Tweet, tweet

"Tweet, tweet" Continued...

Issue: "Not over till it's over," Nov. 1, 2008

Voelz says most people must transition through a progression of lessening resistance before ever embracing Twitter: "At first, they don't get it. Then, they get it but don't understand its importance. Then, they try it, aren't sure what to think about it, but wonder if it's just them, 'Maybe I'm just stupid.' And then, as they start hooking up with friends, they get to a point where they don't want to miss out on the conversation."

Since its initial Twitter Sunday, Westwinds has brought the technology into several more services in a smaller capacity, using it for Q&A sessions or during a dedicated time of prayer and song. "The greatest things from Twitter for us have not really been what's happening on the weekend. That's fun, but that really just fuels what happens throughout the week, our Twitter community," Voelz said, pointing out the opportunity for greater connection between church leadership and the 1,000 people in the congregation. "I can't be everybody's buddy, but I can be everybody's Twitter buddy. That's easy."

Such benefits have attracted interest from other churches, several of which have contacted Westwinds with practical and technical questions about how to duplicate the Twitter Sunday idea. Voelz is tickled to function as "a kind of Petri dish" for the broader evangelical world.

Outside the church context, other evangelical leaders are likewise touting the service. Michael Hyatt, president of Thomas Nelson Publishers, recently blogged 12 reasons to start twittering-among them, practicing tight writing, staying connected with people, and creating new relationships. Hyatt committed to use Twitter for 30 days and found it led to more intentional living. He came to view the question, "What are you doing?" as an opportunity for personal reflection as much as one for recording the mundane.

Nevertheless, skepticism among Christians remains prevalent. Much of the outside feedback filtering in to Westwinds has proved negative. Critics charge that the public projection of comments during worship is little more than an occasion for exhibitionists to steal focus away from God. Voelz admits that some inappropriate content has made it to the screens, including the occasional expletive. But it's worth it, he says: "In some ways I think I'm a Twitter evangelist, not in a let's seal the deal with Jesus kind of a way. But in the way that I'm spreading good cheer. I think Jesus would use Twitter."

Some left-leaning political zealots may think he already is. Barack Obama has used Twitter to update supporters throughout the presidential campaign. His account has close to 100,000 followers, many of whom believed the Democratic candidate's vice presidential pick would leak through Twitter before it ever showed up on mainstream news reports. The Obama campaign officially announced its selection of Sen. Joe Biden via text message, but scores of fans soon generated a massive Twitter buzz to help forward that news.

The Twitter presence of supporters for Republican candidate John McCain is far less significant-perhaps indicative of the site's still baby stage. Indeed, new uses for the social networking tool seem to spring up daily like a toddler discovering language: updating the mission of the Phoenix Mars Lander; coordinating fights against California wild fires; helping consumers find fuel during an Atlanta gas shortage.

Twitter's tweet: I'm going mainstream.


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