News of author and pastor Rob Bell leaving the church he founded, Mars Hill in Michigan, has set off another round of tweets and updates in the Christian blogosphere and Twitterverse. While this particular flare-up doesn’t seem to carry the particularly nasty tone of the whole Love Wins controversy, a few prominent church leaders have already taken to their keyboards with harsh words (which I won’t be quoting here).
While the cynic in me wants to wipe the dust of this latest Christian dust-up off my feet, particularly in light of some of the important national and geopolitical happenings this week, this news raises some significant issues for the Church and how we’re called to be the people of God together (part two to come later this week).
The Nature of Online Communication
Critics of Twitter might use this conflagration as “evidence” of the shallowness of trying to communicate meaningfully in 140 characters or less. However, I would argue that Twitter — as with much technology — is a neutral platform which can be used in either positive or negative ways. Personally, I have benefited greatly from participating in communities who have been strengthened through online communication platforms such as Twitter.
Embodied presence is irreplaceable, and yet, I have developed a handful of meaningful friendships with people in far-flung places whom I have yet to meet (and might never meet) in person, with whom I communicate primarily through Twitter.
In many ways, the problem is not necessarily with the brevity of Twitter, but mimicking the talking-head, sound-bite, shouting, red-faced punditry of the broader culture.
Online, as in face-to-face communication, we would be wise to follow the guidance of Scripture:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
The Nature of Pastoral Ministry
Rob Bell’s announcement, along with a handful of other prominent pastors who have moved on from their churches, also raises important questions about what it means to be a pastor and why it matters. More on this later in the week…