lackings. Relying on Twitter etc. to create these things FOR us is an ego-addiction that is going to make us all co-dependent.
    Don’t believe me? How many people do you know are willing to intentionally leave their cell phones at home? That, dear friends, is a serious addiction. There are no good addictions; an addiction is clinging to a crutch to try to fill a void in our lives — a void that damages us. The addiction to the crutch is a dysfunctional attemtp to heal that damage without addressing & healing what caused the wound.

    Finally, an older anthropologist (I’d have to try to dig in stacks for the book at home, sorry no name at the moment) published a book in the 1960s for lay readers trying to understand the then-‘new’ space-age and 20th Century technologies and its roles in Western society. As an anthropologist who had done field work in tribal societies, he realized that we all have instant emotional reactions to a ringing phone and a tv — emotional, physical reactions which overwhelm the stimuli from everything else occurring in our immediate environment. He realized that the reason for this instant, emotional, physical, intensive reaction is that our brains have been wired since tribal times to recognize the phone and tv “voices” as disembodied — and in tribal times a disembodied voice only came from the Divine. The tribal brain has for many, many, many millenia been wired to react to the disembodied, magical, electrifying voice as primary stimuli because such a thing in the natural environment has always come directly from God ….
    … except that we humans have developed the an artificial disembodied, magical, electric voice to be technology.
    Our primary, overwhelming reactions to the ringing phone are subconscious and part of our primary brain impulses. In 150 years we have not been able to re-wire our brains to react differently to millenia of subconscious biology. We are intrinsically going to be rude with a phone.
    Except when we consciously choose to be human Be-ings and turn it off.
    Our use of the phone would be a sacrilege in many cultures, and for good reasons — reasons which most Westerners have never learned.
    We Westerners still struggle to realize what is truly sacred. Other older cultures do not have that problem. …and yet many Western Christians try to go out (with all their dysfunction, words, and rudenesses) to “save” people who are far wiser than we’ve ever dreamed. …

    So, I see many good possibilities with our tech. I am grateful that I have learned about the positive bridge-building uses of Twitter etc. But I think we are so ignorant as a culture that we are going to keep racing the ego-driven, ‘monkey-mind’-based tech until we drive ourselves off the cliff by relying far too dysfunctionally on the tech. to compensate for some profound interpersonal problems in our personal lives and culture.

    I never imagined, when I first entered the technical workplace, that I would ever get to a time when I would refuse to participate in certain types of tech just in order to maintain my personal integrity. But I have reached that point. Our church’s and our society’s dysfunction makes me very sad — especially because that deep dysfunction is not being addressed and so very, very few are noticing or trying to help solve those profound dysfunctions. We would better serve each other by working on our dysfunctions and inner voids, our face-to-face disconnections — than on trying to decide how to find more ways to rely on Twitter!

    People can read all the tweets they want, explore all the Facebook pages they want, take all the online classes they want, sit in college classes for decades, read all the books they want — but the info that will give a person true inner peace, happiness, tranquility, and satisfaction is the kind of info that can only be transmitted face-to-face with someone; that info is partly beyond words and is based on experiential interactions, in the moment: its same source is also the source of love — part of it comes across via body language, pheromones, biochemistry, interaction between bodies. True inner serenity and fulfilment has to be practiced via action, in the body. It’s the HEART!

  58. I don’t think if your in the audience and are twittering through a service is okay, but I think that the idea of a church twittering the passion play was pretty good. Its kind of a way of saying that they can evolve with modern times and if that allows people to hear the message of the passion of Christ. If a younger audience is watching there twitter updates for a church service, its still a connection to the church. Different places have there own unique way of celebrating the Easter holiday and as Christians we should be open to all these ways.

  59. […] communication, community, design, social networking | No Comments While there has been some robust discussion/debate on the benefits/drawbacks of twittering during church gatherings, along with some mainstream press, I find that this has not […]

  60. Carla says:

    I personally think this Twittering in churches has gone too far, it’s just too much information that can take up too much of your day. We were recently contacted with what we thought was a better alternative to Twitter by a company in Phoenix, AZ that is called MCJC Ventures, LLC. They offer and provide an existing “texting” platform to get one daily text message out to our church’s donors and members. I called the company back (480) 236-9272 and asked them about it, they gladly sent me some information on it. I asked them if they have any churches currently using their texting platform and they told me Creflo Dollar Ministries and Jamal Bryant Ministries (but mainly megachurches in the Phoenix area) that have been using it for some time now. They charge each donor or “subscriber” as he put it $4.99/mo. to get a daily custom text message directly from the church (news, events, etc.) and the church gets a good portion of that back in donation revenue. He said many churches are dumping Twitter for this platform because they can control the daily message much better than on Twitter AND drive revenue back to them. Could this be the new technology to increase a church’s revenues? Probably. Anyone else heard about this?
    Carla

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

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Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter

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