Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If God Used Twitter

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“For God so loved the online world that he used his nimble thumbs, that whoever receives tweets from him shall not be lost but have a second life.” Twitter 3:16

You won’t find it on my official resume for it doesn’t really match my other professional endeavors, but there was a time not that long ago when I was the Director of Youth at my church. I was in the midst of starting Big E Toys and stepped into the role when the current Director of Youth unexpectedly announced he’d be leaving. I held the position on an interim, part-time basis for about 18 months until a full-time replacement was hired. The experience was very rewarding and allowed me to explore different ideas and develop skills that in more traditional realms might not otherwise have been possible.

I have throughout my career been involved in the development of various new ideas, products, and businesses. Much of my work has had a technological slant, and more specifically online elements. Even while I was a Director of Youth I looked for ways to incorporate technology, and more specifically online elements, into the ministry.

The commercial and individual use of social media has definitely exploded over the last 12 to 18 months. Even non-profits, including churches and other religious organizations, are dabbling in this space. As I sit here contemplating this phenomenon, the Director of Youth in me can’t help wonder how God himself might utilize an application like Twitter.

I figure, you’d not likely see God using Twitter in its most basic form to simply let others in on his location. I mean really, how useful or meaningful would this be? Just imagine.

“God here. Currently I’m everywhere.”

“If you thought I wasn’t there, you’re wrong. I’m everywhere.”

“You guessed it, I’m still everywhere.”

I may be mistaken, but I’m also fairly confident the 140 character limit on Twitter just might not be long enough to capture all that God does at any given moment in time. You thus might not get updates on what God is doing. He might not want to tell you anyway. Might destroy the aura of the Holy Ghost.

And how many times would God have to tweet “I’m not dead” to dispel the rumor begun by Nietzsche and convince people he’s still around? Not many I’d hope. This would get real old, real fast.

Can’t imagine he’d send around notes for meet-ups either. Wouldn’t a tweet to Moses saying “Meet me at the burning bush in ten minutes” completely ruin the effect and miraculous nature of such a moment?

How then might God actually use Twitter?

However absurd or in some people’s eyes blasphemous this facetious God-using-Twitter scenario might sound, there’s actually a lesson of sorts in this extreme portrait. Not a lesson in the biblical sense, nor a lesson simply for religious-minded people or organizations. But rather a lesson for anyone looking to innovate using Twitter and other social media tools.

There may be exceptions, but for the most part, Twitter and other social media applications are currently used by businesses for two primary purposes. They are either used to provide information, such as sports scores, weather updates, etc. Or they’re used to promote products, services, events, and the like. Facebook and MySpace provide opportunities beyond these basic characteristics, but at their core for commercial use they’re fundamentally informational and promotional.

If God were using Twitter, I’d think we’d expect more than just information and promotion. We’d not be content to simply receive stats on the number of souls saved each day, or a two-for-one coupon to the Sunday potluck, or updates on time changes to Sunday morning services. We’d want and expect more.

Thou shall not worship any other God, but why don’t we expect more from businesses when it comes to social media?

To realize the true innovative potential of social media, at some point we’ll need to transcend the current informational and promotional state. We have to reach beyond convention. Seek ye first not just promotional and informational, but also inspirational, motivational, directional, situational, and personal. Tweets should guide, enlighten, and inspire. Commercial social media activity cannot simply be self-serving or it will ultimately be ignored and die. To remain relevant and sustainable, reach further.

May the Holy Ghost in the machine be with you.

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