So proclaims a church sign we drove past Saturday night. And I thought to myself (and told Shelly), if there is any better way to guarantee you are not relevant to culture, I don’t know what it would be.
I know it was meant to be clever, but most of the time these church signs are too clever by half and this is a perfect example. It was designed to relate something that is quickly becoming a inextricable part of culture to spirituality and to God, but instead it is, I suspect, only going to alienate the very people to whom it was intended to reach out.
First, there’s the cultural issue. Nearly 30 million people use Twitter now, and in January 2010 alone they posted over 1.2 billion tweets. That’s a lot of passionate users, and a user base that is growing very quickly. Nothing like putting their newly entrenched communication choice in quotation marks — it comes across as a bunch of old, out of touch geriatrics talking about the young whippersnappers these days — and then telling them God doesn’t do it.
Yeah, that’ll go over well.
Nevermind the theological aspects present as well – if you want to connect with God, you’ve got to talk to him evidently. Don’t bother writing anything down. Music? No good. Journaling? Won’t work. Being silent while surrounded by the majesty of nature? Nope. And typing? Are you crazy??? God is like a gazillion years old, everyone knows he won’t see or understand anything you type with this newfangled technology!
All of this brings up a question that must be talked about in the Church, I believe: why are we so afraid of social media? (I recognize that is an over-generalization – but it is a valid generalization nonetheless.) Let’s face it. Church websites suck. Tapping into social media energy via Twitter, iTunes, Facebook or a host of other venues is virtually nonexistent.
At the church I used to work for, I tried to push to get us into the social media arena for the purpose of increasing interaction and dialogue amongst our church body. I wanted to start a church blog, or at least a teaching team blog. I wanted people to be able to use Twitter, or at least simple text messaging, in a Sunday morning service to interact with the teachers. I tried setting up a church staff Twitter account.
I was met with skepticism and outright refusal every step of the way.
The biggest issue that came up every time was what I am going to call the Open Source Problem: churches, or at least my previous church (and I think it’s pretty consistent with what I’ve read and heard about other congregations), have serious control issues. Anything that takes control out of our hands is automatically an unfavorable path to forge.
That’s what I heard from many other folks on staff: if we have a blog, are you going to moderate the comments? We can’t just have people posting whatever they want out there! It might confuse other people! If you’re going to let people use Twitter during the service, you’re going to edit what they say, right? Because what if they say something that doesn’t pertain to the service or that is theologically inaccurate?
What if? Fear. Control.
My response every single time: So what?
So what if someone posts something that’s not accurate on a blog or a Twitter screen or in a text message or on a Facebook page? That’s what gets a dialogue started! That’s what sparks a conversation! That’s what begins interaction!
It takes a realization that the Church (capital ‘C’) is not made up of professionals and everybody else. The Church is not experts and people that need to be experted upon. (I just verbed a word… awesome.) The Church is comprised of people who have different perspectives and points of view and pieces of truth that need to be welcomed to join in the discussion. But most church leaders I’ve known are simply unwilling to give up their power, status, and control in order to allow that to happen.
Church leaders tend to see themselves as gatekeepers – making sure only the firm Truth (as they see and understand it, anyhow) gets dispersed to their people. This, I would submit, is an error that is not according to Scripture and needs to be repented of and rectified. It is a position of pride and arrogance. Instead, Church leaders should be facilitators, not gatekeepers. It’s not our job to edit people’s tweets and blog comments. It’s out job to guide a discussion that leads people to greater levels of understanding of God’s heart and his Kingdom.
So this is my encouragement this morning: Go ahead and “TWITTER” – God designed us to live in community, after all – and encourage others to do the same. (You could even tweet a prayer – I guarantee you God will hear it, despite what you might have read on a church sign.) Stop fearing the open source problem and embrace it. Church leaders, you are not and were never intended to be gatekeepers. Let freedom, not control, define your ministry. And then watch the beautiful things that begin happening through the Holy Spirit.