The Danger of Tweetable Theology
By Aaron Ross
September 23, 2013
Aaron Ross is an adjunct professor of theology at Southeastern University and current Ph.D. student at University of Birmingham (the one in England). His part nerd, part theology, and part random ramblings can be followed on twitter @Aaron_Ross.
Recently at work, while daydreaming about the start of university and getting away from my desk job to teach my classes, I decided it was yet again time to check Twitter, even though it had only been a few hours since my last indulgence into the social media world.
I just so happened to look through Twitter as a large Christian conference had started. By no surprise, my Twitter feed was full of 140 character one-liners stated by every popular preacher who came to mind.
“To find the new thing God is doing you must seek God, to find the next thing all you have to do is look to man.”
“God wants full custody of His children—not just weekend visits.”
When did teaching and preaching become a thing that had to be fit into a nice and neat 140 character tweet?
Twitter has become a popular, and arguably, powerful tool for Christian inspiration. Yet, somewhere along the line, exposition of the Bible began to fall wayward to easily tweetable sermons.
The problem is, real, in-depth examinations of how the Gospel applies to our lives do not fit in a Tweet. That’s not to say that great sermons won’t have any tweetable phrases within them, but it often seems the Church is ready to dole out simple one-liners that are easily tweetable, yet lack any real substance for people to shape their existence and Christianity around.
Instead of unpacking the Bible, the Church sometimes just uses emotional catch phrases to hype up its congregation. The same Christian lingo my generation fought against in the ’90s (think “What would Jesus Do?” and “God is good, all the time”) has been replaced with new Christian lingo in an even newer format.The Church has become the summer Christian youth camp of spiritual growth. All the while, Generation Xers and the Millennials are running from Church because of the “disingenuousness” and lack of substance within the Church.
The unchurched of my generation know how to see through fake sentiments and mentalities. They know when they are getting something of substance or are just being emotionally yanked around by great-sounding phrases that do not hold their weight. And as young adults are spending an increasing amount of time in academia, they are looking more and more for answers of substance, not answers of the emotional.
The lights, the hipster band, the artistic video, the trendy pastor sitting down at a small coffee table with a hot piping cup of fair-trade coffee from a company you have probably not heard of. In a way, the “popular” preachers and churches of today have a way hyping its members up, at the same time preparing members for a seeming crash after a great emotional and spiritual high.
Now, by no means am I saying that the “popular” church’s heart is fake. In fact, arguably, most pastors have a real heart to see the lost, the hurt, the unforgiven and broken find a beautiful life in Christ. Yet the more we try to fit in to the mentality of the popular the more we are losing out on the real. Real life change does not come through easily retweetable sayings.
Personally, the messages that have impacted me the most were not based on a phrase, but on biblical exposition that connected the biblical with the present, the emotional with the intellectual.
But it seems somewhere along the lines, the Church lost it. We began to become so concerned for emotional hype and making things simple to understand that the depth of life-change in the Bible has been lost to a twitter mentality.
The unchurched are not looking for one-liners about how to have a better life in Christ.
They want a serious answer to why God would let bad things happen to good people. They want to know if heaven or hell awaits a person deep in the jungle of Africa who has never had Christ preached to them. And whether or not you believe in a God-guided intelligently driven evolution or young-earth creationism.
The Church needs to find itself in deep biblical exposition to answer the tough questions, to be open and honest about the current issues of our generation and to fight for truth that blends the emotional with the intellectual.
Because, after all, no one wants a God who fits within 140 characters.