Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

In Defense of Twitter; How It Has Helped Me As A Christian

Social media gets a lot of bad press. Much of it is valid; some of it is fueled by ignorance; and possibly some stems from fear. I’ve been thankful for the helpful thoughts from Tim Challies, the team from Ligonier Ministries’ “Pre-Conference”, and even John MacArthur yesterday. As Christians we do need to be thoughtful in all we do, and warnings and calls for discernment like these are necessary, not just in regards to social media, but in all areas of liberty.

That said, I believe it would be a mistake to ignore social media altogether. For better or worse the way people communicate in the 21st century has changed.  Let us not overlook the positive contributions that social media has made. Let us not fail to offer suggestions and model how social media can be used in a positive and healthy way, for the cause of Christ and His gospel, in the 21st century. I attempted this in a small way when I reflected on the release of Facebook Places. I’d like to continue that line of thought today by sharing several ways Twitter has helped me as a Christian.

My Prayer Life

Through the connections and relationships I’ve formed on Twitter (@NWBingham), there have been a number of times when I’ve gone to the Lord in prayer for a brother or sister immediately in response to a prayer request they’ve made. Whether it be a family member taken ill, a tragedy, an unexpected opportunity to speak of Christ, etc., they’ve all been of immediate need. Most of those requests would have never reached me (or anyone else for that matter), and if they had, the time of need would have passed.

My View of the Church

Twitter has allowed me to connect with brothers and sisters around the globe. They’ve encouraged me. I’ve read of their pain and struggles. I’ve prayed for them, and they’ve prayed for me. I’ve gone to sleep on the Lord’s Day after preaching knowing other ministers in other time zones were just about to get up and preach their Lord’s Day morning sermon. Consequently my vision of the church has increased in a tangible way. The Body of Christ is much larger than the local congregation, my denomination, or the other true churches in Australia. It truly is a global body and Twitter frequently reminds me of this.

My Use of Words

The charge is often made that Twitter’s 140 character limit will only have negative consequences on the English language, and encourage doctrinal shallowness. While I agree that this is a valid concern, I’ve actually discovered the opposite affect in my life.

Being Clear

When I’m intending to communicate on Twitter the 140 character limit forces me to truly consider what it is I’m trying to say. Often this takes a significant amount of time and consideration. This practice has helped me with clarity not only on Twitter but in preparation for sermons and Sunday School material. Before Twitter I was often content with holding a more verbose and inevitably less clear understanding in my head.

Being Cautious

The thought of God’s omnipresence should be enough to help us all control our tongues. To my shame, and testament to my sinfulness and need of grace, this point of doctrine isn’t always applied in my life. Despite the perception, I’m most tempted to be frivolous with my words not on Twitter, but during face to face conversation over coffee or sitting on the couch with a friend. Over coffee I can be deceived into thinking it is just between them and me, whereas when I put it on Twitter I’m keenly aware of the potential for the whole world to read it. Consequently, there have been times online when hurtful words have been said, or arrogant blasts made which if said to me in person would have tempted me to respond rashly, without grace. Instead, knowing my response would be public I was forced to really consider my words. In most cases it drove me to prayer and reminded me of the gospel.

Now I know that this is how I should respond even in face to face communication. I do endeavour to do that, but I wanted to point out a practical way the Lord has used Twitter in my sanctification.

My Reading

Twitter’s usefulness isn’t limited to 140 characters. Many users tweet links to other edifying resources. People will tweet what books they’re reading, make suggestions, point you to free downloads and book specials. All of this has impacted what I’m reading, and often allowed me the privilege of reading the best of what’s available.

Further, instead of waiting for e-newsletters or articles to be published in journals, Twitter often points me to critical Christian thinkers reflecting on current cultural issues, church controversies, etc. For example, even this discussion on social media would be difficult without Twitter. I know that’s obvious, but I find it ironic that calls for discernment regarding social media are primarily propagated through such media. A more helpful example is a recent discussion on the NIV 2011’s translation of 2 Timothy 2:12, where even in the comments one of the translators was able to respond to criticism. Without social media this kind of discussion would not have been available to me, and without Twitter I would not have heard about it.

My Work

The last for today is short and to the point. If it wasn’t for Twitter I would never have made contact with my current employer.

Conclusion

I’m sure there are more than five reasons why Twitter should be used with caution, and the benefits of Twitter are not limited to the aforementioned five, but I trust they’ll contribute to the ongoing conversation. I may post some more in the future.

If you’re using Twitter, how has it helped you? How can it be used for God’s glory?

Leave a comment, discuss it on Facebook, or send me on a tweet on Twitter.

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