Twittering the Gospel

Where to jump in?

This caught my attention…

A Christianity Today interview with Rob Bell has apparently kicked up some dust, particularly his response to the question about twittering the gospel. I will quote that portion here:

How would you present this gospel on Twitter?

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

Aside from the fact that this is much too long to be a single twitter, I don’t have a problem with it. My intention with this post is not to have a discussion about Rob Bell and his theology.

Most of what I read accuses Rob and his answer of being completely lacking in gospel content or understanding. And most of those responses imply that a gospel presentation without the proper theological buzzwords and appropriate sequence of steps is not a “christian” gospel.

However, I am reminded of how often Jesus’ own presentation of the good news likewise didn’t follow the evangelical methodology of a sufficient gospel presentation – even the adulteress with whom He had ample opportunity to present a clear message about sin, repentance, and forgiveness.

So rather than look for what is lacking in Rob’s message, perhaps we should look at what he is saying. This is my paraphrase of his comment:

There is a purpose to the story in which we live. The inclination within you to believe and hope that there is something more and better than the reality in which we currently live exists because of the Spirit of God, and this is evidence of His desire to know you. You can trust that hope.

The Christian story is that the tomb is empty, Jesus was resurrected. This is a turning point in the story and plan that God set in motion from the beginning of time.

Even though doubt pulls against the impulse of hope in your heart, believe the impulse! It is put there by God Himself and connected to the amazing story and plan of His love for you and the world. Your inclination to believe in something bigger, beyond your current reality, is true! Trust it, explore it, follow the One who is drawing you.

That sounds like good news to me.

Jesus is alive.
His kingdom is real.
God’s love is true.
You can know Him.

Sadly, many religious people seem to insist that the proper message is “turn or burn”.

Anyway, I think it’s time we begin to view sharing the gospel as an ongoing aspect of the way we live and a continuous conversation with the people around us rather than a religious presentation filled with theological terms and a high-pressure close that must always result in a decision.

We need to learn to follow the Spirit and enter into the process of what He is doing in the lives of others – yes sharing truth, loving them, and joining in with the work of the Spirit in their lives – but ultimately trusting in His timing and ability to “seal the deal”.

So how would you twitter the gospel? What are the minimum essentials that should be included? Give me your examples in the comments.

1. Twitter the gospel as you would for a theological quiz.
2. Twitter the gospel to someone who doesn’t know it without using Christian terms that they won’t understand.


(140 characters is about two full lines in the reply box which will post as short of two full lines on the blog.)

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38 comments

  1. ipiphanist · · Reply

    Love this post. Bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus doesn’t happen very often in a single “presentation” of the good news, but in gradual and very often unseen process of exploration and discovery through credible witnesses …. As far as the Twitter Gospel goes, i tried this on my blog and on twitter a while back. Here’s what I came up with:

    “The world sucks. Pain. Sickness. Death. We know we’re meant for more. Jesus will show you how much. He rescues anyone. Just ask.”

  2. Pastor Chad · · Reply

    How would I twitter the gospel? If I were trying to explain it to someone who did not understand “christianese,” I might say this.

    This world is not how it was meant to be, but God is working to fix it.

    I know that this leaves out a lot of information, but something like this would have to be discussion started anyway.

    as for the theological textbook quiz, here’s a shot.

    Our simple and triune God because of the incarnation and crucifixion of the Son regenerates us from the effect of the fall through the Spirit

    (I am one over on that one, sorry. :)

  3. […] This post was Twitted by ministerkeith – Real-url.org […]

  4. Theological quiz: We sinned and must be punished. God loves us and sent Jesus to die for us. Accept him and go to heaven.

    Real life: There is a King and he is working to restore all of Creation. He calls you to follow him. It’s worth it.

    I probably would expand the second on a bit, maybe put it in two tweets :)

  5. […] Grace on Twittering the gospel Scot McKnight on understanding the New Perspective at Jesus […]

  6. God IS Love. Therefore love God with all your heart, soul and mind AND love your neighbor as yourself.

  7. What a fascinating challenge! For me a ‘gospel twitter’ would be something a bit paradoxical that would catch my attention and stimulate me to stop and think a little deeper. Perhaps something on the order of:

    “The good life God intended is an inheritance not a paycheck. His promises became available when He died, now He lives as His own executor.”

    It holds some hope, its different than religion, and it raises some questions that can be biblically answered. If I were sincerely ‘seeking’, I think this might draw me in.

  8. God’s reign has begun. This is good news for the poor. Jesus shows us how, and is how. We learn how and live how with him, following him.

  9. For some reason I thought of this John Eldredge quote:

    “The story of your life is the story of the journey of your heart through a dangerous and beautiful world. It’s the story of the long and sustained assault on your heart by the Enemy who knows who you could be … and fears you. But it’s also the story of the long and mysterious pursuit of your heart by the God who knows you truly and loves you deeply.”

    Unfortunately it is way too long.. maybe I would shorten it like this:

    “Ur life is a story replete with an enemy who h8s U and fights against U.. it is also a story of a friend who loves U and fights for U.”

    I just tweeted it.. I’ll lets you know if I get any feedback :)

  10. mattrundio · · Reply

    For quite some time this has been my statement on the essence of “the Gospel”:

    “Jesus of Nazareth is the crucified and risen Jewish Messiah and he is King of the Universe (but king in a very different kind of way).”

    All that and only 134 characters.

    The simplest statement of the Gospel is: “Jesus is King.” That’s only 13 characters. Pilot says it nicely in John 19:14, “Here is your King!”

    You see, the gospel is really just a proclamation of fact. Jesus is the King. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. And that leaves us with a choice: follow this King or not. Jesus is King, not Caesar, not money, not you. Jesus is it. Those 13 characters, “Jesus is King,” carry a load of information and challenge. It is the core of “Gospel.”

  11. Wanna change the world? There’s a guy who can show you how. But first he’ll love you like you’ve never been loved before.

  12. Here’s my shot

    Man=sinful/Sin’s punishment=death/You can’t save yourself/Jesus came to die inplace of sinners/Repent of your sin/Trust in Jesus alone/Live!

    140 chars

  13. Tammy · · Reply

    I have a totally different take on this. To me this is “hit and run” evangelism. Not only is it not attractive, but is actually offensive. It fits in with leaving a tract on my windshield at the grocery store.

    A couple of years ago I heard Becky Pippert tell a story. She was stopped at a red light on a nice day, with her window rolled down. A car pulled up beside her. The woman in the other car threw something in Becky’s open window. It was a piece of rolled up paper. When Becky got to a spot where she could unroll it, she read a “Gospel message”.

    If you feel you must Twitter, how about “I’d love to have you be my guest for dinner on Thursday” or something similar to show you would actually like to spend some time with the person? If Jesus shows through in your life, they’ll ask you, you won’t need to bring it up, or worse yet offend them with a tract or a Twitter that implies they need to repent.

  14. I don’t Twitter – but wouldn’t a tweet like “I’d like to have you over for dinner on Thursday” have the potential to have your entire house and yard full of hungry people? I didn’t think twitter was that persoanlly relational.

    I took the post to simply be a challenge to see if one could develop a credible (maybe enticing) gospel phrase, not a new method of evangelism :)

  15. Stop. Breathe. Listen. God is calling your name.

  16. Grace…really want to give this one a try, but it will have to wait another day or so.

    Great post!

    Welcome back, indeed….

  17. “God loves you. Deal with it”

    or

    “Life is stronger than death. Love is greater than hate. Forgiveness is better than wrath. Join the winning team.”

    or

    “You don’t need to earn love. Stop trying – you’re only hurting yourself.”

  18. grace · · Reply

    Very interesting! I should probably write another post about this, but I don’t have time today.

    Chad, Tammy, and Ken,
    Yes, I wouldn’t consider twitter an effective “tool” of evangelism. It was really more of an exercise to see what others consider to be the essential content of the gospel.

    Is it…

    Repent and believe?
    or
    Jesus is King?

    Traditional evangelical belief clings tightly to a gospel of personal salvation. I don’t believe anyone wants to throw that out or minimize its importance. However, as it is placed within the context of the NT gospel that Jesus and Paul spoke about, some are threatened that the idea of personal salvation is being omitted.

    Jesus mostly spoke of the gospel of the kingdom. At the time of Paul, the “good news” in Rome was that Caesar was king. Paul came with an alternative message of another king and another kingdom.

    If the primary gospel message is that Jesus is King, what that means for you personally is subsequent to that reality.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They always interest and inspire me.

    1. very good point indeed.
      yes, personal salvation is so very … self-centered, isnt it? i know that is the mindset of most of the western “target audience” so to speak, but that is really counterpoint to much of the Gospel – yes, God wants to save *you* but He wants to save you for the Kingdom. However, the point of the Kingdom is not for one particular subject, nor subjects, really, but for the for the whole corporate Oneness, centered around the King.
      personal salvation is great to get people *into* the Kingdom, but if that is the main point of evangelism, then you have the whole problem of what to do once you get them in. ‘okay, I’m a citizen of heaven. what now?’
      i guess understanding a bit about the national identity of Israel, or even Rome, helps to understand our parts in the Kingdom of God. It is God centered patriotism really.

  19. Joseph · · Reply

    Re: the concept of “personal salvation…”

    It seems Jesus’ message far more sweeping. For God it is a corporate salvation, or even more grand, a global/cosmic salvation…

    Within that generous restoration the individual experience of their personal saving not the main event. It is an individual result to be sure, but not the message of the kingdom. Good news extends way beyond one individual’s boundaries…

    I know most of those posting here & reading your blog know this. I just felt like expressing my giftedness of stating the obvious… ;)

  20. Be whole. Jesus came to show us how. More than that. The frenzy of sin was the reason he died. He absorbed the sin, didn’t let it beat him. Rose again. So can you. There’s a new way now. The way of Christ.

    You can see what it means to be whole, truly be yourself in freedom from all that seeks to ruin you.

    You can see it, and you can live it, in the power of life itself. The Spirit of God joins with us as we participate with God in the fullness of whole life. Jesus took on the sin that distracts us, destroys us, deadens us. We’re not slaves to fear or faults. We’re free. We’re free. We’re free!

  21. That’s a mix of both 1 and 2, maybe not quite either. Here’s another go, at a mix.

    God made humanity. Humanity thought they could be whole without God. But life, life itself, is only from God. Our attempts to find an identity in what we do, or who we do, or who what we have never leads to peace. Because we can’t be our real self without God who empowers us—freeing us to live in fullness with him, with others.

    That false pursuit of life is sin. Empties us. Undermines us. God saw. Ran towards us because he loves us. Jesus was born a man. Took on the sin that undermines everyone, took on the death that takes everyone. He rose again. Now is alive, a sign and power that God seeks us all with all he has. The Spirit of God is with us now, seeking our fullness and wholeness. Seeking to free us.

  22. Oh no! I did 140 words.

    That’s silly of me.

    Try again…

  23. Be whole. Jesus came to show us how. More than that. His dying, his rising, gives us the ability to be whole, to be who we really can be.

  24. That previous one was the evangelism one. Here’s the theological one:

    “God made man. Man tried to be God. Didn’t work. Still tries. That’s sin. God loves. Sent Jesus. Jesus died. Jesus lives. Overcame the sin that we might live with God. Yay!”

    Sorry about the gender non-neutrality. Man is just a shorter word than humanity.

    The Yay at the end is my ecclesiology and eschatology.

  25. […] at Kingdom Grace a challenge was given to present the Gospel in 140 characters, a proper Twitter length. I […]

  26. 140 characters might not be enough until we know that what matters is “God is Love”

  27. […] This post was Twitted by pgw71 – Real-url.org […]

  28. How about:

    “God’s not mad at you, He already proved it.
    Why Don’t you ask Him About it?”

    1. serloren · · Reply

      shaun said: “God’s not mad at you, He already proved it.
      Why Don’t you ask Him About it?”

      How about we tell them what the Bible actually says:

      “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” – Romans 5:10

      Put in paraphrase: “God IS angered by your sin, but loves you so much that He gave His son so you can make amends and live”

      The Word tells us flatly – Heaven or Hell. Good or Evil. God or satan. Up or Down. Smoking or Non-Smoking. We are all going one direction or the other, there are only two options and each and every one of us deserves to fry; BUT, the glorious nature of GRACE is that God stops us on the road to destruction and says repent (turn around! do a 180) and you shall not die but live, and live forever with Him in paradise. That is what makes it “Good News”!!!

      I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve seen turn away from Christ because they were sold only half a ticket, and when the truth confronted them they either couldn’t handle it or didn’t want it.

      We have to start telling people that Jesus died for you, so that you would die for Him – and THEN live eternally!

  29. ok That was my number2( he he) …
    “God made us for a relationship, We messed it up ; He is fixing it.”
    THat’s my number 1
    Peace

  30. We r known by a Father who is wastefully extravagant in loving us.

    T

    1. wastefully extravagant. nice.

  31. Jez Bell · · Reply

    Before anything else, strive to find if God loves you……let me know how it works out?

  32. dunno. don’t twitter. never twittered.
    but i think you said it nicely there though i would reword it myself:

    God’s love is true.
    His kingdom is real.
    Jesus is alive.
    You can know Him.

    if i were to say it differently,

    the whole universe sings a Name,
    but it isn’t yours.
    it calls to the resurrected King,
    but He calls to us.

    i’ve linked to you on my blog list, hope you don’t mind.

  33. Two thousand years ago, the Son of God died for you.
    Today He lives for you.

    (could use some theological tweaking (on the point of “a personal savior), but overall…)

  34. “Come and see how Jesus Christ has changed my life. He can change yours too”

  35. Michael · · Reply

    I’m of two minds on this. First: I wouldn’t. The gospel is about relationship. Each person’s connection to God is widely varied (if not unique). Twitter is a relational fire hose. A shout out … or a form of relationship that lacks substance. That is not to say that twitter (or facebook, etc) cannot be a useful tool in developing or sustaining a meaningful relationship. God became flesh and spoke with people face to face; often one on one. He did not declare His love as a disembodied voice in the sky.

    However, if I were to twitter the Gospel it might be something like this:

    Are you hungry? Come eat with me
    lonely? let me walk with you
    tired? i’ll lend a hand
    broken? i will hold you
    in bondage? you can be free

    fundamentally

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