Monday, November 17, 2008

Twitter "church"... daily inspiration and why Twitter has changed my life!

At some point recently... Twitter changed from a broadcast/conversation tool based on the concepts of genuine interaction as well as passive intimacy... into something very special... almost sacred (albeit I believe everything is sacred).

I find daily inspiration on Twitter... quotes like the one above from JD... bible verses from esv daily... an almost continual deluge of links and heads-up to new posts, ideas and products.

What's more... I have found a group of real friends... a community of mutual care, support and shenanigans. People are asking for and... more importantly... receiving prayer from this community. We lift people up. We cry when people are down. We come to the rescue of people who need help... in physical and "virtual" ways.

This is all based on mutual respect... common bonds... and purposeful inclusion.

Last night a question was asked... in a manner of speaking... is this church? For me I have to say YES... in a way. Let me explain...

First off, community is no longer bound by physicality. I have never met some of the people who I can ask to pray for me... but yet I feel closer to them than some people in my "physical" church. Physicality is no longer a defining factor - don't get me wrong... it is an important element of day to day life but it is not essential. The concept of church is based on a "coming together" of the body of Christ. A building or a physical gathering place is unnecessary... we meet together on Twitter.

Secondly, this community is based on likeminded mutual support and respect... based on the foundation of Twitter. We support each other in many practical ways... including prayer. We network and advocate for each other. We are "there" for each other. We are a trans-generational group of mavericks... diverse in many ways and yet likeminded in many others.

Thirdly, there is a sense of mission through being "in the world of Twitter but not of it"... our posts may be funny and possibly juvenile at times but they are also uplifting and God-honouring. There is worship through thanksgiving... and intentional connection.

To be fair... there is a sense of exclusivity that I can't avoid. You need to have access to the internet to be part of Twitter... but thats all... its a free app.

That's why I love Twitter and why it is important to me... and why apps like Twittelator and Twinkle for my iPhone along with Twhirl for my MacBook are given "killer" status.

Some people think that this whole social media thing is the latest Tower of Babel but for me and mine... its has a whole other meaning... they are tools that connect, inspire and provide support for those that need it. Thing is... I need it... and that's why it has changed my life.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

i absolutely LOVE TWITTER! i cannot wait until we move back to California next year and we switch to AT&T and i can get an iphone. OH< to be able to tweet wherever i am! i agree it is a space for church because it is instant. Better than instant messaging imho!

Anonymous said...

Possibly juvenile? No, some of them are DEFINITELY juvenile, but that adds to the enjoyment and makes me smile!

I'm amazed that we can have such a caring, sharing community of people spread around the Western world and actually make this happen using 140 characters or less!

Ian Emery said...

As someone who never really got twitter, and who still doesn’t really: I am very encouraged by what you say, since in talking about your twitter community, what you describe is similar to the church in its truest form – devoid of artificial boundaries (such as of physical dimension) and yet together in a meaningful way. I think it is a shame that we have to speak apologetically about new forms of interaction and their value in the Christian world for fear of upsetting people … as if some of the more traditional forms of coming together are so fragile that our mere musings and expressions might shatter them. Though I agree that there may be some danger in coming to consider it a sole form of Christian interaction we must also be aware that there is a danger in considering Sunday gatherings to be a sole form of Christian interaction also.

If it has the possibility to enhance the “brotherliness” of God’s people and if it can unify them, support them, challenge and encourage them; if it can spur them on to greater things and make them better disciples: bring it on!

As a quick side point though, I am not sure I understand your comment about being "in the world of Twitter but not of it". But I would like to … care to say more?
It would also be interesting to hear what you (who dwells within the world of twitter) feel the negatives to be in considering it a model for discipleship inetraction.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the principle drawbacks is the usual one where you are reading - that you read with your own emotion rather than that of the person who wrote the message. When you know someone well from physical interaction you get to know whether they're predominantly jokey, serious, sarcastic or what have you. In reading you don't have that knowledge and can rile or take offence at something that wasn't meant in that way.

Early on I noted that a couple of people had made comments that may have been open to interpretation and immediately followed up with either an apology or a clarification (or both!) and this has built up some trust and understanding within this particular group I think.

Jonathan Blundell said...

I think you're right on in your summary - but isn't it interesting that even with Twitter we still have to work through compartmentalizing our lives?

I'm actually working through this analogy right now with my #nanowrimo book... this is still in rough form (as it will likely stay until Dec. or later)...


By this time, Rob stood and made several closing announcements. As he wrapped up, Matt and Julie began playing again, this time it was an arrangement of Outcast’s “Hey Ya.” The arrangement reminded Jimmy of Obadiah Parker’s version, with Julie’s accordion added to the mix.

Several people stood watching Matt and Julie as they sang along with them.

“You sure won’t hear this song played in a normal church either,” Jimmy said to Kim. “But folks here sure do seem to love singing a lot more.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right on both accounts,” Kim said. “It’s amazing what can happen when you stop compartmentalizing your faith and the world around you.”

Jimmy looked at her with a puzzled look.

“We tend to put the different aspects of our life in various compartments,” Kim explained. “You have one compartment for friends, one for work, one for family, one for recreation and one for God or faith. It’s like those plastic plates or trays with dividers for each part of the meal. One for the main course, one for the vegetable and one for the fruit. We start to get scared when any of those compartments begin to mix in with the others and we tend to spend way too much time just trying to keep the mashed potatoes away from the chicken fried steak.”

Jimmy thought about the analogy. He was a picky eater growing up and could definitely relate.

“While the analogy may break down at some point, I would say that God should be more like the cream gravy we cover everything with, or maybe a great Tabasco sauce or seasoning, rather than just a course in the meal,” Kim added. “When you take Jesus at his word, when he says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ you have to realize and remember that God and Jesus are all encompassing. So anything that is true must be of God. Changing the analogy just a bit -- when we compartmentalize our lives, we put up these boundaries and say, well only beef or chicken or fish can be main course. But then you’re left with the question, ‘Well what about vegetarians?’ or ‘What about folks who make potato casseroles their main dish?’”

She stopped to see if Jimmy was still following.

“Go on,” he said. “I think I’m tracking with you.”

“Well, for those folks who are vegetarian, are they wrong for making a cheese pizza with spinach their main course?” she asked.

“Well I might argue that they’re missing out on some great meat and other great pizza toppings,” Jimmy answered. “But no, I don’t think they’re wrong necessarily.”

“Good,” Kim said. “So in that same regard, we could say that while a movie like The Matrix may not tell the whole story of God. But, there’s a lot of nourishment and things we can learn about God in watching the movie.”

Jimmy started to grin.

“And I suppose your suggesting that the same could be said for a song like ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ or ‘Hey Ya,’” Jimmy asked.

“Yup,” Kim responded.


May God continue to be the Tabasco sauce of our lives at work, at play and on Twitter. And may we realize that the church (and the tribe) have no boundaries - except the ones we build ourselves.

Unknown said...

"in the world of Twitter but not of it"

Your blog kind of encapsulates what/where I am at the moment ... but the comment above is so spot on more than anything else! (though I will leave Thomas to expand & expound on what he thinks it means!)

My Twitter Friends (Tweeples of the Twibe? ooh sorry) seem to have no hidden agenda; Unlike the physical church I attend... (best to leave less said here)
So this means that sharing our troubles & stories can be easier for, what I am sure, are many reasons (yes Thomas I agree stories are VERY important!)

These twitter gatherings do of course go 'hand-in-hand' with our: emails, blogs, skypes, podcasts, facebook status.. etc & build up those links between our Twitter gathering of 'church' It also allows one another to get to know each another in a way/on a level you probably couldn't in physical church (possibly because of our common interest of {at least) Twitter/Social Networking/Mini-Blogging!)

I leave you with a 'tweet' from few nights ago...

"I could go so far as to say 21st century 'church' evolving on a 1st century template of Christ followers (Way It SHOULD Be?)"

Long may we continue 'in Christ - in Twitter'

Keep on Tweeting T!!

caldjr said...

great thoughts T. I see loads of 'church' comparisons with the whole social networking movement. We certainly called on it at our recent assessment conference weekend as it enabled specific prayer requests to be sent around the world to the many people who were ready and waiting to pray for us. The blessing of prayer support received is unquestionable and to know that one message typed into hellotxt can reach so many friends in different timezones is an amazing victory for the Kingdom.
That is what church is about - bringing a community of Gods people together with a common goal. There are always going to be problems with it, but as with 'normal' church (I use that term loosely!) these are far outweighed by the positives.
I admit to straying a bit from Twitter since the sms updates were droppped, but keep up as best as possible. However, I still value the support of Twitter friends alongside my Plurk and Facebook friends. The Christian support, encouragement and resource sharing received through social networking, are just as valuable as those received through physical face to face relationships.
Is one better than the other? I dont know. But I value both - they serve each other well - and thats good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Twitter removes the periphery. the fact that each message is limited to 140
characters makes us think carefully about what we want to say. There is an
old scottish proverb that says "say but little, but say it well". And I
think that summarizes our Twitter community.

As far as being unable to read peoples emotions I think that is also perhaps
a good thing. Because again it makes us focus more on being articulate and

Have you noticed that most of the beatitudes if not all of them are less
than 140 characters and we have no way of knowing the emotion or feeling
with which they are said!

For me so much of what we have in "church" now is periphery that is has been
misunderstood and is now considered a core element. Twitter removes this
periphery and really gets down to what the real essentials are.

I am fairly new to twitter at least at the level of usage to which I have
recently become active but even in that short space of time it is amazing
how interactions and relationships have built up so quickly. I don't think
this can be said for physical "church".

But those are just my thoughts. I love the twitter community and ask the
question that why is it that our twitter communities grow every day almost
yet our physical "churches" stay roughly the same size year after year?

Joy Inc :-)

Johnny said...

I love it too....sometimes feel like I don't contribute much, but glad to be there.

Thomas - you've said it all.

Pace bene


weareallghosts said...

Thank you all for your comments... I will review them and comment further as appropriate. You guys and gals RAWK!!!


Neal Locke said...

Great post -- I made a very similar argument in class today about how some of my twitter friends (whom I've never met) are closer to me than many of the people I'm constantly surrounded by here at seminary. I don't think it went over too well, though. There seems to be a general distrust of technology--especially when it is perceived as potentially disruptive or subversive (and twitter is both of these)--within the church, and especially the Presbyterian church. Facebook seems to resonate more with students here, but I personally find a tighter sense of community on twitter. Anyhow, thanks for the article, and for (indirectly) contributing to our class discussion today.

weareallghosts said...

@EP - I love twitter too... and love getting your tweets

@Rob - I am amazed too... there is a real sense of caring and sharing in the group. That's the vibe I was picking up on.

@Ian - Twitter only works when you do it... it is counter-intuitive but makes sense when you consider co-presence and ambient intimacy concepts. It is not the only expression of church and neither it should be... physicality is important but we can't be with people 24/7 unless we delve into tools like twitter where you use it as much or as little as you want.

As for the "in the world but not of it" - we are using twitter as it is intended but we are using it for more than broadcast or conversation but for support and prayer. It isn't an open ended request but one that is met with response. We are also using the tool differently... not for selfpublicity (albeit my blog links are shown) or vanity but for community.

You should try twitter to see how it works...


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