Friday, May 29, 2009

Twitter in Church?

Time magazine had an article on the appropriateness of using Twitter during a church service. As I've said before the whole phenomena of Twitter is beyond me. I'm simply not that tech savvy. Josh Harris has cast his vote as solid no. I do know that when I'm with my son and he starts "texting" his friends I find myself very distracted. I know there is a conversation going on but I have no way to contribute other than "What did you say?" "What did they say?". Not the same thing as a conversation. Furthermore, I start to feel like my own company must be dreadfully boring since he feels the need to start a conversation with someone who may not even be in the same town. "Give me anybody but dad to talk to!" He assures me I'm overreacting. But that leads me to thinking about someone tweeting during a church service. While I've not experienced it (that I know of) I think I would find it distracting. Can we not sit still for one hour without the need to employ the latest technology for whatever reason? Here's how Harris put it:

"Even if I didn't look at anything else, the mere act of "tweeting" some quote or question or thought from the sermon would be several minutes in which I wasn't actively listening to the sermon. Brain space would be taken up with typing and getting my word count under 140. God's word preached is so important, so precious, I don't want anything to distract me from hearing it. What if those two minutes in which I'm distracted are the two minutes my soul needs the most?"
On the other hand how is this any different from taking notes with pen and paper? I often find myself writing down notes and, yes, sometimes I do lose what is being said during that time. Should we cease taking notes during a sermon? (Frankly, I rarely keep any of my sermon notes. But I find my retention is much greater if I write down at least a rough outline. ) I suppose if someone were tweeting next to me I might find it distracting. Perhaps it would be something I would just get used to. I'm not sure. Some of the other concerns that Harris expressed such as the temptation to check email, prompting other people to pull out their phones and start tweeting or checking email should not be too quickly dismissed. We should be sensitive to any activity that may distract us or those around us. I think if someone next to me politely said "I would like to take a few notes on my latest new gadget. If you find it distracting please let me know and I will stop" that would go a long way with me. You never know, perhaps after the service I might learn a little something about all this new technology and I might make a new friend.

Update: John Piper has weighed in and not surprisingly agrees with Harris. Since most of their comments and concerns are unrelated to "note taking" it seems they have a point. Tweeting, as I'm beginning to understand, is a sort of running commentary and that seems a rather strange thing to do during the service. Can't we wait till the end of the service to engage in commentary? Are anyone's thoughts all that important that they can't wait an hour? What does it say about how we esteem the practice of worship if we think it is more important to comment on it rather than do it?

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