Preaching and witnessing were the original means of spreading the gospel. Later, the printed word, radio and television became key media for sharing the good news. Many Christians have now embraced a new tool: Twitter.
Tech-savvy Christians have wasted no time in using this new medium. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, attended by the largest publishing houses around the world, they debuted the so-called Twitter Bible. It summarizes the Bible’s more than 31,000 verses into almost 4,000 short tweets. The Bible is officially titled And God Decided to Chill.
For those who don’t know about Twitter, it’s a free online social networking service that allows users to send and read messages called tweets. Text is limited to 140 characters and appears on the author’s profile page. Those who subscribe to someone’s Twitter profile—known as a follower—could receive the tweets. Celebrities typically have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of online followers.
Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has grown to more than 32 million users, including prominent pastors.
Noting the growing popularity of Twitter among evangelists on his blog, Greg Stier, president and founder of the youth evangelism group Dare 2 Share, asked, “Do you think Jesus would have been on Twitter if it was available while he was on Earth?”
If Jesus had used Twitter, Stier suggested what he might have tweeted: “40 days without food. Satan doing a full court temptation press. Does he really think he can win?” After his resurrection, Jesus might have commented to his followers: “Showed Thomas my scars. He’s not doubting anymore.”
Megachurch pastor Rick Warren admitted that at first he considered Twitter “a narcissistic time waster.” But he now tweets several times a day to his more than 48,000 followers. He told his followers in a recent tweet: “Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, has also been a trailblazer in the use of Twitter among Christian ministers. Long has more than 8,700 followers. Long’s tweets are mostly spiritual: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go! Keep you longer than you want to stay and charge you more than you want to pay!”
But Long’s tweets are not always religious. He tweeted, “Real Talk: What grade would you give our president, if he wasn’t Black?! Be real now people…1 being the lowest, 10 being the best.”
Some pastors have incorporated Tweeter into their worship services. They say worship is about creating a community of believers who share their religious experience. In some cases, churches are flashing tweets from congregants onto large video screens. Pastors also encourage congregants to tweet questions about the sermon, which they answer later. Others invite members to tweet their insightful spiritual thoughts about the sermon to each other during the sermon.
Given the popularity of Twitter, especially among young adults and youths, the incorporation of the technology into the worship service of some churches has been embraced. The trick, pastors say, is to not let the chatter of rapidly moving thumbs disturb the quiet reflection of others. Still, many pastors say that when it comes to worship services parishioners should keep their thumbs silent and at rest.
Nevertheless, it seems that Christians will continue to use Twitter to get the gospel out to a global audience. It took more than 3,000 Christians 10 days to create short, sometimes humorous, tweets that were compiled into the Tweeter Bible. And by most accounts, it has been an effective tool, especially for reaching a generation of young people who may never open or even own a traditional Bible.