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Josh Harris Kissed Twittering in Church Goodbye*

Writer/pastor Josh Harris recently posted a well-written piece on the use of Twitter in church – is it a positive, a negative, or a non-sequitur.   I call it well-written simply because he’s a very good writer.  I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusions.

Twitter-48x48Let me say I’m not a big advocate of twittering in church.  Yes, I do it…but I don’t buy into the novelty of it to the point of some churches, who’ve gone as far as projecting the congregation’s twitter feed onto the big screens.  To me, that sounds like an invitation for pranksters.  Perhaps I only say that because I managed to a humorous tweet about a conference attending friend onto the website of a prominent conference that I was not attending recently.

Josh’s arguments can be boiled down to “People aren’t paying attention to the preacher when they’re tweeting.”  (He doesn’t use those specific words, but that’s the gist of it).   I think he underestimates peoples’ abilities to multitrack.   A generation ago, this might be true, but at this point in time, people are fairly accustom to processing input on multiple levels.  My gut says it’s just a little disconcerting for the preacher to see all those people looking at their phones and wondering if they’re ordering movie tickets or playing video poker.

Additionally, people are moving further and further from a learning model that involves one informed person informing the uninformed, and more towards the informed informing the uninformed who process in groupthink.   People are more likely to process online and anonymously than they are offline and in person.   I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing, but it’s a real trend, and I think Twitter can contribute positively to that.  I’m also realistic enough to acknowledge that most tweets from church are cracks on the pastor’s hairdo.  The pastor needs to buck up, get another hairdo, or quit reading the tweets.

So, no twitter ban from me.  No twitter encouragement either.  And in five years, people will have moved on to other distractions and we’ll wonder why we prohibited or embraced twitter with such enthusiasm.

*This could possibly be my favorite blog title of all times, and I’m ok that most people won’t get it.

Blogger Randy Bohlender suffers from a short attention span and overactive comment reflex.  He’ll be twittering at @rbohlender.


20 Responses

  1. I’m still slightly disappointed that you didn’t manage to twitter while preaching.

  2. one point of note, most guys have someone screen the tweets before they hit the big screen. People can’t normally tweet directly to the overhead.

    I honestly wonder how many of these tweet in sermons were really tweeted in.

  3. I get the title! Yay for me! Having raised a teenager helped. : )

  4. I got the title! I totally read “Kissed Dating Goodbye” when I was a teenager. 🙂

  5. RB To Start A 21 Day Tweet Fast!

  6. I tried very hard to get Josh Harris into our yout group. Unfortunately, they Kissed Making Out Hello, and called it not dating….

  7. ok, whiner. also, this is a very interesting post, and I enjoy tweeting in church. Mostly because it is very hard for me to listen without doing something else. Maybe I’m not an audio learner….

  8. Loving your work with the title. I think you underestimate your readership for not getting it!!! (Although I’m not sure what that says for all of us having clearly felt the need to read it….)

  9. “projecting the congregation’s twitter feed onto the big screens”
    Seriously? That doesn’t seem like a bad idea to anyone else?
    I mean, I can’t imagine people being able to pay enough attention to the message to where they can get something out of it while thinking up and posting witty comments, and reading other people’s posts. I admit, I’m not a multi-tasker on that level. I would not be able to pay attention even if I was only reading others posts.
    It just seems to me that perhaps people should rethink their purpose for showing up at church. Fellowship sure, but what about being taught and taking time to chew the Word? Furthermore, I am fairly confident in the assertion that the churches practicing this are not ones where the members are able to spend 25-50 hours per week sitting in a prayer room seeking the Lord whole-heartedly. They probably need as little distraction as possible.

  10. i may be an old fogey here, but i’m just wondering whatever happened to taking notes when the pastor’s preaching?!? always helps me stay on point. not very electronic though, i know, but ppl could use their palm or blackberry for that instead. lol. i know we’re all addicted to all the wonderful things we can do w/ our phones nowadays, but church just doesn’t seem the time to do such to me. would bother me, if i was the one speaking. 🙂

  11. This just sounds like when the Dems were whining because John Culberson’s tweets last year exposed the ridiculousness of the Pelosi-Dems congress on energy bill voting vs. Holiday. Their big argument was, “oh they’re not listening if they’re tweeting.” But we all knew the truth that they were just feeling that their secret life in session after the c-span cameras turned off was being exposed by technology they were behind on.

    To be honest, ole Josh here ruined many a 15-year-old’s chances for prom (ahem, me) with his silly kissing book, quickly followed by his “Oops, I got married by breaking my own golden rule, I better write another book and call it ‘courting'”

    …needless to say my book/article would be: “Kissing anything hello or goodbye should be a prayerfully consider personal decision”

  12. Randy–

    Does this come down to the changing of the times so much as simple etiquette? No matter what technology we come up with and, maybe more importantly, no matter what social trends arise, won’t it always be rude to not listen to someone when they’re talking?

    That being said, Congress has yet to get that Jerk Bill passed. You can’t legislate that kind of stuff.


  13. After reading your tweet, I feel as though I must also comment on the content of your post and not just on the title. : ) Since I do not have a twitterable phone, there is no danger of me being the one tweeting during church. I will be sticking to my good old pen and paper. Surely, it would be disconcerting for a speaker to look out and see a vast number of heads looking down instead of at them. A little eye contact goes a long way. Your self esteem would have to be really good to preach to a crowd who isn’t even looking at you and busy doing something else.

  14. Twittering during church makes me feel like I’m in community! <>

    I mean, I can also totally confess that it distracts me. <>

    I love Joanna’s comment: “Kissing anything hello or goodbye should be a prayerfully considered personal decision.”

  15. Ya kno. This appears to be a discussion about creating a *rule* to control people. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (to follow the Spirit’s lead).

    When the fear of God falls on a group of people, the attention isn’t on the speaker either.

  16. i think this emphasis on twittering only is a scapegoat. Multitasking is happening in church, twiiter or no twitter. To do lists are being written, funny thoughts are being shared to neighbors through whispers or notes. What i think we should worry about is people checking thier email and surfing the web on thier phones.

    Technology has just made the same old ways of communicating more efficient and effective.. when i was young we didn’t twitter or text, but we threw gum wrappers, wrote notes, had synchronized walk outs to the foyer or bathroom to chat, etc. All i’m saying is. Twitter may seem distracting, but whoever believes that people weren’t distracted in other ways previous to twitter is probably asleep in the front row.

  17. Also, when the fear of God falls on a group of people, the speaker’s attention isn’t on the crowd, it’s on what the Lord is doing. There’s a time and a place for everything.

  18. How different is it to tweet a comment abt the message vs. whispering it or jotting it in a note to a neighbor. I must confess to doing such numerous times during messages in chapel while @ bible school. So I don’t see much difference in noting it in a tweet – not that I’d really want it posted for the whole congregation….

    I’m going to risk sounding like a Libertarian here – don’t make a rule about it. Leave it to people’s good sense. If they lack that, then others will show them the error of their ways pretty quickly. Rule of the people and all that….

  19. Twittering is a symptom of a problem, not the cause.

    There’s a really amazing book published by the same guys as “The Shack.” The title might help this discussion:

    “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore”

    (You can find it on Amazon, but you can also read it for free on the publishers site @ jakecolsen.com)

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