Friday, November 8, 2013

Concluding Thoughts

                  In conclusion to my research over the past few months, I have come to the understanding that prominent Christian authors all seem to have the same intent behind the messages they deliver to their audience. To explain more fully, a common trend in the tweets I have studied is that they all tend to act as a guide for modern-day Christians in their walk with the Lord through the turmoil of this world. The messages of these tweets are ones of encouragement through struggles, convictions regarding sin, and advice on how to enhance one’s relationship with God. However, these authors all approach the delivery of these messages in a variety of ways from the syntax to the content of their tweets.
                  For instance, authors John Piper and Dennis Rainey tweet directly from the Bible—using Old Testament Scripture verses verbatim to deliver messages of reminders to people that the struggles people face today were similar to the struggles people faced during Biblical times; this verse is one example “’Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21” Piper and Rainey generate their syntax and content directly from the Bible.
                  On the other hand, authors such as Max Lucado, Timothy Keller, Francis Chan, and Gary Thomas all deliver tweets of encouragement and conviction that do not come from the Bible directly but are instead based off the Bible. These messages tend to have the most followers in that they relate well with the situations of the twenty-first century. Even though sin is all rooted in the same areas (lust, greed, selfishness, etc.), these authors relate their tweets to situations of modern life today. For instance, take a look at one of Francis Chan’s tweets: "I wouldn’t want to forgive someone who walked into my daughter’s school and shot her, but that is exactly what Christ asks us to do." This tweet hit’s home for many American Christians due to the amounts of shootings in schools today.
                  Overall, Twitter has become its own “church” for many Christians in that authors such as these post Scripture verses, words of encouragement and messages of conviction in 140 characters or less. In response to my research question, “How are the tweets and re-tweets of prominent Christian authors on Twitter creating a modern-day religious space that contextualizes Christianity in a positive or negative way to both Christians and non-Christians?”, I would say that majority of the tweets of these authors are influencing the religious Twitter audience in a positive way in that they are bringing the Christian messages of the Bible to a virtual space that is growing in popularity in today’s society—thus reaching far more people than perhaps just the bookworms of the world.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jenkins, Rainey and Chan

Continuing in my research on how Christianity is lived out through the tweeting of Christian authors, I have now chosen to look at three more authors—Jerry Jenkins, Dennis Rainey and Francis Chan.

What I find interesting about Jerry Jenkins (author of Left Behind series) is that his tweets are aligned with the current book he is writing or has currently released. For instance, since late July, his tweets have been in relation to a new book he has published entitled “I, Saul” which is based on the character of Saul in the Bible and how he transformed his life from being “one day a murderer” and the next, “a follower of Christ” ( Jenkins’ tweets adhere to everyday people—sinners—who are thus able to identify closely with Saul and have joy that, they too, can turn their lives around from sin to redemption. A couple of his tweets are as follows:  

“The transformation of Saul reminds us that God can turn anyone’s life around”
“Paul’s story reminds us that God can take our weaknesses, infuse us with His power, and prove Himself Lord of all.”

Next, looking at Dennis Rainey, the author constructs his tweets similar to Keller and Thomas in that he provides a tweet of personal thought and reflection and substantiates it with a Bible verse. For instance, he tweets: 

"The fear of God, not man, leads to life. Who do you fear more? Proverbs 19:23"
"Ask God to help you be obedient to his calling, especially when it goes against your plan. Prov. 19:21"
"The Bible was written so that we may believe, and by believing we have life in His name. John 20:30-31"

Rainey spreads the Word of God through inspirational words of wisdom that find their basis in the Bible; he chooses a roundabout way of spreading the Gospel (as opposed to stating Bible verses verbatim).

Lastly, I have chosen to look at author and pastor Francis Chan. What I find interesting about Chan’s twitter is that it is not him who posts, but someone who posts for him (with quotes from his books). Therefore, his words are still being tweeted; however they are coming straight from his books. Here are a few of his tweets: 

"I wouldn’t want to forgive someone who walked into my daughter’s school and shot her, but that is exactly what Christ asks us to do." – Francis Chan
"If everyone was like you, what would the church be like?" - Francis Chan
"You have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin." - Francis Chan

All in all, what I have noticed about these three authors is that they pose thoughts and questions on the reader that force the reader to think about his/her own life in relation to a Christ follower’s life.  Their tweets bring conviction to the reader that, therefore, illicit desired change in the reader’s life. The tweets selected this week pose very similarly to the tweets studied previously in that all nine authors' tweets are supported by Scripture with a tag of the author’s personal thought. An overall message the studied tweets proclaim is that everyone is a sinner, however there is redemption through Christ. Whether the authors are using other people’s stories to deliver this message (character of Saul) or Bible verses themselves, they are trying to reach out to their Twitter followers with the message of “there is grace in Christ." The authors then provide supplemental tweets on what one's life looks like to follow Christ--a life of humility and selflessness.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Do These Authors Have in Common?

                  Over the past few weeks, I have been looking at six different Christian authors and studying how their “tweeting” affects their Twitter followers in such a way that is spreading the Christian faith.  I chose to look at Max Lucado, John Piper, Gary Chapman, Timothy Keller, Gary Thomas and Kay Arthur. What I have noticed through these six authors’ tweets is that they all seem to deliver messages that are Biblically based, however their tweets are geared toward the audience in which these authors are trying to reach. For instance, authors such as Gary Chapman and Gary Thomas both deliver biblical tweets, however their tweets are targeted to marriage life. On the other hand, authors such as Max Lucado, John Piper, and Timothy Keller tailor their tweets to the general audience—delivering messages that are applicable to all types of people (married or not).
                  No matter the selected audience, these authors all use various methods to deliver their messages. The methods they use include writing scripture verses verbatim (John Piper), giving inspirational messages that are supported by scripture (Chapman, Keller & Thomas), providing one’s own personal thoughts about life (Lucado) or asking questions to their followers that provide links to external sources of information (Arthur).
                  Many of these author’s messages pertain to 1) how to deal with suffering in a Godly way and 2) how to build and maintain relationships in a Godly way. Of course, these authors’ messages pertain to general aspects of the Christian life, however the main themes of their tweets have to do with advising people in their walks with God as they experience the hardships of the secular world.
                  Overall, these authors do not disagree in any of their statements. They frame Christianity in the same way due to the fact that they use the same source of information (the Bible) before delivering their messages. Many of these authors, in fact, all come from seminary schools; therefore, their thought processes are relatively the same. They deliver Christianity as a way of religious life where one is able to take their suffering and transform it into a positive light of redemption and growth. For instance, author Gary Chapman lost his mother this past week and tweeted many messages of how to use one’s suffering as a period of spiritual growth in life. These authors use their own life experiences to enhance their religious messages.
                  Over the next several weeks, I will be further analyzing how Christianity is displayed via Twitter. I will be answering the question of “How are the tweets and re-tweets of prominent Christian authors affecting the lives, in a positive and negative way, of both Christians and non-Christians as they follow these authors on Twitter?”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Next Look at Keller, Thomas and Lucado

Following my research from last week, I have now chosen to look at three more Christian authors in regards to their influence on society via Twitter and tweeting. I am looking at author and pastor Timothy Keller, marriage author Gary Thomas and author and pastor Max Lucado.

Beginning with Timothy Keller, his tweets tend to follow a trend of pointing ideas to Christ while finding their basis in biblical teachings. What I mean by this is that his tweets are not necessarily Bible verses word for word. Instead, he incorporates God’s teachings in a roundabout way—through encouraging statements or convictions. For instance, this past week I pulled a few of his tweets off his Twitter page; this is what I found: “According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and live fully human lives… If you want Jesus with you, you have to give up the right to self-determination…[and] Our best defense in the fight against Satan’s lies is generally not the production of incantations but the rehearsal of truth.” These tweets contrast to John Piper’s tweets last week that stated explicit verses from God’s Word itself. Another thing I found interesting with Keller was that with a couple of his tweets, some of his Twitter followers offered a rebuttal to what he was saying. For instance, in Keller’s tweet “At the end of your life, you never wish to have worked more” he received a response saying, “What will you wish for?” Keller then replied, “Probably to have spent more time with family.” I find this interesting because not only is Keller tweeting religious ideas to spread God’s word, he is responding to his follower’s feedback in order to clarify what he is saying. He is using Twitter as a tool of interaction vs. one-sided conversation. 

Next, I chose to look at marriage author Gary Thomas. Thomas does not have as many followers as Keller or Lucado, however his tweets seem to be just as effective (when looking at the number of re-tweets he has compared to his number of followers). Thomas’ tweets are obviously geared more toward marriages and relationships than general tips for living a Christian life. He still spreads Christian ideas through his tweets; however his tweets are more about how to build and maintain a Christ-centered marriage. Following are a few of his tweets I recollected from this past week: “Where resentment lives, intimacy dies… A marriage is not a joining of two worlds, but an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new one might be formed…[and] A mission that is always about the Kingdom is what keeps a marriage vibrant.” Unlike Keller, Thomas did not have any rebuttals or arguments following his tweets. This may be because he is not as renown as Keller, therefore he does not have as many followers to act as a devil’s advocate; or, his tweets are just not as controversial. However, what we do know is that Thomas is tweeting and people are re-tweeting.

Finally, I looked at author and pastor Max Lucado. Lucado tends to tweet similarly to Keller in that his tweets are inspirational messages versus specific Bible verses. He gears his messages to the general public (contrasting to Thomas’ messages to married couples). A couple of his tweets are as follows: “Delight yourself in God, and he will bring rest to your soul…[and] You can be glad because God is good. You can be still because he is active. You can rest because he is busy.” Of his 832, 074 followers, Lucado receives on average 900 re-tweets per tweet.  There is no doubt that his tweets are reaching the multitudes. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Look At Chapman, Piper & Arthur

In my case study on user-generated religion, I am looking at the ways in which Christianity is spreading through the use of Twitter, via religious leaders and their tweets.  What started off as a broad topic has now been narrowed as I have chosen to look more specifically at Christian authors on Twitter and how their Twitter followers are responding to their daily religious tweets.

This past week, I chose to look at three different authors—Gary Chapman, John Piper and Kay Arthur. Each of these authors are unique in that Chapman gears his writings toward couples and Christian marriage counseling, Piper is an evangelical theologian who writes about a variety of Christian topics from how to pursue God to how to love your enemies, and Arthur is a female Bible study leader who aims her books toward the Christian walk of a woman.

Beginning with Chapman, I looked at a week’s worth of tweets and found the following:
1) “A sincere apology and genuine forgiveness work together to obtain the best outcome to a broken relationship.” 43 re-tweets; 26 favorites
2) “You can't change the past and you can't predict the future, so you might as well do all you can with the present.” 75 re-tweets; 22 favorites
3) “What you and I are afraid of can easily become our idol—it controls us. Unconditional love gives us the confidence to break free.” 41 re-tweets; 18 favorites

Next, I looked at Piper and a week’s worth of his tweets:
1) “’I die every day!’ -- Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:31)” 191 re-tweets; 110 favorites
2) "’He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.’ Phil. 3:21. Bear your body for now. It will be glorious.” 180 re-tweets; 112 favorites
3) “Is It Sinful to Date a Non-Christian? — Today's #AskPastorJohn podcast: re-tweets; 113 favorites

And finally, here are a few of Arthur’s tweets from this past week:
1) “Stop and pray for those in your family who are lost.” 47 re-tweets; 17 favorites
2) “Pray for your pastor that he would continue to grow in the character qualities of a man of God re-tweets; 13 favorites
3) “Father, as I face a new week, order my steps. Keep me sensitive to your Holy Spirit’s leading and give me the courage to walk in your way. Amen”  40 re-tweets; 28 favorites

What I find interesting is that of each of these author’s tweets, they all seem to have at least 40 re-tweets on several of their posts. Why is this? I hope to uncover this phenomenon throughout further research. However, what I have gathered now is that Twitter is an interesting form of communication in that it allows people to post thoughts, leaving those thoughts to be passed on once again (and maybe multiple times) to other people in the world (Twitter followers of followers). These impactful tweets that the religious leaders are posting are being transmitted to more people than what their “follower list” says. It is different than Facebook in that with Facebook, someone posts a status and that status is merely “liked” by one click (it is not passed on to other Facebook friends of friends). Does this make sense? Twitter is like the classic game of “telephone” whereas Facebook is just a phone call.

Through my research this week, I was able to draw on what the public finds most interesting based on the highest re-tweets of my chosen Christian authors. Twitter followers seemed to have liked the encouraging tweets the most—tweets that focused on the self and how to become a better person to the world (in a Christ-like way). All of their posts were backed up with Biblical truth and some were even Bible verses themselves. Most of their tweets even had extended links that had more information and support of the tweet itself (for instance, Gary Chapman tended to post his 140-characters and then provide a link for more information on what he meant). Overall, I have only begun an exciting and hopeful process of discovering how Christianity is spreading through the tweets and re-tweets of Christian authors. Just based off of these three authors, I have seen how receptive the Twitter-world is to the feeding of Christian ideas and messages. I can only remain ecstatic to see what more is to unfold through my continued research.

Side note: BOTH Gary Chapman AND John Piper have Twitter pages for Brazilians as well (translated in Portuguese)!
Christianity via Twitter is not only reaching people in the US, but other countries as well!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Case Study Proposal

            For my case study on how religion is presented through a social media platform, I have chosen to look at the effect Twitter has had on the expanse of Christianity through the tweets and re-tweets of influential Christian leaders.  Even though Twitter was created in 2006, it began receiving its popularity ratings in mid-2009 and has now become as popular as Facebook, if not more.  Twitter is now the main feed of any person’s thoughts, ideas, emotions and actions—if he or she so chooses.
            On the other hand, religious practices in Christianity today have altered to the demands of the 21st century. What I mean by this is that no longer do many Christians go to church and sing out of hymnals and sit in pews—no; many churches today have “pop-like” worship songs and praise God in whichever stance they prefer (sitting, kneeling, standing, dancing, running, etc.). Not to say this is bad (in fact, I prefer it this way) but it has adjusted to our fast-paced generation that is not accustomed to the “thou’s” and “thee’s” but instead “You” and “my King”. Our generation has become more personal in the wordings of our worship songs.
            With this being said, Christianity has also found a new way to reach the audiences of today’s generation. It has adjusted to the way in which young people today receive information—social media. After being a Twitter user for a few months now, I have chosen to research the effect Christian leaders’ tweets have had on their followers—followers being both Christians and non-Christians. I want to look at the expanse Christianity has had since the advent of Twitter and if that expanse is still growing. I will be analyzing the tweets of Christian authors, pastors, speakers, evangelists, missionaries, and musical artists and noting how many re-tweets they receive based off their postings.  I will also be looking at their re-tweeting followers to see how many of their followers re-tweet those postings. My goal through this assignment is to see how modern-day religion, specifically Christianity, is played out through the use of this new, highly prominent type of social media.