Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Twittering of the Church

The new fascination with Twitter has now entered the Church. In fact, some congregations are actually utilizing it as part of their worship services.

“It’s a huge responsibility of a church to leverage whatever's going on in the broader culture, to connect people to God and to each other," says Todd Hahn, pastor of Next Level Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and an apologist for Twitter use in services.

But Dom Vincent has a few penetrating questions about how the new technology effects meaningful intellectual and social life.

...Who is setting the terms of what constitutes a healthy community? Is it the “wider culture” or the Body of Christ?...

The problem is that Twitter, as a t
ool, isn’t a fulcrum robust enough to “leverage” much of anything that can seriously be called prayer—which is the food of communion with God—or conversation—which is the life blood of friendship.

The apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians makes an extended case for the unity of the Church and by doing so shows us what true community looks like. Paul uses his favourite image of what the Church is: it is a body with each member being organically connected to the other. Despite our differences we are united through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, our saviour and the one true King. We have access to God the Father through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18). The eternal, loving, insoluble community of the Trinity is the foundation of our community in the Church. Paul, however still must encourage the Church to work out that unity in practical ways. We are to bear with one another (4:2), maintain an eagerness for unity (4:3), speak truth to one another in love(4:14,25), put our hands to good use in order to share with those among us in need (4:28), use our mouths to speak in ways that are fitting and encouraging (4:29), and show kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. These are the activities of a healthy community, one in which its members are working in concert for each other and in service with each other.

This rich vision of community life in so many respects shows up much of what passes for community in general within our plugged-in and on-the-go lifestyles. With little time to actually establish and maintain meaningful relationships, we content ourselves by merely making digital “connections” with others, however tenuous. Twitter, and Facebook, and MySpace allow us the illusion, at least, that we are in community with others even as we run breathlessly to the next thing. By relying too heavily on these technologies we should not be surprised if the very concept of community is eroded within our understanding. This erosion occurs at least along two lines: 1) a supplanting of the healthy give and take of conversation with “updating”, a practice that, given our self-centeredness, easily becomes narcissistic and 2) a loss of an ability and opportunity to really commune with another person in person...

It's an intriguing essay Dom Vincent pens and you can read the rest of it here at Christian Heritage.