I raised a question on twitter and facebook that I want to explore here, where I can develop things a bit more and where, I hope, you will feel free to comment without the constraint of 140 characters.
Here is how I put it on facebook:
“It seems to me that Wesleyans are almost invisible in social and print media. An informal survey on twitter, for example, named Adam Hamilton as the UM leader most likely to have the largest following on twitter. Hamilton has 9,000 followers. This is staggeringly small compared to Mark Driscoll (about 350,000 followers), John Piper (about 450,000 followers), or Rick Warren (about 900,000 followers).
Does the invisibility of Wesleyans in social media and print spheres matter? What is at stake?”
(As of this writing, the United Methodist who has been identified with the largest following on twitter is Tim A. Stevens (@timastevens), who is currently serving as the executive pastor at Granger Community Church with 38,000 followers. Leonard Sweet also has many more than Hamilton with near 26,000. Feel free to comment with an update if you know of someone who has more followers.)
I raised the question in a more concise way on twitter (you can follow me there @kevinwatson) and had several interesting exchanges there as well. Someone has also suggested the hashtag #andcanitbe if you want to contribute to the conversation, or follow it, there.
A few calls for nuance that have been made and are worth repeating. United Methodist and Wesleyan are not necessarily the same thing. And United Methodists don’t have the market cornered on being Wesleyan. In other words, there are United Methodists who aren’t Wesleyan. There are also Wesleyans who are not United Methodist.
I also feel compelled to say that the purpose of this is not to disparage the Reformed tradition, or to suggest that any of the names I mentioned are the best representations of the Reformed tradition. They are simply anecdotal. I recently saw a video clip where Mark Driscoll explicitly stated that he knows many Arminians who love Jesus, and that he would welcome Arminians to join Mars Hill. I would hope to see Wesleyans be at least as charitable to Driscoll as he is willing to be towards us.
But the purpose is to say that we are not doing a very good job of getting our message out. For at least five years I have heard people raise the lack of visibility of Wesleyans in print publications, for example, with some regularity and frustration. I once heard a UM leader make the point that you would not find hardly any books in Barnes and Noble that were written from a Wesleyan perspective. Since hearing that comment, several informal perusals of book stores has confirmed that observation in my own experience. And in many ways the discrepancy is actually worse in Christian bookstores. Now that physical Cokesbury stores are closing, there is almost nowhere a person who is searching for Christian resources can go to find material that is deeply Wesleyan. I’m actually not sure you can overstate the gap that currently exists between the effectiveness with which folks in the Reformed tradition are getting out their message compared to Wesleyans.
So, do you think this matters? Why? Most, but not all of you, who have already contributed on twitter and facebook did think it matters. And by all means, if you have already chimed in on facebook or twitter, please contribute here as well!