Church Promotes Twittering During Sermon

twitter churchJust came across this news story describing how Next Level Church in Charlotte, NC encouraged people to Twitter during the Easter service.  Everyone they interviewed seemed to think it was a great idea.  That it did not distract their attention from worship or the message.  And that it was a way to use the tools available to us today to connect with others share with them what was going on during the service.

I’m an advocate of using social networking to connect with people and generally speaking I think it’s good for Christians to give their non-Christian friends a glimpse into what day-to-day life is like as a Christian.

I’ve also posted before about how my church has encouraged people to text questions about the message to a moderator who then passed them on to the pastor for a Q & A session at the end of the service.  At the time I thought that was useful.  But now I’m not so sure…

My gut reaction

I’ve got to admit my first thought was Twittering during a worship service sounds like a bad idea.

People say it’s not a distraction, but I don’t know how it could not be a distraction.

If you believe a worship service is an experience with God… the creator of the universe… the most important Person in your life then it’s a big deal.

Imagine how you would feel if during a date with your spouse or significant other, he kept Twittering about it.  You’re trying to carry on a conversation with her, but she periodically glances down at her iPhone for 30 seconds at a time.  You’re walking along the beach enjoying beautiful sunset together, he’s got one hand in yours and one hand punching buttons his Blackberry.

If my wife did that, it would totally tick me off.  I imagine God must feel the same way.

Others feeling the tension

After I wrote the above, I was reading a blog article on Church Solutions where the author (sorry I couldn’t find an attribute) was feeling the same tension while worshiping at the Catalyst West conference.  He/she wrote:

It was in the first half-hour of the conference, when Hillsong United had transported the crowd of 3,200 worshippers to the mountaintop. Awe-stricken, something within me rose up and prompted, “You’ve got to tweet about this.” I turned around to grab my phone from my chair. However, as I looked at my cell, another thought came. “Are you seriously going to interrupt this amazing time of worship to post a tweet? Will it be any less relevant if you do it in five minutes?”

On second thought

But an interesting thought hit me as I read the rest of the post.  It lists the author’s tweets during a conference.  I’ve never tweeted during a conference, but I’ve blogged my notes live.  That was a helpful way for me to remember the important things I heard and to begin discussing them with others.

And come to think of it, I sometimes write down notes while my pastor is giving the message.  I never considered that a distraction.  In fact, I would guess if you took a poll of pastors, most would say taking notes during the sermon and then reviewing them and reflecting on them during the week is beneficial to spiritual development.

Is Twittering any different than that?

So, maybe it’s not such a cut and dry issue.

What do you think about Twittering during a worship service?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

19 Responses to “Church Promotes Twittering During Sermon”

  1. There is a difference in taking notes on a sermon and Twittering. Twittering is to tell others about what you are learning. The purpose of taking notes is to help you remember things later. I am a HUGE fan of taking notes during a sermon. I have notebooks from college when I started doing this and haven’t stopped since. These notes allow me to do a devotional time with God (aka: Quiet Time) later so I can dig deeper. Taking notes on paper is less distracting than pulling out your latest techno gadget to key in tweets.

    In the end, it’s up to each of us to decide what the best way to get the most out of the service would be. If you can twitter and still stay fully focused on God, great. I can’t…I relay my notes later once I am at home. I use some of my notes as a thought for the day kind of a thing and it keeps me focused on teh sermon and what God is trying to do in my life longer than just a couple hours after the service is over.

  2. I think we are all great according what everyone brings in. But my concern is that no one gave a typical example from the Word of God. Here I will note down two Biblical passages: First; Ecclesiastes 1:3-15 stating out from God Word’s that there is an appointed time for everything. Luke 12:26, and since you cannot do this very little, how are you expecting to do big.

    Finally, let us give to God what deserves to Him; honor, Glory, Power and the Over ruling Power upon every human being.

    17 And they have not been corrupt in their imagination; for such were in the mind of the Lord; 18 And they mocked at them that were walking in error; 19 And they spake truth from the inspiration which the Most High breathed into them; Praise and great comeliness to His name. Hallelujah.

    Bless you,
    Jerome

  3. When I read this, my initial reaction was NO – Bad idea!

    But on reflection, I have frequently used a PDA (old technology) to take notes at conferences, business meetings, etc. No, I have not done this in church. But why not? I took notes in those other situations because I thought that the content of the meetings was important enough to record. So why not church?

    Twittering on a Blackberry is no different. And if others can read what you think is important about your worship experience, isn’t this good?

  4. GODS Love never is rude or walketh unseemly. It beleiveth all things (pertaining to the LORDS word) keepeth no record of wrongs. Is not proud or puffed up. It vaulteth itself not.

    ” Have not the appearance of evil” with evil being bound within the sight and eyes of the beholder, only HE who “rightly judges HIS own truth” seeth no evil,
    for there is NO EVIL in HIS sight.

    Eyes that belong to HIM, see even that which HE sees, and heareth even as HE hears, for they belong to HIM. What do your eyes see and hear? If all of your perceptions are based on what the Holy Ghost shows and tells you, you

    will percieve all things as what the LORD is doing, instead of what men appear to be doing. For HE and HE alone, IS in complete control and soverign, over all
    HIS kingdom.

    Consider the meeting IN HEAVEN in which a lying spirit was sent to the mouths
    of the false Prophets..in order that the LORDS will be done…HE changeth not.
    HE is the same today and tomorrow, yesterday and 1,000 years from now.

    Has the LORD changed his judgements (the Word) about anything?

    The short answer here is..if HE is your judge, and rightly guides your thinking
    according to HIS perfect will for all men, then you thinketh no evil, nor speaketh no evil..for would ye not be guilty of calling what HE does – evil, if

    ye truly believe HE is in control of all things?
    ManofGod777

  5. @Kristyn

    >>There is a difference in taking notes on a sermon and Twittering. Twittering is to tell others about what you are learning. The purpose of taking notes is to help you remember things later…

    True, but if you’re writing the same words is there a difference?

    >>Taking notes on paper is less distracting than pulling out your latest techno gadget to key in tweets.

    That may be true or you, but is it true for everyone?

    (BTW, I love the spelling of you name. My kids’ names are Ainsley, Aidyn, and Aryn. :) )

  6. @Jerome – I appreciate the comment and the scripture references, but I’m not sure I follow the application to this situation.

  7. @Don – That was my reaction as well.

    The more I think about it, the more I think it depends on the situation and it depends on the person. I find “raw” note-taking during a message helpful for remembering and applying it. However, if I am thinking about how about how to craft those notes into messages others will find interesting, helpful, etc then that the filtering of the raw notes may be a distraction.

  8. To hear that people are not distracted from the sermon on ground sounds strange, but i rest my comments as a little distraction will make the meaning of the whole thing out of context. True sharing with none Christians what goes on around the church community is good but not while the message is on

  9. Hello!

    While reading this interesting article, I am reminded of the time I was asked ‘why do you write so much.? ” This was in reference to church services, and Bible Study. While I am big on taking notes, as they have proven to be excellent learning, and teaching aides, and quite fruitful on my Christian journey, they are on a whole different level. The attention factor ‘is’ present
    and the notes are shared “after” the service.

    While ‘Twittering,’ or ‘tweeting’ on the other hand, seems to be a distraction as there is the possibility of someone diverting your attention away from the main focus, and in my opinion, would not help me to remain focused during a service. Whereby relinquishing the tech piece to the category of…”Mind Your Manners,” unless sending tweets to yourself for future reference. This could be an exception, but there is still the possibility for abuse.

    Distraction is defined in the American heritage Dictionary as: a diversion from an original focus; any thing that compels attention or distracts, especially, an amusement. It is to cause to turn away from the original focus or attention, or interest; to sidetrack, and the word ‘divert’ again. So, again, anything that disturbs, takes attention away from, or distracts in our ‘Fathers House’ is not honorable.

    Yes, complete focus should be on worship. Anything less, can be rude, and inappropriate, interrupting.

    An emergency, tending to a baby is one thing, deliberately diverting attention, is another.

    Gods Blessings and Peace

  10. @ Jerome – Why did I not sight Scripture for my statements? Sometimes common sense weighs in well also. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit guiding and directing us by conscience and common sense. This is the reason I said, “In the end, it’s up to each of us to decide what the best way to get the most out of the service would be.” The Lord moves us in different directions.

    One thing I am wondering about though. My husband is a preacher and he’s an avid believer in taking notes and studying them later. He got me thinking – if the preacher says to twitter, then it’s a congregational effort and it’s less distracting if everyone knows you are doing it. But in a simple service at our church it’s not appropriate as the pastor hasn’t made the request. Once again…it’s all in the Lord’s calling.

    @ Paul – Thanks! My first name is my mother’s fault. My last name is my husband’s fault (Phipps). It’s awful to make phone calls and people ask my name and the spelling. I have to come up with all kinds of acronyms! I also passed the blessings to my daughters. Brienna (not Brianna) and Elizabeth (not Elisabeth)…LOL.

  11. All of the replys are great but I have a question. How do we know that the ones that are twittering are sending notes on what they are listening to?

    I am a pastor and have been faced with teens texting during the service. Following the service I ask one about the message and was told that it was to a friend and they were making plans for the afternoon and that Sunday night.

    My own gut feeling is that we should be capable of getting through three hours of worship (Wed. night, Sunday morning, Sunday night) without the need of twittering. Now I know some will say that I am not open minded but I am. I use every convenience possible but there is something to be said about being in God’s house and giving him time to speak to my heart without the world being involved.

    We have discouraged twittering, texting and the use of cell phones in our worship services. Our people now use the silent mode and most do not even respond but to make sure that it is not an emergency. Our congregation has firemen, rescue and police (state & city) and they respond to their pagers without disturbing the service so I think we all can get by without having to have the convenience of twittering during worship time.

  12. I don’t believe I’m wrong to say that a worship service is not for us but for the One that we worship. The benefit that we gain from the precence of the Holy Spirit in worship is not why we are to worship God. When we choose to try and spread that worship to those who are not there we are then trying to give them the benefit with out expecting them to participate in what brings us that blessing in the first place. Worship is not for the believer it is for God. As some one who has an evangelistic heart I will be the first to say that when we make worship all about evangelism then when do we worship and praise the One who has who has searched for worshippers (John 4:23)? As a Youth Minister who preaches every Wednesday night I try to prepare messages that lead to people asking questions, but if they focus to much on the question then they don’t hear when I use scripture to give the answer. My point is this the bible is full of stories of people who had encounters with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, who after the expierance ran and told people but I don’t know of any who said hold on God I’ll be back bfore your done! Remember what Jesus said to those who did what they wanted then tried to put God’s name on it ” These people draw near to Me with thier mouth. And honor Me with thier lips, but thier heart is for from Me. And in vain they worship Me , teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:8-9

  13. @Harold – You asked:

    “How do we know that the ones that are twittering are sending notes on what they are listening to?”

    How do we know the ones who are writing with pens and paper are writing about the message as opposed to passing notes or writing up a shopping list? Just playing devil’s advocate. ;)

    “I think we all can get by without having to have the convenience of twittering during worship time.”

    I think that’s a great point. Is there really any downside to waiting until after the service is over to Twitter about it?

  14. My pointing out what is to follow may be viewed as irrelevent to the topic being discussed. However, it may help to better understand just where Next Level is coming from – and going to.

    For those who may not be aware of it, Next Level first made a name for itself in the national media through its ‘shot glass ministry.’ They distributed free shot glasses to bars in the Ballentyne area of Charlotte as a promotional gesture, hoping that bar patrons would be enticed to attend their services. Hung over from a Saturday night at the bar, one wonders how seriously these prospective converts, having found out about these people from a shot glass they drank out of the night before, would view attending their first Next Level service there with a congregation full of people ‘twittering’ away on their cell phones, as if narrating a play-by-play commentary at a sporting event. How can such conduct in ‘church’ be anything else but a distraction to those around the ‘commentators’, who may be people who prefer hearing their sermons firsthand?

    A far better idea would be for them to webcast their services over streaming video. Online church services avoid misinterpretation of the message by intermediaries, and keeps everyone focused on what a church service supposed to be – the message God is trying to send to the people through their pastor.

    Your opinions may differ, but I don’t think mainstream Christian America will accept this behavior, or view it in any other way than as what it is – a distraction. One can only wonder what this ‘church’, which seems to prefer provoking controversy over disseminating the message of Jesus Christ, will come up with next to draw attention to itself.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Rob

  15. I have to agree with Harold and James. God has certainly provided wonderful technological devices which can be used for His glory – after all, Ps. 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” However, I believe this type of thing is best answered by the apostle Paul’s comments in 1 Cor. 14:35, where he urges women to be silent in the church. This was because men and women were separated in seating back then and only men had a chance at an education, so they might understand things the women did not; but Paul said the women were not to distract from the worship by talking out across the aisle to their husbands, but rather to ask them at home, after the service. In other words, we should focus our attention during the service on God, and on what He is saying to our hearts even regarding our fellowmen.

  16. Time Magazine did a story yesterday on churches Twittering during a worship service:

    http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1895463,00.html

  17. growing up in the Church, during confirmation we had to do sermon notes. We had to write down 2 main points and 2 stories used to illustrate the main points. Then do what does this mean to me.

    I have seen a Church use Live Blogging during service to great reward. It helped those who could not visit be still involved online.

    I see twittering as a useful tool to spread the word. I have many believers and unbelievers following me on Twitter. Although I use my account mostly for Education Purpose, My faith is always shown, which has caused some debates on twitter. You really get important information shared when you debate on twitter, you don’t waste your limit on nonsense batter.

    I have seen individuals in Church, write notes, text, talk, use iPods, and even DS Lites. Do we know what is in their hearts? Yes, it can be a distraction, but what is the means behind it?

    We are to spread the word. I have had many pastors, tell me to write down my thoughts as we worked through a Bible story or listen to a sermon. Sharing our thoughts with the world, is just one step forward for the kingdom of God!

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