How to use twitter if you aren’t John Piper

[Disclaimer: I actually quite like John Piper. I have learnt much of his teaching of the bible. The title of this is a shameless attempt to get you to a) click the link to this post and then to b) read this post]

The other day I wrote a post, about how Christian organisations could use digital and social media. I thought it would be a good idea for me to write something, kind of as a follow up, about how you could use twitter as an individual.

I have been on twitter for 3 years. In that time I have sent over 5000 tweets. I got a twitter account because it was something new, and another way to keep in touch with friends. If you are on twitter, your story might be similar. At first I didn’t really know what twitter was even for. I had facebook, it was 2009, facebook was kind of a big deal.

In those three years I have seen lots of different ways that people use twitter. Firstly, I don’t think there is a set way to use twitter, but there are some different approaches that I think are better, especially in relation for how Christians use twitter.

With that in mind, I think I have seen five main ways that Christians use twitter.

First: Using twitter for broadcast

This approach is often taken by pastors of large churches, mostly from the United States. Im specifically thinking about John Piper & Mark Driscoll among others. This approach often has very limited one-on-one engagement. Most of these people have over 50,000 followers, which can make one-on-one engagement difficult. These people generally use twitter to broadcast their events, publicise the release of their new book or to write daily reflections. Given their influence and follower count this could be a good way to use twitter as one-on-one engagement is hard and very time consuming.

With everything there are exceptions. In this case, the exception to this is Ed Stetzer. He has 54,000 followers, and on the most part he is really good at engaging with people who mention him. Ed recently came to Moore College to give a lecture on how churches can engage their members in meaningful ministry. There were lots of tweets going back and forth between Ed and some of the students at Moore College. Some of it was people thanking him for the lecture, some was just humour. Regardless of the content, he responded, either giving thanks for the feedback or joining in with joke that was made. Ed took the time to engage with, and learn from those who had taken the time to engage with him and his content.

Second: Using twitter as facebook.

The second approach is this: people use a feature in either facebook or twitter which automatically cross posts to either platform.

It works like this: If you post something on facebook, facebook will automatically post that status update to twitter. There is also a feature in twitter which can cross post your tweet to facebook. This approach makes using social media a little easier. Just like the first approach, this approach often means that engagement with others is limited. In many ways it is similar to the first approach. People broadcast what they want, but because they are only really using one platform, their engagement with BOTH platforms are limited. If I am already friends with you Facebook, why should I bother following you on twitter? The content will be the same.

Third: Not using your twitter account at all.

The third approach is fairly simple. You set up a twitter account a while ago, you sent some tweets, then you stopped sending tweets. No engagement because you aren’t actually using the account anymore. Fairly simple.

Fourth: Using twitter to engage with other Christians.

The people who take this fourth approach usually like to use twitter, and they have seen the benefits that it has for building friendships and community. They send tweets around the topics of Live sermon tweets, things that are happening in their lives e.g ‘my train is running late today’ & ‘thankful for a great catch up with a good friend today’, posting bible verses from apps like the ESV iPhone app to talking about sport, food and music they like.

These people generally enjoy a high level of engagement with Christian brothers and sisters. Usually around the topics I mentioned above. These people usually follow Christians alone, and are followed by Christians alone.

Fifth: Using twitter to engage with everyone.

This last approach contains almost everything from approach four. The main difference is that there is a much wider scope of the topics that they will tweet about. This is particularly powerful because they enable the Christian voice to be heard in a space in which it might not be heard otherwise. These broader topics might include the current poker machine debate, the legislation to get SRE (Special religious education) out of public schools (in NSW) or they might be able to speak into Gay marriage debates and engage helpfully with people on the issue.

If done correctly this person follows plenty of Non-Christian people, and in-turn, they are followed by lots of non-christian people. They are able to keep up with how people, yes people, are currently thinking about the world. Which will help as this person seeks to practice apologetics. The person using the fifth approach is usually in tune with political temperature of their region, and they engage on a wide range of issues with a wide range of people. Even people they disagree with.

How I use twitter:

I think the fifth approach is the best way for Christian people to be involved on twitter. Personally I actually follow more Non-Christian people than Christian. This is because of a few reasons. I think alot of Christians use twitter for broadcast, plenty of Christians also do the facebook cross post thing and lots of Christians don’t use their twitter accounts at all.

These approaches usually mean that Christians don’t generally engage with anyone in a meaningful way. I’m all about using twitter to engage with people and I think that twitter presents a huge opportunity to engage with real people about real issues. I love having the opportunity to engage with people that I might not of been able to otherwise.

Recently I got to have lunch with someone who I only know through interaction on twitter. This person wasn’t a Christian, and over lunch we got to chat about his family, politics and then Jesus. It was a conversation that would not of happened if I hadn’t of engaged with him like a normal person on twitter first. If I hadn’t of shown interest in him as a person first.

I have heard of lots of examples just like this. Gospel conversations happening through interaction and engagement through twitter.

In Conclusion

The temptation for Christians is to rubbish the possibilities of technology, or to simply ignore the possibilities all together. This could because they don’t even see the possibilities of what this technology could achieve. Technology has a huge possibility for furthering the message of Jesus. Christians need to make sure they are not a barrier to that happening.

So at this point, I want to encourage you to think about how you are going to use twitter. I would like to encourage you to think abut how you can use things like twitter better. To use twitter within your means. To use twitter realistically. If you aren’t John Piper don’t use twitter like John Piper.

Finally

If you are someone who would like to know more about how you can use Digital and Social media, some of us at Moore College are planning on running some Digital Ministry training workshops over the course of the year. If you’re a minister and would like to attend a student-run workshop, we’d love to have you.

You can register your interest on the form below:

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