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.