Saturday’s New York Times featured a fascinating story on the power of the social media service, Twitter, when it comes to spreading the Gospel.
Created in 2006, Twitter allows users to distribute messages of up to 140 characters in length to a predetermined network of friends and followers.
According to the report, Christian “tweets” are forwarded, on average, 30 times more often than their secular-themed counterparts.
The author attributes part of the reason to the pithy nature of the Christian message:
On average, verses in the King James Version are about 100 characters long, leaving room to slip in a #bible hashtag and still come in under the 140-character limit.
There’s no doubt some truth to this observation, but I don’t think that Christian content is tweeted and re-tweeted more frequently merely because of its concise verbiage. It’s tweeted and re-tweeted because people are instinctively hungry for help and eager to fill that “God-shaped vacuum” that’s inside every human heart. The world’s wisdom may temporarily please and tease, but the Gospel satiates and satisfies.
At the same time, there are critics of Christian evangelism via Twitter mainly because in order to cultivate a network, the sender needs to cultivate and develop a personal following.
As the article stated:
Despite these advances, many religious leaders say spiritual humility can be lost in efforts to “build a platform,” leaving some to wonder if there are dangers in relying too much on public conversation for matters of the soul.
Protecting against the “cult of personality” is wise and necessary, but I’m inclined to agree with Christian author Jon Acuff’s perspective on finding a balance when it comes to using this emerging technology.
“Social media’s like a brick,” he told the New York Times. “You can use it to build an orphanage or throw it through somebody’s car window.”
In some ways, this debate reminds me of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. The very same creation that allowed for the mass reproduction of the Bible for the very first time in history has also been used to distribute filth and lies of every kind.
Twitter doesn’t feed people good or bad material. It’s the sender who selects the content. Twitter is simply the vehicle, and like any vehicle, it’s our responsibility to use it wisely.
Or should I say #UseTwitterforGoodNotEvil?