The Sacred Sanctuary?

twitterchurch

Psalm 5:7 (New American Standard Bible)

7But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house,
  At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.

For many, the church sanctuary is a symbol of reverence and holy worship unto the Lord. The speaking elder stands in the pulpit with the sober responsibility to preach the Word as Paul directed Timothy (2  Timothy 4:2). The assembly joins together in prayer, singing songs of praise and worship to God, and to receive instruction for righteous living to the glory of God.

Now, some pastors have added “tweeting” to the assembly’s activity list:

Twittering in Church, with the Pastor’s O.K.

John Voelz isn’t trying to brag, but it’s fair to say he was down with Twitterbefore most people knew it was a proper noun. Last year, Voelz, a pastor, was tweeting at a conference outside Nashville about ways to make the church experience more creative — ways to “make it not suck” — when suddenly it hit him: Twitter.

Voelz and David McDonald, the other senior pastor at WestwindsCommunity Church in Jackson, Mich., spent two weeks educating their congregation about Twitter, the microblogging site that challenges users to communicate in 140 characters or less. They held training sessions where congregants brought in their laptops, iPhones and Blackberrys. They upped the bandwidth in the auditorium.

As expected, banter flourished. Tweets like “Nice shirt JVo” and “So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz” flashed across three large video screens. But there was heartfelt stuff, too.

“I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything.”

“The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful”

“sometimes healing is painful”

Call it the latest salvo in the “seeker-sensitive” movement, or the church needing to remain “relevant to the culture of today”, the reality is that technological advances will continue to make their way into the sacred sanctuary. And you thought the lady sitting next to you speaking in tongues was distracting during service? Imagine ignoring the sermon while daydreaming and watching all of the “tweets” flash across the large monitors in the sanctuary.

I have a hard enough time trying to concentrate while making my youngest sit still, now this? For those who consider me to be a legalist – especially since I have stated my objections/reservations to the entire seeker-sensitive movement, this post will probably soldify that label.

To me, the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a very sober and sacred affair. While it should not be done in a whisper chamber were cracking a smile could get you sent to the hallways, sound preaching and teaching works best in a distraction-free zone. I contend that when pastors allow (and encourage) “tweeting” during services (and broadcast those tweets across the Jumbo-Tron for all to see), they take the focus off of Christ and place it on the latest nifty technology. Much like I disdain the wanna-be Grammy-award wining soloist’s extended LP version of the latest Gospel jam, tweeting places another layer of distraction between congregants and the unfettered Word of God.

I asked about the pros and cons of “tweeting in church” on Twitter (why not go straight to the community in question, right?) and got back a few interesting responses:

Re: tweeting in church. I often do not, not for my sake, but because of others. There is quite a bit of stigma attached.

I will go out on a limb and say that I am not a fan of the idea. Isn’t our minds meant to be on God during worship service?

Well, I suppose one pro is that it allows people to think through points of the message as they share ’em

Perhaps in the right context and with full support from the pulpit the stigma will be removed from t*ing in church.

Saw it with my own eyes… some dude tweeting in church. Funny thing: he looked up Romans 3:23. You think not paying attention in church is a sin?! Just a thought.

I posed the question to Dr. Albert Mohler (ok, I “tweeted” him). Dr. Mohler is a noted Thelogian, and the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – he’s also an avid twitterer.  Dr. Mohler tweets before and after sermons, from the lecture circuit, from banquets and dinners, and more – and he even sends pictures from his travels. I haven’t revecieved a “tweet back”, but I suspect that Mohler frowns upon the idea of tweeting during church service – and encouraging the act from the pulpit.

Mark Lamprecht over at the blog Sweet Tea & Theology wrote an interesting article on the subject as well, stating (emphasis added):

Twitter Church and Classroom

Recently, a local news station reported on using Twitter at church: ‘Twittering’ encouraged at Seattle church.  It’s an interesting report and I might like to hear more about it.  However, is that really helpful to one’s spiritual growth?  I have to wonder that if we cannot even sit and listen to a sermon which is normally less than an hour how will we ever study and pray at home with ourselves and family?  Just because tweeting is silent does this mean it is now acceptable to whisper on your cell phone during the worship time?  Why not?  I mean, would we stop in the middle of a prayer to re-tweet?  This is just all strange to me.  What is it that makes tweeting acceptable and ever other medium off limits?  Can you see the pastor stopping in the middle of a corporate prayer to tweet something?On the other hand, if your pastor encourages you to tweet and every is pretty much on board, go for it!  I still don’t get it, but that’s okay.  I just don’t see how it adds anything to God feeding you through worship.

And therein lies my concern – if we encourage “microbursts” of information sharing during worship services, are we making it even more difficult to encourage sacred quiet time with the Lord and His Word? Are we sending conflicting messages – “take deliberate time to study and know the person and work of Jesus Christ, but be prepared to discuss it in less than 140 characters”

That said (as Mark point’s out), you’re not “out of order” if the pastor encourages and facilitates the activity.

Still, I can’t help but think that it is distracting.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a legalistic prude…with a blog…and a twitter account…and two BlackBerries…I’ll stop there.

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11 Responses to “The Sacred Sanctuary?”


  1. 1 young1lookin4thetruth May 4, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    major distraction…that’s all I can say. it even bothers me when the scripture text of the pastor’s message is shown on the screen because to me it makes people lazy and not once look at their own bibles to see if what’s on the screen matches up with what he’s saying. Jesus said my father’s house is supposed to be a house of prayer, not all this other stuff we’re making it. technology is good don’t get me wrong but why do we have to incorporate every new thing in the church? aren’t we supposed to be different?

  2. 2 Douglas K. Adu-Boahen May 4, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    I just noticed someone about that first article you quoted. The church in there is one of those Emergent churches – and they aren’t famed for their understanding of worship as being God-centred, if you catch my drift. (I remember reading about Westwinds in a book on the Emergent Church – very disconcerting)

  3. 3 gcmwatch May 4, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Hmmmmm

    The First Church of Twitterdom?

  4. 4 RonB May 5, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Tweeting in Church. How about leaving the phones in the car for the service. I don’t think that the churches that are allowing it would allow the Pastor to be interrupted with the same Tweets if they were vocal questions or statements across the aisle or to the deacon or to the Pastor!

    • 5 speaking truth May 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      Good point RonB – the ushers would tackle you to the floor if you kept passing notes to the Deacons or Elders during services – and what if someone tweets “Hey, where is our money going, BTW?” or “this sermon is stupid and boring!”.

      The bottom-line is that it is a distraction – an uneeeded one. Can’t we step away from the twitterverse for 2 hours?

  5. 6 Pastor Jim May 5, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Here’s where your blog entry led me to think: We/I forget that worship belongs to the LORD, that the one whole day out of seven belongs to Him. Not because you or I are a legalistic prude but because God deserves the whole worship service, the whole day, our whole lives.

    It seems that most of us look at things from ‘my’ perspective first. Even the question – ‘am I growing through the worship service’ is me-centered.

    So yeah, I get me-centered when I’m in our twitterless, relatively low-tech worship service – not because of technology – but because of a myriad of distractions in my own heart. Like the comment someone made last week, wondering if my sermon will be good enough, wondering if people are going to do this, that or the other thing.

    See, I don’t need twitter to get distracted.

    How I wish I as a pastor would be so enraptured by the LORD God, my Judge and my Deliverer, that I would give Him the glory He deserves. Romans 8 – Forgive my lame memory – both Christian and creation yearn for glory to be revealed.

    Seems twitter – like praise bands, email, light shows and fog machines (blogs?) – is yet another way we can be tempted to worship anything other than the LORD our King.

    Have mercy on me a sinner! I want YOU more!

    • 7 young1lookin4thetruth May 5, 2009 at 11:15 am

      Amen Pastor Jim, Amen!

    • 8 speaking truth May 5, 2009 at 1:40 pm

      Great perspective, Pastor Jim. We are all being overtaken by “the gospel of me” in every aspect of society, and this is no different. Rather than focusing on gaining God’s instruction for my life, I am focusing on crafting a witty retort to tweet about my reaction to the Gospel that I am listening to.

      Sin is enough of a distraction.

      And you’re right about other things being distractions – I’ve cut down on bloggin considerably in the past year because my pithy writing about God took away from my deep study and fellowship with God Himself

  6. 9 DoubleGrace May 5, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Amen! It’s a distraction. As one comment said, these churches probably don’t allow yelling out questions or comments; Why would they allow twitter? It’s absurd and they’re just trying to be seeker-friendly and culturally relevant. It takes the focus off of Jesus and onto how cool the technology is.

  7. 10 prayrwarrior May 5, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Well, IMO, I guess I would be a legalist because I do not see a furtherance of the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST here. I have a twitter account because it’s a way to communicate with my brothers, that’s all I really use it for. Tweeting my questions or comments to the pastor about his sermon for the whole church to see is not at all kosher to me. Plus, if everyone is tweeting, who is actually listening to the WORD being preached? Who is actually reading the Bible to see that the exegesis lines up with the WORD? Who has their Bibles with them?!? Also, what if I was mad at the pastor and decided to heckle him and his sermon with a twitter? Who could stop me? I think this could spell trouble for that church in more ways than one. While you are tweeting, I’ll be reading: THE WORD.

  8. 11 hiscrivener May 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    @Jim, Amen, brother! Social media is largely about the quest for self. Twitter? Follow ME. Blogs? What do I HAVE to say? Social networking? What can I SAY, and who will care. Regardless, it is about me, but then again, if we are saying the right things to direct others to Christ, it’s a necessary evil. Isn’t it?

    @ST. Pithy? You? And two blackberries? Can I get your autograph or something? BTW, pith or not, great post brother.

    @All. I think everyone in our kvetching network has blogged about this issue in some fashion or another. Tweeting in church, although may be requested by the pastor, is completely self-indulgent. It’s like a phone ringing during a sinner’s prayer. Imagine what God thinks? Despite the pastor’s behest, WWJD? Isn’t that a biblical question after all?

    Peace,
    HiScrivener


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