Twunity

November 02, 2010

Tuesday Re-mix –

“He who no longer is listening to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If I am honest with myself, I must admit that my ability to hear God speak through you is directly related to how much “agreement” you and I have on issues which are important to me.  The more we disagree, the less we listen to each other.  In turn, the less we listen to each other as Christians, the further we get from experiencing unity.  But understand this: it is not disagreement that kills our unity…it is our inability to manage that disagreement.

Anyone involved in a peacemaking ministry to Christians will tell you that doctrinal differences are by far the most difficult differences for Christians to work through.  It is one thing to say “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; and in all things, charity” (a saying often attributed to Augustine), but we Christians cannot even agree on what is essential and what is not.  50 years ago, one’s millenial view was considered by many to be essential.  Today, one’s view of inerrancy of scripture is considered by many to be essential.  Who knows what the hot-button issue will be for the next generation?  And so, how you see certain “litmus test” issues of mine will determine my willingness to hear God speak through you on other matters.

For as long as I have been alive (and surely for much longer than that), peacemakers have struggled to get conflicted parties beyond their points of disagreement in order to agree on some other issues, i.e., in order to find some common ground elsewhere.  That, I suppose, is one of the real challenges to the global church today.  I am not talking here about some watered-down, ecumenical revolution which leaves everyone with shallow theology, or with no theology at all.  I am just talking about an ability to be civil with each other and to actually allow God to use each of us to speak truth into each other’s lives, if not on our matters of disagreement, at least in matters where we can agree.  In short, the more I know about you, the more likely I am to find a point of sharp disagreement and to therefore stop listening to you.

So as I continue in my personal exploration of Twitter and other similar social networking vehicles as communication tools among Christians, I am struck by this simple notion, we have now found a way to bridge this dilemma.  Twitterers are engaging in meaningful communication with people whom, if they knew more about them, they would never otherwise hear.  By its very nature, unless you knew someone outside of twitter, the only thing you know about them is the ideas they are putting forth in short, concise spurts of text.  Those ideas, then, must either stand on their own or fall.  When you send out a tweet,  it is not being interpreted through a biased filter which adds to it all the other information we know about you, because there is no other information other than a user name and a very short (usually not very helpful) profile.

I like that about social media.  I think it will be good for the church.  It will cause us to hear people we otherwise would not have heard.  It will force us to be courteous and listen to ideas without judgment.  It is allowing us to connect more with more people.  It will not make us more intimate in our relationships (it was never intended to do that).  It simply allows for more communication to actually take place…communication which traditional forms of relating have tended to squelch.  And where there is more communication, there is more opportunity to hear God speak…and more unity.

As a student of what’s going on in the church, and especially as someone who studies unity in the church wherever I can, I would be very interested to know your take on Twitter and social media as it relates to the church.  Does it help preserve unity or not?

© Blake Coffee 

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6 thoughts on “Twunity

  1. Derek

    Hmmm… a better church is an impersonal church? Why didn’t God think of that when he designed human beings as personal beings. Oh well, what God can’t fix, twitter can. The first half of your post is spot on, but I’m not convinced that the way to fix the problem is to avoid it. We need to learn to listen to what each other are saying, and in doing so we may discover that 1) we are not that far apart, 2) we can learn from one another and thus become even less far apart. This takes great humility. Perhaps our issue, in so far as this has become and always been a huge problem, is pride. The opposite of Christlikeness (mea culpa! mea culpa!).

    The world of Christian theology has never been so small as now with the onset of social media. I publsh my theological musings on Facebook all the time and they constantly clash with my “friends” from around the world who publish their musings also. In the 90’s the most I had to worry about was whether or not a friend in church believed in “eternal security” (oh the horror). I used to think that me and my church were right about everything. Now I know that billions of people around the world think the same thing about themselves and their churches (Weird).

    Social media like Facebook and blogs has provided the global Christian community with tremendous opportunities to learn about our historic Christian faith beyond our culdesac doctrines. It has also provided us with an opportunity to grow further into Christlikeness (humility) or at the least it has exposed how unlike Christ we often are.

    But Twitter, to me, seems to more like the equivilant of a drive-by shooting then an ongoing conversation.

    Reply
  2. Blake

    Thanks, Derek. Great insight! It actually sounds like we’re making the same argument, at least in terms of how social medial in general affects the conversation among Christians. I suppose the point where we part ways is regarding Twitter specifically, and that, it seems to me, is because we have two different purposes in mind for it. I do think there are plenty of Christian leaders out there who are skillfully adding to the conversation through Twitter. Those are the people I choose to “follow” on Twitter. But for purposes of this post, the real benefit Twitter offers is that it opens up new windows into the deeper conversations (on blogs and Facebook and news outlets). For me, it serves the same purpose as my RSS feed, except that it exposes me to a whole lot more pieces to the conversation than my feed does…pieces I would not have been exposed to otherwise.

    So, no, I don’t think an impersonal church is a better church. And I don’t think God somehow missed something in creating us as personal beings…something Twitter is somehow now fixing. I’m not saying that at all. I trust you don’t really think I am!

    Reply
  3. Derek

    Sorry if my opening comment sounded a bit cynical. It was a convenient way to sum up how I understood your position. 🙂 I’m been on twitter for over a year now and still don’t conprehend it very well. I like you’re idea of using it similiarly as a “RSS” feed. Connecting with key people is probably key. To be honest, I haven’t sunk that much energy into it.

    Thanks

    Reply
  4. Blake

    Thanks, Derek, for the honesty of your reply. And for engaging me in the first place! The time you took to be here is a gift to me.

    Twitter, like any communication vehicle, has strengths and weaknesses and can be used for good or for not-so-good. But the point is, it is in fact being used by a huge segment of our culture (including the church)…it is one place where conversation is happening. So I go there. And if I don’t like what I am reading there, then I am probably “following” the wrong people. That’s on me. And believe me, I’m a lot more discerning in that respect today than I was a couple of years ago!

    Reply
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