When my father first released Evidence that Demands a Verdict in 1972 there was very little popular apologetics materials available, and so it was an instant success. But now with the recently updated edition, and the growth in the apologetics industry over the past few decades, there is an abundance of material. The challenge today is not the availability of material, but how to make the material accessible, interesting, and relevant to people through the variety of means that people access material.
While there are a variety of different social media platforms, Twitter is one of my favorites. Here are 6 ideas and principles for apologists to effectively use Twitter.
- Have A Long-term Perspective. Effective ministry through Twitter is not built overnight. It takes time to develop a unique voice and to grow followers. But here’s the bottom line: If you provide quality tweets, and stick with it over time, you can influence people positively with apologetics. Don’t give up if you don’t get instant followers. Unless you have an existing platform that you bring to Twitter, it will take time and commitment. But it can be done.
- Be Positive. We live in an argumentative culture (and this can be especially true for apologists!). People seem to have no problem saying things on Twitter that they would never say in person. It’s easy to be negative. And yet people generally don’t listen to those who are critical, snarky, and condescending. While I have had my moments (and had to delete a few tweets), my goal is to be positive. Even when trolls hound me, I aim to respond with kindness and grace (see Proverbs 15:1). This is not always easy, which is why I give myself time before responding to negative critiques so I can hopefully respond in a positive manner.
- Provide Value. There are endless voices competing for our time and allegiance. I want to use my time well. And I assume most people do also. My goal is that people come to my Twitter feed expecting to find apologetics material that provides value to their lives. Thus, I post articles that I find helpful, insightful quotes, quality resources, shout-outs to people who encourage me, and occasionally personal experiences or humorous incidents to (hopefully) give people a good laugh.
- Champion Others. Not only do I want to provide value on my blog and Twitter feed, I want to help promote others who also provide value. That could certainly be I use the app Reeder app to follow dozens of blogs and articles every day on topics such as culture, leadership, youth, relationships, theology, and apologetics. If you write something of value, then I will likely tweet it. My goal is to help promote material that is beneficial, and I am more than happy to use my platform to champion others when they produce quality content. We, apologists, need to lock arms with others who share a common passion so we can have an exponential impact.
- Don’t Over-Tweet. Few things frustrate me more (on Twitter) than people who over-tweet. In fact, the quickest way I unfollow someone is if they tweet too much. No one is that important that we need to know what he or she is doing every five minutes! Personally, I have found about 6-8 tweets per day to be a good balance. In his book Platform, Michael Hyatt encourages people to tweet about 10-12 times per day. If you have good content, then go for it.
- Be Personal. Trust is one of the most important commodities today. Why should people trust you? In general, if people realize there is a real person behind the Twitter account, who has common dreams and struggles, and who is authentic, they will be much more likely to trust you. Don’t be afraid to share personal experiences from time to time—it will help humanize you. I enjoy reading occasional funny incidents, personal updates, and interesting experiences from people I follow. And I try to provide that for my followers as well. Also, I often add brief comments about blogs that I post so readers know what I think about it.
Twitter is a great form of social media. And apologists should use it as a medium to help positively advance the conversation. If you use it, and you want to genuinely influence people for good, then my encouragement is to have a long-term perspective, be positive, provide value, champion others, don’t over-tweet, and be personal. If you follow these ideas (or ones like it), you just might be surprised at how many people you can positively influence for the kingdom.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.