Last week, Rick Warren tweeted something that got people all fired up.

I didn’t see the original tweet at first but based on the reaction, I thought he had said,

“I stole the idea for ‘Purpose Driven Life’ from an episode of Saved by the Bell where Zack realizes his band Zack Attack is not his purpose”

Turns out that wasn’t what he tweeted. It was a lot less inflammatory than that. In fact, I think if he had yelled the same thing he tweeted from a conference stage, we all would have seen it as a challenge and at worst done a “Oh no you didn’t!” reminiscent of Gina from the show, “Martin.”

A day after that, Carlos Whittaker, who currently writes 27% of all Christian tweets, announced he was quitting twitter. Fortunately, cause Carlos is one of my favorite people on twitter, he was just kidding but people still got a little stirred up. Then, I got some hate mail for challenging pastor Matt Chandler to a dance off.

It was a perfect storm of twitter and it made me realize we needed a “Christian twitter handbook.” Some document we could refer to and dissect and disagree with but in the process at least discuss this communication medium.

So today, that’s what I did. I’m not a Twitter expert, but these are the things I’ve learned on the mean streets of Twitter in the last year. (Each headline is the length of a tweet with a longer explanation under it if necessary.)

Christian Twitter Guidelines

1. Beware “the boy who cried retweet.” If you retweet everyone, you might as well retweet no one.

2. A photo online is forever. Don’t tweet a picture unless you’re ready for it to exist forever online.

3. If their Twitter profile lists “tickle fights” and “wearing bikinis” as their hobbies, they’re not real.

4. Complaining that someone you follow “tweets too much,” is the peak of Twitter selfishness.

What you’re saying is, “I know you have 200 followers, but I feel like you should have checked with me on the number of tweets I tolerate a day. It’s 7. And you just tweeted your eighth time of the day.”

5. If you’re a pastor, you are contractually obligated to tweet how hott your wife is or that you married up or out of your league.

6. When you write a rude tweet to tell someone they were rude, you create such a forcefield of irony it makes Alanis Morissette’s teeth hurt

7. Worrying about someone hating you is like chasing down a car that gave you the middle finger on the highway. Let it go.

8. Don’t make grand claims you won’t fulfill. I once promised to tweet through a section of the Bible. I didn’t. Epic fail on me.

9. Always, always double check that you’re sending a private direct message not a public tweet. Switching the two is not so awesome.

10. If a tweet gets retweeted a bunch, avoid the temptation to write 47 versions of that tweet. Quit tweeting a dead horse.

11. “Do what you love and you will find someone who loves the same thing; don’t look for love. Don’t beg for love, or suffer for love.”

You know who write that positive message? Snooki from the Jersey Shore show on MTV. Everyone and their grandmother tweets affirmations. Be careful that your amount of positive messages don’t make other people feel negative. I’m not above writing the odd positive tweet myself, but when you rainbow it all day, it can feel fake.

12. Don’t tweet holier than you normally talk. Don’t get seminary mouth all of the sudden when you get on Twitter.

13. Asking for a retweet is a bad way to first introduce yourself to someone. Make friends, not favors on twitter.

14. A smiley face is twitter’s version of “bless her heart.” You can’t tweet a jerk statement and then think ending it with a :) erases it.

15. If you’re married, you have 2 options for your photo: you kissing your spouse or a photo from your wedding.

16. Keep your name short. Your email address might be “GodismykingIpraisehiminthemorning777” but that’s too long to retweet.

17. Twitter has a 2 to 1 sarcasm ratio. For every 2 people who get your sarcasm, 1 person will take you seriously and think you’re a jerk.

18. Sending a link is like sending a piece of your reputation, send it carefully.

19. Don’t be 2 different people on twitter. Tweet the way you live. If you wouldn’t say something flirty in “real life,” don’t on Twitter.

20. Twitter is tone deaf. Be hyper careful about trying to speak subtly on Twitter. Words can be misinterpreted very, very easily.

21. Don’t become a “Christian Provocateur.” That’s great your church is doing a sermon on sex. Just don’t create fake sexy tweets for “buzz”

22. Focus on tweeting something vital, not something viral.

23. Don’t “twudge,” which is just twitter’s version of judging someone’s entire soul based on a 140-character tweet.

24. Don’t create silly words using the tw prefix. That goes for me too, “twudge?” Good grief! It’s so tempting though or twempting.

25. Don’t mistake number of followers on twitter for success on twitter. Measure quality of interactions not quantity of interactions.

26. Twitter is just a medium. Don’t fall so deeply in love that you think it won’t disappear or evolve like every other medium.

27. Resist the temptation to “turn on a speaker” during a conference. Public tweets are great for compliments, but bad for criticism.

I’ve seen this happen with hashtags, the way people can collectively see tweets about a certain subject. As a speaker, I love feedback from people in the crowd about what I’m talking about. But I think you should email or direct message your criticism and publically tweet your compliments. The ability to sway a crowd into a negative space is pretty massive. And let’s be honest, if during the middle of a conference speech you verbally screamed out, “That last point was whack!” your friends would sit somewhere else.

28. There needs to be some international sign that means, “I’m tweeting lines from the sermon during church.”

Right now, people think you’re playing Angry Birds if you use your iPhone during church. Until we have that sign, just do what I do and yell, “I’m tweeting the sermon!”

29. Look at a whole web page before you send a link to one thing you like on it.

A number of times I’ll be about to use twitpic and realize there’s a half naked photo for American Apparel on the page that is hosting the photo. I use the direct link option on image shack. You can’t be held accountable for the whole web, but be careful.

30. Twitter time is different from real time. Responding to a tweet from last week is like referencing the 1840s. Stay current or stay quiet

31. Unfortunately, 140 characters will not allow you to use a Christian email signature like, “In his grip,” in each tweet.

32. Be careful about sending someone an automatic direct message when they follow you. I’ve never had a good experience with one of those.

Do you use twitter?

If so, comment with your name so we can all follow you. (You can follow me @prodigaljon)

Or, help me finish this list. It’s woefully incomplete and I am sure you have some solid ideas.

What is a twitter guideline you would suggest?

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  1. Tim says


    I enjoy the work you do, it makes us remember that we should take God very serious and ourselves not as much.

  2. says


    I find that it is super easy to be "someone you are not" on the different social networking sites…Im all for authenticity. be yourself. tweet who you are.

  3. MWeger says

    Thanks, Jon! Very comprehensive. Had a buddy that got so excited about getting his new driver license and officially being a resident of a new state, he tweeted a pic of he and his wife’s licenses. Complete with address…DL #…full name… And he is a long-time twittalator. Oops. Sorry. Tweeter?


  4. says

    I made up a rule this morning about tweeting your first greeting of the day without mentions. It seems rude to only talk to your chosen people in front of all of us who follow you. I was grumpy this morning though.

    I'm @RobinMArnold on the Twitter.

  5. carissaelaine says

    I'm @figgins11. I'm a twitter geek. I retweet too often. Post too often.Cannot spell to save my soul. I think my twitter tips would be don't take yourself or anyone else too seriously. Give everyone the benefit of doubt. Follow Micah 6:8, Proverbs 10:12, Luke 6:27-35, and Romans 12:9-10

  6. @durvino says

    Is there a universal way to retweet with comments? The original tweet needs to be distinguishable from the comments

  7. says

    I had a twitter account, but when I tweeted, I felt like a twit. Also, when a boyfriend and girlfriend are "tweeting" back and forth. It's nauseating.