The last few weeks I've been enjoying some conversations with fellow sojourners on this faith path of following Christ through everybody's favorite 140-character social platform, Twitter. I've really enjoyed these discussions because in many cases I have blatantly disagreed with someone else, or they have had opinions staunchly different from my own, but yet we continue to banter in a civil way which I think leaves both of us challenged, and stretched rather than feeling like one of us "won" an argument.
And that's the miracle of Twitter. Conversations that could and would never work in a live-person setting are very much the norm on Twitter. Unfortunately, these live-person settings are often our churches. I think our churches and the Church Universal has a lot to learn from social media. So here are some reasons why, in some aspects, I think Twitter is even better than Church.
1. Twitter users have no problem communicating with total strangers. Ever thought about talking to a total stranger or maybe felt like the Holy Spirit was "leading" you to but you chickened out? Maybe they looked funny, smelled funny, or there were just too many questions? Not on Twitter. Hardly any of my tweeps are people I have met in person, and I think that's normal for most Twitter users.
2. Twitter users, for the most part, are civil. Most Twitter discussions, while there may be disagreements, tend to keep a tone of "we are both here to learn from each other" rather than an "I am right, you are wrong" tenor. If only our churches could function this way, what would the church universal look like?
3. Twitter users are eager to share insights and knowledge. How many times have you read a tweet and thought "Man, that's good" and you click Retweet or you type RT, paste the message into your stream and add a quick comment? Why is the opposite true of some of our churches? Why do some believers feel that their way is the best way or the only way, to the point that they should isolate themselves from other "Christians" because of doctrinal or denominational differences?
4. Twitter users like to seek the "counsel of many". On the contrary, this often creates division in churches over silly things like picking the color of the new carpet. This scripture from Proverbs has gotten me out of more than one tight spot in my life. However, it seems that some churches that allow the whole congregation to make decisions (as opposed to boards or committees) tend to have more strife than others. And of course nothing is ever done by secret ballot. People see those opposed hands in the air and are automatically taking sides. But Twitter users usually have no problem "agreeing to disagree" and getting on with their lives.
5. Twitter users practice etiquette and give credit to those who create and/or pass on information. I was talking to a youth pastor friend of mine one time who was frustrated because he found another church online whose sermons were posted. His pastor had been preaching the exact same sermons word for word while his congregation assumed they were his own words and convictions. How do we build effective congregations if we are deceiftul in doing it?
6. Twitter users often like to teach as much as they like to be taught. What if our churches had this kind of balance? Have you ever met that know-it-all saint who is only interested in teaching rather than learning? Or have you met his arch nemesis who has a wealth of knowledge and has even demonstrated the gift of teaching in the church, but for one reason or another refuses to teach. While I know there are some pretty arrogant Twitter users who are more interested in establishing themselves as a brand name than learning from others, just about every Twitter account has at least a handful of people they follow. These are people who either have a personal connection to the user or is a person of perceived authority and is worthy of "following".
7. Twitter users seem to be real. While not every person on Twitter is authentic, many of them are. I know on my account I might share a thought about God or ministry, then a tweet about my favorite sports team, or a joke, then pass on an article I enjoyed that could be related to just about anything. Maybe some would say I'm not focused enough with my Tweets, but I would rather be myself than have an agenda. To me, a Twitter account is a peephole into someone's life that only shows what they want to be seen. But church is often not that way. We do things differently on Sunday than we do the rest of the week. We have a church persona and a non-church persona.
Let me wrap up by saying this. I love the church. And while the church isn't perfect, it is what God gave us to be his hands and feet in a fallen world. Do I really think Twitter is superior to church? Absolutely not. But do I think there are some great things about Twitter that could make the church a whole lot more effective in the world? Absolutely.
What would you add to this list? How do we make the church more civil, warm, and focused on unity?