Monday Morning Insights

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    Twitter Theology:  Is it Just a “happy place” for Pastors

    Twitter Theology:  Is it Just a “happy place” for Pastors

    Scot McKnight has written a piece over at Out of Ur about Twittering Pastors.  Scott writes:

    Over time I’ve noticed that many pastors tweet links to business people and leadership gurus, Seth Godin being the most common. We discover plenty of emphasis on news items, especially controversial ones. Pastors often became “green” in the recent Iranian student revolution. Pastors tweet a lot about sports. There seems to be a near obsession in pastor tweets with terms like “creativity” and “innovation,” and a corresponding neglect of our great tradition or our heritage in the Church.

    Pastors tweet quotes from their reading, and inform us of what they are reading. Sunday tweets tend to be gratitude tweets. We also regularly discover who is meeting with whom (and the “whom” is always a notch above the “who”), or where someone is traveling. We hear about accomplishments but almost never any failures or disappointments, making the Twitter world largely a happy face community. 

    As someone who considers himself a pretty intensive 'twitterer' (but not a pastor by trade), I do see some trends among pastors when they are tweeting; but I may see it a little differently than Scot.

    Here are some things that I see:

    1.  There are two different types of 'pastor twitterers'.  One that shares more personal things about their life (@perrynoble); and another set who just shares upbeat tidbits, phrases, and encouraging words (@rickwarren).  I follow and read both.

    2.  There are two different audiences for 'pastor twitterers':  the first is their own church; the second is the larger community of pastors and church world.

    3.  I think it's good when pastors tweet about what they're learning, and what they're reading.  It sometimes does influence what I read; or spur me on to look closer into a certain topic.

    4.  I also enjoy reading tweets about innovation and creativity.  Scot calls this a 'near obsession'.  Could be.  But I don't see this as a bad thing.

    5.  Do pastors neglect the 'great traditions and heritage' of the church in their tweets?  Maybe so.  Maybe not intentionally.  Maybe they just don't make for interesting tweets.  In many churches, the 'great traditions and heritage' has produced a dead or dying, declining church.  Many of the guys I follow aren't much into heritage and tradition.  Again, I don't think this is necessarily bad (while our heritage is certainly important).

    6.  Sorry, but I love Seth Godin.  Brilliant mind.  Secular, but briliant.  And much of what Seth writes speaks directly into the church.  Why do we think we need to be only influenced by Christian thinkers? 

    7.  Scot says that we almost never hear about disappointments or failures.  I disagree.  I think many of the pastors I follow are very transparent.  Very human.  Could be that we hear about accomplishments and successes more because of their leadership and style than anything else.

    Scott asks pastors who Tweet this:

    So, let me ask pastors who tweet and who update their status a few simple questions: What do your updates tell us about what you are doing? About what is uppermost on your mind? About what is most important to you? It is time to take stock. Perhaps you are like me—using social media to draw the attention and time of others to something else. But where are we leading these folks? What do our links reveal about what is most important to us? About what is uppermost on our minds?

    What do you think?  Why do you tweet?  Is it to benefit you or others?

    You can read all of Scot's thoughts here at Out of Ur...



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    1. Peter Hamm on Wed, November 11, 2009

      I want to point people to stuff I’m thinking about, and I’m careful in how many tweets I put out there. Some of the people I follow should be more careful about how many times they tweet, but I still follow them.

      And I totally agree with you on 7. I see a LOT of transparency in these guys.

    2. Leonard on Wed, November 11, 2009

      I am just on the front side of twitter.  It is mostly for fun and to point to my blog.  I would like to use it more effectively and I think it has a strategic place in the life of a leader.

    3. CS on Wed, November 11, 2009

      “We hear about accomplishments but almost never any failures or disappointments, making the Twitter world largely a happy face community.”

      I’d extend this to blogs, articles, and many other postings.  Many pastoral blogs I follow say the same things over and over: hooray for us, our church is great, everyone did wonderful on Sunday, etc.  The occasions for seeing someone talk about the bad or average are disproportionally small.

      “Why do we think we need to be only influenced by Christian thinkers?”

      We don’t, necessarily.  But the problem is that we then have to take everything they say and pass it through the lens of Scripture to see if it is right and truthful.  (Though we should really be doing that for anyone who is in the realm of, “Christian thinkers,” too.)  And many church leaders don’t do this, and instead just adhere to the latest business success/self help/leadership person out there.


    4. Ken Eastburn on Wed, November 11, 2009

      Everyone wants to be against something,  I think. 

      I tweet for several reasons: to spur Christians to think deeply, to get people to read either my or others blogs (if they’re good), and to highlight stories or causes that matter.

    5. Leonard on Wed, November 11, 2009

      I do not think anyone in the blog/cyber/twitter world is entitled to my pain.  I have a community of people I walk with in my church, in my family and in my peers that are.  To be positive is not the same as being inauthentic.  One of my friends tells me that a primary role of a leader is to stay encouraged.  I want the face of all I do in the cyber/blog/twitter world to reflect that encouragement. 

      One issue I feel this WWW world has created is the mentality of correction without connection.  When things are wrong they are wrong, however in the 2D world of print, opinion often masquerades as right and truth trumps redemption.  It is why so many discernment sites take so much out of context to point out error.

    6. Rick on Thu, November 12, 2009

      Good word, Leonard.
      As a pastor, I really don’t tweet much. I tend to lurk and look. When I tweet, it’s usually inconsequential, but this is making me think I need to rethink. At the same time, Twitter is designed and geared for quick fluff, not deep thought. Connecting to blogs is one way to counteract that, but I notice I tend not to read long posts. I suspect that’s true for most of us.
      Twitter, like any other tool, is POTENTIALLY useful, but not GUARANTEED useful. Depends on the workman.

    7. Will on Thu, November 12, 2009

      I personally don’t tweet (but have no problems with those who do).  I just finished reading a post on this very topic by Skye Jethani that makes a lot of sense.  In fact, I wish I could have said it this well:�t-tweet�/420/

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