Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., regularly tweets encouraging and Bible-based messages for his more than 892,000 Twitter followers and those individual messages are frequently retweeted thousands of times. But not everyone is a fan of Warren's "Christian tweets," including theologian, author and blogger Tony Jones.
"Look, Rick Warren stopped following me on Twitter long ago. So I stopped following him right back. Nevertheless, some people I follow occasionally retweet his pithy, axiomatic Christian tweets. He seems to be a Twitter proverb generator," Jones wrote Thursday on his Patheos.com Theology channel.
The Christian author pointed his readers to the Rick Warren Tips (@Cantexplainhere) account apparently created on Feb. 14 to dole out "advice in the style of Rick Warren's tweets."
The parody account, not affiliated with Pastor Warren, has been credited to Stephanie Drury although she credited Andy Meisenheimer, Adam Moore and Mandy Meisenheimer for getting the "ball rolling." The Rick Warren Tips Twitter account has been gaining a steady stream of followers, and tweets using a #RickWarrenTips hashtag.
Drury, who has previously created a fake Mark Driscoll Twitter account, also blogs at Stuff Christian Culture Likes.
Inspiration for the Twitter trend was a 140-character message shared on Feb. 14 by Warren:
"New churches: Buy land as soon as you can but delay building for as long as you can. Cant explain all the reasons here."
On Thursday, the #RickWarrenTips hashtag had taken on a life of its own. Some tweets following the trend include:
"When I hug people I leave room for the Holy Spirit. Can't explain all the reasons here. #ChristianSideHug #RickWarrenTips" - Krista Dalton (@KristaNDalton).
"Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Can't explain all the reasons here #RickWarrenTips" - Kimberly Roth (@arkychicky).
Pastor Warren, perhaps aware of the Twitter trend's initial start, also jumped on the bandwagon Thursday, tweeting a few #RickWarrenTips of his own, such as: "If it itches, DO NOT scratch it! Can't explain all the reasons here. #RickWarrenTips" and "#TheTrinity. Can't explain all the reasons here. #RickWarrenTips."
Warren, who ranks no. 15 in Star Count's all-time Religious Figure chart due to his social media engagement, has previously said that he wants "pastors to dominate Twitter."
"We don't want celebrities dominating these things; we want pastors using this for the Good News," he said during a 2011 year-end webcast to pastors, encouraging them to harness social media to influence others with their faith.
Scott Cochrane, vice president of Willow Creek Association's International Ministries, found Warren's suggestion noble, but issued a few warnings for successful social media engagement on his A Leader's Journey blog.
"When we tweet, we need to be sure we're not perceived as 'posturing' when we intend to be 'proclaiming,'" wrote Cochrane, explaining that Twitter's 140-character limit can diminish one's intended impact.
To avoid tweets being taken out of context, Cochrane suggests pastors ask themselves three questions: 1. Could the "heart" of this tweet be misunderstood? 2. Does this tweet tell the whole story? 3. Am I tweeting about God's activity beyond my ministry?
"Bottom line? Let's always be mindful of the limitations of 140 characters, and strive to ensure that our message reflects our intentions," Cochrane concludes.
Saddleback Church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, attracts some 20,000 regular worshippers each week. Warren founded the California megachurch in 1980.