If Jesus had had access to Twitter back in 1st century Palestine, would he have used it?
A simple answer that a lot of people would probably jump on is, probably, yes. Jesus was keen to communicate with as many people as possible; he knew how to make use of the scenes and images of everyday life to make his point. Sure, he would use Twitter.
So, no doubt, would Paul. Didn’t he say that he was all things to all men, so that he might win some? If he was around today, would the all things not have included Twitter?
If Jesus would have used Twitter, presumably the logical thing for 21st century Christian communicators is to follow his (supposed) example.
The other day, a couple friends were tweeting hither and thither about Twitter and preaching. One thought that sermons were starting to sound like a collection of tweetable comments, more than an overall message; the other talked about avoiding Twitter on Sunday out of frustration at the stream of sermon-related Tweets on his timeline.
I guess if we knew not only whether Jesus would have tweeted but also what he would have tweeted, we could perhaps have a go at working out Twitter guidelines for preachers.
But even if Jesus may have used Twitter, had it been available, is the issue as simple as that?
If it is true (to borrow Marshall McLuhan’s expression) that the medium is the message, are there any unintended consequences to our attempts to shrink the gospel to 140 characters? Given that Twitter can be a maelstrom of a thousand voices competing for 2 seconds of someone’s attention, is there a risk of reducing the gospel to only one more competing voice?
Mind you, Jesus taught that some of the seed (of the word of God) lands on the path where it is tramped or gobbled up. At times the word of God is surprisingly vulnerable, though it remains immeasurably powerful and life-giving. Perhaps Twitter is the modern expression of the work of the seed-scattering farmer?
I remember a teacher of preachers suggesting something along the lines that that if you are preaching on a Sunday morning and your wife wakes you from your sleep in the early hours and asks what your sermon is about, you ought to be able to sum it up in a sentence. Even as someone who usually preaches some 40-odd minutes, I think that’s wise advice. It’s about the clarity of a concise summary. Preachers ought to be able to do that.
So it might not be a bad idea to tweet your sermon’s condensed content in 140 characters: it will cut through the fog of your thinking; or to make sure that each of your main points is tweetable. But don’t allow your message to be driven by the search for a soundbite. (Simplification is another subject).
The task of the preacher is to give clarity to the rich complexities of Scripture; it’s about walking a path that avoids woolliness or over-complication on one hand and sounding like a vote-seeking politician making a speech on the other.
I’m afraid this has been a bit of a ramble. I’d be interested to know what others think about it.