Twitter in church

twitterinchurchReader, and friend, David Joseph recently asked me about my thoughts on Twittering in church. Interesting topic – great question! If you’re not on Twitter yet, you should be. I actually prefer it over Facebook (sounds like a good future blog post).

I’m thrilled to get to think about topics like this more frequently these days, as I am now moving up to working 15 hours per week with the awesome church family of ours at Vista Community Church in Dublin, OH. If you haven’t heard yet through the social grapevine, I was up until 3am Sunday morning launching the new site (and blogs for our pastor and children’s ministry). Now that the sites are up, it’s time to move on to improving our communication methods (partially social networking) with the technology in place.

To answer David’s question, I would always start with having Christ in mind. Wherever we might be engaging in worship (home, work, church, etc), Christ is there. But the question you ask David is pointed at why we are there. It seems wherever we are, whether it’s driving down a busy interstate (raised hand here) or sitting in church, technology has our attention. I’m glad to hear of states that are making text-messaging while driving illegal. Maybe churches should start ex-communicating people who do the same while in the house of the Lord? LOL.

I think the decision is a simple one. Churches are doing a great job at sharing the message God has given them with the world via video streams, Twitter updates, chat rooms, and other technologies. While in the house of the Lord there is one message that needs to be heard, and usually the pastor is the one He wants to be relaying it. I personally choose to stay focused on that message, knowing that I can share my thoughts or points that are challenging me with the world soon enough.

There’s an interesting line there. Almost like those that live-blog (post notes they are taking) at conferences. You want to share the amazing truths that you are hearing. What I think we’re missing out on is letting those points soak in first, make sure our lives are changed, then share a message that will be even deeper via whatever communication we use (Twitter, blog, etc.). One other thing that weighs heavily with the decision to not be “tweeting” while in church is that it can also easily distract my attention from that message God is wanting me to hear. At moments like this, you could be Steve Jobs and I would prefer not to know what you are up to. I have a God to hear from, and you’re not Him. Will stop here, but it sure seems this one needs more attention – thanks a bunch for asking!

PRAYING that Christ-followers will bend their ears more towards the message of God, and not distractions the world has to offer. PRAISING God for giving us His Son, and the Word which deserve more admiration than we’ve ever given.

  1. Gabe I have had personal “issues” with twittering at church. So your topic drew me from facebook to your blog quickly.

    Every one will have a different answer for this one won’t they?

    I’ve decided that I won’t allow myself to check tweets ( or emails for that matter ) during the teaching or worship, yet if I am inspired to share something during the service I do. Recently it’s been scripture we are studying and is ministering to me. Or just a thought during church.

    I was so happy one day to see a DM when I got home from a brother who said “No Twitter in Church :)” and I didn’t see it till I got home. I was thinking God must have been proud of me that day. LOL

  2. Good thoughts. I’ve sent tweets from a church service a couple of times, but it is not something I am going to do constantly and when I did it was more towards the end of the message when I was just sharing briefly the impact the message was having.

    I look at it like a distraction. If I’m distracted, then I’m going to miss what the Spirit is trying to do.

  3. I recently read the Times article about this. Fascinating, really. I never would have thought of utilizing Twitter during service. For me, I think twitter might offer me a level of engagement that sometimes lacks when I’m in service. I don’t think it is for everyone thus I don’t think it’s practical for an entire congregation. I tend to digest information much better when I am actively engaged – for instance worship through song is one of my favorite ways to worship because I am actively engaged – singing, dancing, holding out my hands. Those are usually the times when I encounter a physically emotional response to God’s message.
    I also think twitter allows people to connect with each other via a message. If I tweet about an aspect of the message that moves me and so does someone else, I’m drawn to that person whereas I might never have realized our “connection” otherwise.
    But as you mentioned, there is a fine line – when it becomes a distraction it is inappropriate. And how can a Pastor appropriately incorporate technology without distracting half the congregation?

  4. Andrew

    I think Twitter can have a place in church. It can be a form of response. As you mentioned, though, Twitter can become a distraction. Each individual must handle this in the own mind and conscience. I would encourage anyone considering it to think about what their use of Twitter will add to what God is accomplishing.

  5. And I’m going to take more of an old-fashioned, conservative approach on it and say no twitter in church. Not that I could do it on my Motorola Razr anyway.

  6. janelle

    I have to ask – ” what is our whole state of heart, mind, will when we are in the presence of God…in worship – a place “set apart” – to worship Him alone. Our Pastor just spoke on the Sabath…making it as like being , like angels…who only thing is to be in the presence of GOD, to worship HIM alone….nothing else, it is HIS, we are HIS… to that I pray that we don’t take “technology in” but when we come OUT…” we take HIM OUT ~ through technology”… Sanctuary – set a part – to worship HIM alone… if we stood directly in front of Christ Jesus…would we say, ” hey, wait a minute…I want to …” – I pray we would be so drawn, we could not even glance away. “old skool, I know”

  7. Roberta

    I have to agree that we should not twitter in church and make that time for God to speak to us directly. We can share our thoughts after the service. Can you really be hearing all of the message if you are sending your own? Two ears, one text pad…

  8. Good post and good thoughts!! I agree! We must make sure that it foes not become a distraction while we are worshiping God or while we are
    Listening to the message being preached.

    Other than that tweet away!!

  9. Craig Rairdin

    I’m all for FB and Twitter for social networking. But there’s a line somewhere. To see where it is, let’s generalize the question: Is it appropriate to write a blog post in church? Update your Web site? Send an email? Any of these could be considered making social contact, just with a larger character count than Twitter.

    I think I’d draw the line at writing a blog article about the sermon or the music. You should be paying attention. Same for updating your Web site, sending an email, or tweeting.

    As a follower, I’d be disappointed in anyone who was tweeting during the service. I don’t care what great truth the Spirit is teaching you; don’t break your attention to tweet about it. And furthermore, the Spirit is working here, too, and in a way that’s unique to me. Not to be rude, but I don’t care what He’s doing for you at the time.

    I use a variety of electronic devices during church. I often am looking at the Bible on more than one device and taking notes on another. Last Sunday I quickly downloaded an outliner program for my iPhone since PocketBible for iPhone doesn’t do that yet. But I don’t blog about the sermon topic or music. And I don’t tweet my thoughts about the sermon (or about much of anything — I’m pretty arrogant but not enough to think that anyone else cares about every thought I have about everything that happens to me including Sunday sermons!).

  10. Herein lies the rub.

    The question about twittering in church really brings up another more fundamental question that might be answered slightly different from congregation to congregation but can ultimately be asked of all:

    Is “church” limited to the 1-2 hours sitting in our comfy pews being spoonfed scriptural truths once a week?

    Or is it something bigger, something all-encompassing. Something that we live out, embrace, and ultimately are every second of every day?

    Sure, I get it that we come together to celebrate, to worship, to evangelize, and even to be exhorted and encouraged weekly. But I do submit that the way we do it these days is a bit lacking in the “depth” area.

    That being said, I believe that if you hold up a standard such as no twittering during “church” time, you should also hold up a standard such as no whispering, no doodling, no thinking, no daydreaming, no chewing gum, no restroom breaking, and no [insert any other random event or activity] that might possibly distract you from being fully engaged.

    As you can tell by my comments I’m on of the few it seems who do see a place for an occasional tweet here and there.

  11. From my vantage point in the choir its very obvious when you have a bunch of people clapping and raising their hands then in the middle of them theres someone tapping away on their phone. Its even more obvious when the lights are low for a video and you look out and there is a person with a blue face from the phone.
    Since most people can’t name the 12 Disciples or find half the books of the Bible with out the table of contents, I think we probably do need to pay a little more attention to the speaker and leave the phone alone for an hour, what ever it is chances are 99.999999% that its not that important.
    Not only that, what if someone sees you texting and tunes out the speaker wondering what your doing (or reading over your shoulder) and walks out the door lost?
    One final thing,
    I got caught texting someone during church, I was in the choir and was saying hello to a friend in the balcony. I thought I got away with it until about a week later someone told me I should watch the stream on the web, there in the middle of a pan shot of the whole choir is me, head down (by the way, I am a lot balder on top than I thought), texting away like crazy! The shot of me texting ended up going out on the tv program as well. Another reason not to text, you never know when your on camera!

  12. Ryan – that’s hilarious. Thanks for letting me bust out in laughter. This discussion sure has been fun. Appreciate all of the different spins on this!

  13. Michelle

    I’m with Janelle and Ryan. I also think that if the Spirit is really impressing something upon your heart, then you’ll still remember it after the service and could tweet it then. The rest of my thoughts are already on Gabe’s facebook, so I won’t repost them here.

  14. I guess I feel like Russ to the extent that part of the question is “What is church?”

    Is it a formal gathering? Is it a small group Bible study in someones home? Is it two believers gathering for accountability at Starbucks? Are all of these church? Is church way more than that even?

    I do think that we have set aside the “worship service” as some type of special place where God is. That is so Old Testament. Hebrews tells us clearly that God does not dwell in houses made by human hands. We, the people of God, are the church. God’s presence is wherever we are and can’t be experienced to it’s fullest.

    That being said, I do think that all things should be done for mutual edification as I Corinthians talks about. So if twittering in your church service is not going to do that for others who are there, then it may be inappropriate.

  15. “Since most people can’t name the 12 Disciples or find half the books of the Bible with out the table of contents, I think we probably do need to pay a little more attention to the speaker…”

    Or maybe even pick up the Bible sometime during the other 6 days of the week.

    I’m just saying.

    I think we should be careful not to place too much emphasis on the “word” of the Lord coming from the speaker from on high once a week. And we should be careful to put MORE emphasis on the “word” of the Lord coming from the WORD of the Lord during the week.

    Obviously, BOTH situations together work in synergy to create a good growth situation for the Believer. Balance is key.

    But as far as twittering or texting in a gathering, we know when we should and shouldn’t. A lot of that depends on the flavor of the actual congregation and the “style” of the worship gathering.

  16. I really am rather shocked that people (other than teens) actually think texting or tweeting during a church service is appropriate at all! What has happened to our respect and reverence for God and His Word, not to mention respect for our pastor who is speaking???

    I think one point that you didn’t mention, Gabe, is that texting or tweeting during a church service can be a distraction to those around us – to keep someone from hearing & focusing on God’s word because they are distracted by our choice to tweet during church is unacceptable.

    I think we can all put our phones away for one hour a week to show respect to God and to our pastor and those around us, can we not???

  17. Carrie, I’m really the antagonist in this discussion today. Not because I m pro-twittering/texting during church, but because I’m almost shocked at some of the “up on a pedastal” imagery of the “church” “God” and “the pastor” that I’m seeing in a lot of these comments.

    I might be deserving of a stoning here, but I just don’t see where it’s biblical to put so much emphasis on reverence to God (or the pastor) on SUNDAY mornings. Where is the reverence for God the other 6 days of the week?

    For once I’d love to see someone blog about or tweet about or share about how the weekly church gathering messed up their time with God. What do I mean by that? I mean that wouldn’t it be amazing if we were so in tune with God that the very thing that we hold in such high regard and almost worship (Sunday church service) was looked at as a hindrance to actually LIVING and BEING the church?

    Just for the record I’M MOSTLY KIDDING. Mostly.

    I think if we say this: “I think we can all put our phones away for one hour a week to show respect to God and to our pastor and those around us, can we not?” Or something similar, then we also have to ask ourselves if we can do the same EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

  18. Let me clarify that second sentence: I’m almost shocked at some of the “up on a pedastal” imagery of the “church” “God” and “the pastor” that I’m seeing in a lot of these comments.

    I don’t mean that we shouldn’t worship God or have him lifted high in our lives. WE SHOULD. I just meant that it seems that we only put Him up on his “worship pedestal” on Sundays.

  19. I can’t stand it when people tweet from conferences they are in.

    Apart from getting ‘soundbyte theology’ their tweets often have no context and are fairly meaningless without one!

  20. If used in the right manner, Twitter can enhance communication around a service. Some folks take it to an extreme though and then it becomes a distraction.

    On a side note, a project http://ParaTweet.com can help with live moderation and a full-screen display.

  21. Teaching what is appropriate and not is a cultural and social function; this should be something that is done independent of the technology trends, and at the same time it should mind those trends and give wisdom where needed.

    Simply saying that “because a pastor is preaching doesn’t mean you should be texting and tweeting” is not a remedy for the issue – that is, you are only addressing symptoms of a greater thought that most likely wasn’t taught. Namely: ethics (re: Proverbs and Ecc.).

    It is only after teaching these ethical issues of social, technology, and culture that one can sit and make the rules that others suppose should be the case of this digitally native and very social generation. I’m sorry folks, but most of you commenting are more like myself where you sit as a late Gen X or early Gen Y-er; you aren’t native to this way of communitating and therefore your “rules” and “perceptions” will cause more problems than they solve.

    To those peeved that people can text better than they can recite books and doctrine, do a better job discipling and then maybe you won’t have the tech issue to harp on as loudly. And yes, I very much practice what I preach – Gabe can totally vouch for that much.

    Lastly, I too am of the opinion that “church” is what happens in-between the Sunday worship gatherings. That the active acts of creating community with people in and outside of the Christian faith should be what defines church. If this action is spilling over into our use of tech, and moreso into those worship gatherings, then we need to (a) redefine and further emphasize what it means to be a gathering of worshippers, and (b) do a much better job of discipling one another towards healthy boundaries and margins, making sure that we don’t miss that knowledge and understanding of this specific time and space towards technology, while sharing the implications of this change and what it needs to mean for us and those around us as we engage in this thing called church.

  22. That first part of that first sentence should say:

    “Teaching what is appropriate and not is a cultural and social function of technology…”

  23. I just think that as an overall observation of young people today, my 20-something generation included, we have a lack of respect for others, whether that be authority figures or just our ‘neighbors’ around us.

    I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians lately, and again am just SO struck by Paul’s constant attitude of unselfish sacrifice- he would choose to give up ANYTHING if it meant he would offend or distract ANYONE else. His constant motivation is the edification of the church of God, and the example He can be of Christ’s love to unbelievers.

    Just because something is culturally acceptable or generationally popular doesn’t mean that it’s RIGHT. When our attitude is all about us, and what our ‘rights’ are, we are missing the point of Christianity. This is what should we should be showing by our example and teaching to our young people.

    As for the rest of the week being part of church, that did not even enter into my argument – we should worship all week long, yes, but not all week long are we in a situation where it is disrespectful to be texting while someone else is talking/singing, etc.

  24. Carla

    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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