In 1968 Andy Warhol said that everyone would have 15 minutes of fame. It was a criticism of the modern fascination with celebrities and the ever-moving lens of the television camera.
Today, the fifteen minutes has been reduced to five.
Twitter is an Internet miniblog host whose members may post individual text messages of up to 140 characters. Other members can sign up to read another’s posts. But with many “friends,” as Twitter calls them, the stream of posts moves quickly.
How fast does a Twitter stream move? How long does it take an individual post to move out of a person’s stream? One researcher says, “we now know the answer is just a brief five minutes.”
Catching people’s attention is like shooting at a moving target. Ironically, one of the suggestions of the Internet gurus is not merely to repeat messages, but to build relationships.
Strange as it may sound, the Internet is a personal and personable medium.
The lesson should not be lost on Christians. The Gospel Blimp story needs updating, but the lesson is the same. Those who rely on mass media and impersonal means of evangelism are missing the real opportunities. Even with media, the issue is to use them to connect with people, build bridges and establish relationships so that the message of Christ may be shared.
How to do that in a wired world?
- Engage people. Don’t just fire messages out to the world, but invite questions and comments, engage in dialogue, seek opinions, draw people out. Social networks are the rage, and no wonder: it’s where people hook up. Christians avoid such networks like Facebook because of the dangers, when they should be using them, purposefully, for the gospel.
- Stay the course. Consider the use of media, and especially electronic media, a long-term approach, not a one-shot attempt. Relationships, like Rome, are not built in a day. That means frequency and consistency are essential. A weblog updated, say, once a month, will make no impact.
- Use a fork, not a spear. Use the multi-pronged approach, rather than depending on a single venue. One medium reinforces the other.
- Know the strengths and weakness of each medium. Twitter, for example, demands a special style of writing. Fit the message to the medium. One Brazilian brother thought humor was out of place in a sermon or lesson on spiritual things. Without it on the Internet, however, one won’t last long.
- Establish your model, and know your parameters. In any medium, one must match the objectives to the possibilities offered. Electronic media like the Internet demands new approaches, new ways of working. The challenge is to fit the eternal gospel into yet another earthen vessel.
Paul said he became all things to all people, “so that by all means I may save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NET). That should apply to Internet users as well.
Invest in getting the word out to people today where they are, with their short attention span. Build the bridges, know the people, work the media.
Because five minutes isn’t enough to tell someone about the cross of Jesus Christ.