A growing number of U.S. pastors are embracing Twitter as a way of spreading the Good News of the Bible, even if they might begin the 140-character adventure a bit reluctantly.
Evangelist Will Graham, grandson to world renowned Billy Graham, sent his first tweet less than two months ago. Graham’s Twitter name is @TellaGraham.
“Hello Twitter. I feel like a possum in headlights about to get squished trying to write my first tweet. My first tweet is so lame,” Graham tweeted.
He followed up his first tweet with, “I'm disappointed with myself bc of the lack of any significant tweet from myself on my first day. But thanks for following!”
Even though the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, of which he is an associate director, has been quite active and effective on Facebook and Twitter, Graham said he had previously stayed focused on posting on a few ministry Facebook pages.
He said he was concerned about not having enough time to tweet and it wasn’t until he acquired a smart phone app with the capability to post to several accounts at the same time that he began tweeting more often.
Graham said he now uses Twitter to ask for prayer before speaking at evangelistic events, post quotes from his “granddaddy,” and link to photos from his travels.
“I’m probably not the world’s greatest tweeter,” he said. “It is a great tool. I want to use it to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m never going to use Twitter just to pump myself up or promote myself.”
When it comes to church leaders who have been on Twitter for a few years, it’s obvious that the site has become another platform.
Saddleback Church founding pastor Rick Warren is a Twitter veteran. Warren was named as one of Forbes' top 20 most influential Twitter celebrities last year. Making the top 20 list meant the individuals had to have a high impact with opinions, links and recommendations across their social graph. The number of retweets and followers were also factored to determine who made the list.
It's easy to see why Warren is a retweet favorite. One of Warren's tweets on Monday stated: "Where the grass is greener,the water bill is higher. 'It's healthy to be content, but envy will eat you up' Prov4:30."
Warren has more than 369,000 followers on Twitter. Other pastors with a large number of followers on Twitter include Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll (150,826), Oklahoma City Pastor Scott Williams (100,709), and Agape Church Pastor Chase A. Thompson (30,045).
Saddleback Church communications assistant Jay Kranda, who helps lead a social media team of volunteers, said he follows pastors to see how they minister to their community using Twitter.
“I look to see if they are asking questions. Do they post resources that are helpful? How much do they retweet? I’m looking at everything,” Kranda said. “I love seeing people’s personalities coming through on Twitter knowing that they are not using [an automated] program. I love when they comment or reply back to people, too.”
Kranda said he also learns a lot from Warren, whom some have suspected is using a ghost tweeter.
“People always ask me if it’s really him because of how much he is on [Twitter],” Kranda said. “It’s all him. He’ll be dormant for maybe five hours and then he will tweet like 10 times in one hour. That’s how his mind works. He’s a constant learner and he loves to teach. He gets how Twitter works.”