Would Jesus be on Twitter?

Over past months our staff team have been discussing the effectiveness (or not) of our communication – in and through talks, sermons, this magazine, the website, and other social media. I certainly don’t want to epitomise ‘Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear; No one comes near’ (A Beatles lyric for those who are too young!). There is power in words, supremely so in The Word of God. But is anyone listening?

The Gospels present Jesus as continually interacting with people face to face in various modes… teaching the crowds, focussing in on individuals, asking them searching questions (often not giving them the answers), debating, using stories/pictures/humour, etc… No sense of 30 minute sermons with nicely alliterated headings! Plus, the words of Jesus were always accompanied by action. In the three year timeframe which Jesus maximised to the full, he remained localised with his teaching programme and often withdrew from the masses to communicate more with His Father in heaven. In that sense Jesus would not have used Twitter!

So the pressing question for me has been the 21st century challenge how should I best embrace social media to maximise my/our communication? I have resisted Facebook with the concern it would gobble up too much time. Yet my trusted and deeply respected colleagues have gradually persuaded me that Twitter is a valuable ‘tool’ in our gospel communication toolkit. And so last month I joined the Twitter community @drtimwelch!

I’m aware this is not the only method available and will not interest everyone @cambraybc. Yet our effective communication as disciples and a local church is pertinent for each one of us. I hope my early reflections about ‘Tweeting’ might generate some responses (even among those who don’t want anything to do with social media):

Reflections on Twitter and Tweeting

1) Brevity

It is really challenging to compress a meaningful message into a ‘Tweet’ of just 140 characters! Try it – conveying a verse for the day, or a lesson learnt, or an opportunity for others to know about an event, or an encouragement to know Jesus, or the essence of a talk you hear. Some of us have difficulty being succinct! Malachi highlights the danger of ‘wearying the Lord’ with our words [2:17].

2) Edification

I cannot believe how much rubbish is Tweeted! Banal sentences are not going to change anyone’s thinking or worldview. As disciples of Jesus, surely we have an opportunity to contribute words which edify, challenge, and point people to Jesus [Ephesians 4:29 – words for building others up and benefiting those who listen/read].

3) Instant communication

The fact that Twitter communicates a message instantly, and you don’t know where that message will ultimately reach is exciting! Because this has the power to spread the word rapidly, let’s make sure they are the right words! Some have concluded that the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 were accelerated by Twitter and Facebook users communicating via social media; we have an even greater revolution concerning the Saviour’s love calling us to life in the Kingdom of God. Let’s be part of that movement.

4) Twitter PLUS people contact

Twitter is no substitute for 1-2-1 people contact! Virtual communities are great for communicating quickly, especially breaking news, prayer requests, event information… but nothing beats meeting face to face. Cambray continually needs to respond to the growing sense of isolation that many of all ages feel, taking Hebrews 10:25 on board as God’s people meet together in various ways/places.

In answer to my own question, ‘would Jesus be on Twitter?’, I realise that Jesus didn’t write anything down for the early church – and yet His living words and action remain Gospel, the power of God for everyone who believes.
Gloucestershire’s William Tyndale translated the Bible in the early 16th century so that ‘even the ploughboy could understand the words in his own language with perfectly framed words and phrases, which remain memorable within the English language. Significantly, the newly invented technologies in the early 1500’s (printing presses!) were employed to disseminate the word of God further and faster.

May the Holy Spirit help us to communicate effectively, by all possible means, to as many people as God enables, for the glory of Jesus.

Your partner and pastor in that task,

Tim Welch