It's only been a year since Christian Chirp was started but the Christian alternative to Twitter has had its fair share of controversy.
In fact, at its start, the social networking site was criticized for ostracizing Christians from the rest of the world, accused of being an anti-gay site, and was shut down twice.
James Paris, founder of Christian Chirp, celebrated the first anniversary of the site on Monday. He recalled some of the bumps on the road he had to get over as he sought to establish an alternative to the immensely popular microblogging service.
Just as he was launching the site, he was already receiving negative feedback.
Michael Hyatt, chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, wrote several negative comments on Twitter about the new site that triggered a tweet battle between himself and Paris.
Hyatt said on his tweet, "'The Christian alternative to Twitter.' Great. All we need is another ghetto. No thanks."
Paris released a statement at that time, saying, "I do not understand why some people are so upset about us starting a Christian alternative to Twitter. All I wanted to do was to create a social media space for Christians. I truly don't see why this has caused such a controversy."
On Monday, Paris told The Christian Post that Hyatt claimed the site is cause for Christians to segregate themselves.
"I thought it was odd that a Christian Publisher who makes their mark by being a niche to come out and say Christians shouldn't do something on their own," he commented.
Hyatt later retracted his comments about Christian Chirp and its usefulness. But he wasn't the only one in opposition to the site. Since there is no specific criteria to join Christian Chirp, Paris noted that many atheists join the site to start debates and stir up trouble. But he has welcomed their presence.
"Some of the most engaging discussions that I've seen on Christian Chirp are the atheists that join and have debates with Christians and it's just fascinating to watch because a number of atheists come into the Christian Chirp world and say 'Hey, I'm here to take you all on,' and they start posting. And that's fine. We totally allow that," Paris said.
After having been suspended for more than a week from Twitter, Paris is an advocate for freedom of speech. He was kicked off the networking site a year ago possibly over a controversial article about the NFL's standards and the reinstatement of Michael Vick. Twitter did not directly admit this was the reason for Paris' suspension.
"I felt the process was really unfair. They do it in a very generic way. I'm not sure of why exactly I was suspended, but I have my suspicions," he said. "This isn't a good thing. You can't come out and have a really conservative view and stir up a lot of interests in any form, or all of a sudden your account is suspended."
During his time away from Twitter, Paris searched for a Christian alternative.
"I looked to join a social media site that would be a Christian alternative to Twitter and I couldn't find one. That's why I started my own," he said.
Still a member of Twitter, Paris explained that he took some of the criteria from the popular site to develop Christian Chirp. Not very different from other social media sites, Christian Chirp does have rules and regulations that the members must follow – including no profanity or pornography.
Despite the few setbacks Christian Chirp has had, Paris said he is excited about the activity on the site thus far. The site currently has a small following, but current subscribers go back and forth with prayer requests and send hugs to one another in times of despair. The site, he said, works as another tool for fellowship.
"In this world a lot of people are shut in for various reasons, and this may be the only church they have is being able to go on the internet," he said.
While social networking sites allow for fellowship with other Christians, Paris said he doesn't think they will replace the church at all.
"I do not think that God is in anyway restricted by time and space or physical distance. I absolutely believe the Lord is there. I don't see the Internet as replacing the physical church or physical relationships. This technology is supplemental to our core one on one relationship with God."
As he looks to the future, he commented, "For all of those that said we would not make it, know that we are here to stay. We're excited to have reached our first birthday, and we're looking forward to many more years of sustained, significant growth."
In addition to overseeing Christian Chirp, Paris is the founder of financial websites for Christians, and the author of more than 20 money management books for Christians.