Pastor John, in 2009 you wrote an article title, “Why and How I Am Tweeting.” Four years later, speak to us about your Twitter philosophy. What are you aiming to accomplish on Twitter? How do you use the medium?
I have been thinking about uses of Twitter largely because I don’t want to use it in a way that dishonors the Lord. Here are some of my recent thoughts.
Purpose Your Tweets
I think everybody who has a Twitter should think and pray through why they use it. God is a planning God. He is a purposeful God, and he calls us to do things purposefully. The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
“God is a planning God. He is a purposeful God, and he calls us to do things purposefully.”
So, we are supposed to have a God-centered purpose in all that we do, whether we are playing softball, writing a tweet, preaching a sermon, changing a diaper, or making a meal. The Bible really gets to the specifics of our life and says, “Think it through.” Ask, “Why are you doing this?” And then let the why govern the how.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion.” Ask yourself, “Is my tweet going to build up? Is it going to fit the occasion? Is it going to minister grace to those who hear?”
Don’t Tweet Yourself
Then probably the biggest thing I do is say: “All right, beware, Piper. Am I seeking the praise and attention of people?” How often are you checking your followers? “Beware,” said Jesus, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). There is a deep, fallen, and human craving to be seen, known, liked, and praised. Oh, Jesus had strong words for that!
“There is a deep, fallen, and human craving to be seen, known, liked, and praised.”
Luke 20:45 warns, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts.” Just beware. They make long prayers to give a pretense. Oh, Jesus hated that kind of thing, and I want to hate it in me! I don’t want to go around looking at people. I have got enough problems right here in the mirror with John Piper’s love affair with attention. So, that is a huge warning.
And here is a very practical thing God did for me recently. As I am pondering ending my ministry at Bethlehem as a pastor, I thought of a text I might use when I get to say five minutes worth of gratitude at a service. John the Baptist said, “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29–30). And I just want that to fly as a banner over every tweet. Jesus up; Piper down. But I will tell you. That is really, really tricky. It makes all of us distinguish between self-promotion and truth-promotion — self-promotion and Christ-promotion.
This is subtle. Here is a very concrete example of what I don’t like to read in tweets. It goes something like this: “Humbled to be invited by the most famous person in the world to their super important event.” This is using humble language to quote a tribute to yourself. I see this all-over Twitter. Everybody talks as if they are self-conscious about repeating something somebody said about them, and yet I see this everywhere. People re-tweeting commendations of themselves or their work.
There is something inside of me that cringes when I see that. Yet I know I point people in my tweets to material I have written. Now, I have to at that moment say, “Am I doing this because I really love getting lots of attention or lots of followers? Or do I love the truth I have written so much that I want to post it. I want my followers to read the truth, not care about me.” Those are tough distinctions. But I think we really, really have to make them.
Avoid Attacking on Twitter
Here is another caution more for blogs than tweets. Beware of scolding someone in public when it might be more productive to do it in person. Here is a way I think about it. If you are speaking at conference with 5,000 to 10,000 people and the speaker in front of you says something amiss, it may be, in your talk following him, you should publicly dress him down. But I doubt it. Probably you should go to him behind the stage and say, “Did you mean to say what I thought you said?” And then give him your issue. Tweeting is like having an audience of thousands of people or hundreds depending on where you are, and as soon as you send something, you are saying it to that person in front of hundreds or thousands of people.