Tweet If You Heart Jesus

Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation

Elizabeth Drescher

May/2011, 208 Pages, PAPERBACK, 6 x 9

ISBN-13: 9780819224231



Churches everywhere are scrambling to get linked with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But are they ready for the Digital Reformation: the dramatic global shift in the nature of faith, social consciousness and relationship that these digital social media have ushered in? Tweet If You ♥ Jesus brings the wisdom of ancient and medieval Christianity into conversation with contemporary theories of cultural change and the realities of social media, all to help churches navigate a landscape where faith, leadership and community have taken on new meanings.


Elizabeth Drescher is adjunct associate professor of religion and pastoral ministry at Santa Clara University and a highly regarded speaker and writer on everyday religion and spirituality. Her doctorate, from the Graduate Theological Union, is in Christian spirituality, and  a master's degree in systematic theology from Duquesne University. She is the author of  Tweet If You  Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse 2011) and Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America's Nones (Oxford 2016). On Twitter, she is @edrescherphd.

"Culture has shifted. According to professor-writer Drescher, we are already living with a new "habitus," or rule for life. Drescher challenges mainline churches facing a well-documented decline in membership to engage the "Digital Reformation" in order to renew participation. Combining a playful title and illustrations with anthropological insights, the author takes an optimistic yet practical look at the way things are and the reasons why churches should accept change. She sets today’s shift within the context of history, explaining that characteristics of social media hearken back to earlier works of Christians past (e.g., Paul reaching far-flung churches with short letters, medieval Christians learning without books, Luther creating a Christianity accessible to all). She argues that "change is being led by the swarm rather than the queen," and it resembles the improvisation of early Christians, who had little concern for borders or buildings. This glass-half-full approach will motivate readers to count participation by interactions instead of bodies in pews. Drescher’s encouragement adds a hopeful voice to the debate over churches’ use of social media, though it likely won’t be the last word."

"The next Reformation is happening on Facebook, according to Santa Clara University professor Elizabeth Drescher, author of the new book Tweet if You Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation. Drescher explains that social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are both powerful tools for the practice of Christian faith and a great challenge to modern understandings of what it means to be a friend, a spiritual companion, or a member of a community. “What does it mean to ‘love your neighbor’ in a world in which a ‘friend’ might as easily be the kid from down the street you grew up with as a woman in Botswana whom you’ve never seen in person and only know in the context of Facebook…?” she asks in the book’s introduction.

Grounded in the histories of Christianity and mass communications, Tweet If You Jesus is an accessible blend of intellectual history and case studies that will help both novices and experienced church communicators sharpen their use of social media to share resources and build Christian community. “We must travel through this landscape on its own terms,” she reminds church leaders, “open throughout to the possibility that God just might be doing an entirely new thing among us—140 characters at a time.” Drescher offers particular hope to mainline leaders, whom she says have the advantage in the Digital Reformation—if they will seize it. “The very characteristics that have made mainline Protestants so generally ineffective with broadcast media are actually assets with regard to digital social media, which highlight practices of creative improvisation, participation, and distributed authority,” she writes. “New digital communication practices provide the opportunity to share the riches of ancient and medieval Christian traditions…while also opening our churches to the diverse spiritual perspectives of many believers and seekers…”

For Episcopalians, Drescher makes the topic come alive with examples from Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona, Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas, the Rev. Ron Pogue of Unapologetically Episcopalian the Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena and others.

While acknowledging that much of the mainline church is behind the social media curve, Drescher’s outlook for the ultimate success of the Digital Reformation is optimistic. “Maybe all of this technology and the change it is creating seems overwhelming,” she writes, “but at the end of the day, we’re people of the Resurrection…Our traditional belief in transformation…both calls us to and prepares us for life in this period of profound renewal in the church.”
—The Episcopal Diocese of Texas

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