The Tweeting Disciple
I can't imagine life without Twitter. I've been microblogging since 2009, and it is an almost hourly connection to the wider world. A case can be made that if not for Twitter, the social fabric of daily life for millions would suffer a mortal blow. Twitter is not just a handy way to tell the world you're headed to Kroger to pick up bread and milk. It is a catalyst for popular uprisings, political movements, the unseating of tyrants, mass demonstrations calling for civil liberties and democracy.
One study found that of all the social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, and so forth), tweeters are the most religious. For me, social media stretches far beyond a cultural icon of religiosity. The vehicle for Twitter is, in many ways, the ultimate medium for discipleship. Let me explain the four leading ways that Twitter has changed my life and made me a better follower of Jesus.
1. The art of following
Twitter only knows two categories: whom you follow, and who is following you. Twitter's categorical imperative is one of followership, not the fast track to leadership, which is so inherent in our culture. In Twitterdom, you are who you follow.
Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." In Twitter's ethic of followership, I am constantly reframing reality in ways that are more Jesus-like—more grace-full, more forgiving, more loving, more humorous—and helping my "followers" to better follow Christ. I am constantly on the prowl for things that could encourage, enrich, inspire. In my ongoing battle with self-transcendence over self-absorption, Twitter has helped me become more others-focused. With a new list of followers every day, and an unlimited number of potential followers, I am reminded daily that the most important people in my life are ones I haven't yet met. I also am constantly surprised and consistently blessed by the revealing direction in which followers take my tweets.
2. Sound bytes can bite
Identity is more important than bigness. McDonald's has roughly eighty food items, while In-N-Out Burger has four. In 2010 the average In-N-Out Burger location did $2.25 million in sales, about the same as McDonald's. Kmart went bankrupt. Why? Because it had nothing special that set it apart from high-end Target and low-end Walmart. Linens 'n Things went bankrupt because it cloned Bed, Bath & Beyond, offering nothing unique.
The truth is it takes more work to distill thought into two sentences than two pages. In the best of Twitter, the language is distilled, restrained, made to be sipped rather than quaffed. There is a lot of distilled theology on Twitter, but if the liquor of distillation doesn't taste like Jesus, I don't keep sipping.
Jesus was always tweeting the gospel in pithy, memorable phrases. His followers would be well advised to "retweet" everything he said. Twitter's retweet is viral and will prove to be more powerful than Facebook's "like." What's more, Jesus was the Master at truth simplified, de-codified, de-legalized, communized, intensified. Retweeting is the twenty-first-century equivalent of the parables of yeast and the mustard seed. Retweeting Jesus is spreading the virus of the gospel.