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Jesus and the Twitter Era – An Interview with R. Christian Bohlen

Young man lying on his back in the mountains, reading on smartphone
January 22, 2022

Note: The full interview on Inspiration.org with Dr. Craig von Buseck can be found here.

CVB: The title of your book is ‘Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine,’ and the subtitle is, ‘The Story of Jesus and How it Applies to Us in the Twitter Era.’ The interesting hook for me in your book title is the Twitter era. Tell me how you came up with this concept of the story of Jesus and how it applies in the Twitter era?

Christian Bohlen: That subtitle just evolved in the last couple of years, to be honest, but this book was 20 years in the making. As we went through the process, what became ever clearer is that the way people think and read and communicate today is dramatically different than generations before. Everything is changing. It’s the story of Jesus but told in a time where the world is changing. It’s becoming a very dark and negative place. We need the firm foundation of Christ more than ever. We also need to present it in a way that works for modern readers.

So this book is packaged in a way that just works for the modern man. On the cover, there are some millennials back-to-back on their smartphones.

CVB: That’s kind of the image of the times, isn’t it?

Christian: It really is. There are a lot of big, thick, beautiful scholarly books that have been written about Jesus and loved for generations. But a lot of people nowadays simply won’t bother with that – they just won’t take the time. It has a lot to do with how it’s designed. I am an award-winning professional instructional designer. It’s what I do for a living. I take content and make it suitable for a particular audience.

CVB: Interesting. So obviously in what you do, you’ve seen this trend taking place. I mean, I remember back in the eighties, they talked about the MTV generation. They wanted short videos and they wanted it moving fast.

Christian: Right.

CVB: Well, media is on steroids now from what it was then. So how does that affect the telling of the gospel message?

Christian: Well, it needs to be visual and in short doses. These chapters are 10 minutes each. There are little sections that are called out, like how it applies to me and making sense of scripture. There are pictures. So it’s all about making it simple and scannable – something that somebody can get in and out and move on with their life. That’s the approach.

Ironically, even though I designed it for the modern generation, senior citizens are my biggest fans.

CVB: Really? Isn’t that interesting.

Christian: It is. When people already love the Lord, they love being with Him. This book is the story of the life of Jesus. It’s from birth to resurrection. It is the scriptural account. It’s historically accurate, but there are some unique features for seasoned Christians. They really like it.

One person who reviewed it said this book has the amazing ability to work for people at whatever level. So if you’re brand new to the gospel, it doesn’t assume any prior knowledge, it’ll take you and lead you through. But if you’re deeply seasoned and in touch with the Lord, you will enjoy and savor that connection as you walk with Him, because it feels like a movie. A lot of it is written in present tense.

The stories of Jesus unfold before your eyes with subtle features that make it feel more real. One of the best compliments I got was actually on the back from Kirkus Reviews, one of the top two review organizations in the world, who said that it makes all the elements of the Jesus narrative feel fresh. That’s hard to do. People know the story of Jesus pretty well, but this makes it feel fresh. So for senior citizens, that’s very appealing.

At the end of every chapter, there’s a section called ‘His life and mine,’ which is in the title of the book. These are a few bullets about what did saw Jesus do in this chapter, then it asks, ‘What would you do?’ If I’m humble and I really want to follow the Lord, as one of those deeply seasoned lifelong Christians, I can still get fresh inspiration. God will still tell me how I can be a better disciple. This book has the ability to adapt to the needs of the reader. Yeah.

CVB: Is it almost like a daily devotional? Is that how you see it?

Christian: I think that’s a great way to do it. It’s a 10 or 15 minute chapter a day. You can read it in two to three weeks easily. Several readers have said that they recommend that people don’t just try to plow through it. You should allow yourself to focus on it like a devotional.

If I immerse myself for 10 minutes at night or in the morning on the life of Jesus, it’s going to give me that to chew on that day.

CVB: Talk to me a little bit about your observation of where we’re at with social media and the connection to your book. Social media is changing everything.

Christian: It is.

CVB: We have never been here before as human beings.

Christian: No.

CVB: Everything is changing rapidly. How is that affecting us individually? How is it affecting our community? How is it affecting the church?

Christian: I’m not an expert in social media. But I did do research on what is the data saying. There’s an increasingly thick pile that points to some serious problems. Now I’m not saying don’t use social media. I do use it. I believe that if Jesus were here, He would probably use it, because he wanted to relate and connect to people and the way that they’re living life. But I think He would be very careful about how he’s using that tool. I think we have to be very cautious with our children putting limits on that because the impacts on children are really significant. The research is saying it’s an awful thing. I think it can mess us up spiritually. You can get caught up in that whole ‘rant’ mentality – the negativity, the hiding behind the anonymity – all that stuff is really negative.

Beyond that is that people’s attention span is going down. They’re not willing to read long stuff anymore. And so we’ve got to find a way to get their feet planted on the rock of Christ, but do it in a way that they’re willing to deal with. That’s why this book, I think, is so important.

CVB: We typically don’t share the bad stuff about our own lives on social media. We share what is good – like, “Hey, look at this great thing that’s happening.” And so it sends a message that everything’s great.

Christian: Absolutely.

CVB: I have actually heard people that I know and I love, and I look at them as mature, but looking at someone’s Tweet they said, “I don’t have that kind of life.” And I thought, “They don’t either.”

Christian: Yeah, exactly. That’s the truth. Nobody’s got that. The fear of missing out. That’s a really common thing. The jealousy, the envy, the feeling like I’m a nobody, the loneliness as you see other people seemingly having fun – all that stuff is heightened because it’s in your face all day long.

CVB: How do we point them back to community – real community with church, and fellowship, and small group ministry, and that kind of thing. How do we share the importance of what Jesus lived as a rabbi?

Christian: I think it comes to having conversations like this, where we share the concerns and that whether it’s in our family or church groups, that we send that message that you’ve got to have some limits. You’ve got to apply some personal discipline to limit your time on these devices.

The book points out that Jesus Himself said, “You need to gather.” The apostles gathered, right? The church family and the Body of Christ are necessary to help each other. If you get your feet firmly planted in the light of the world, then that light will fill you with greater wisdom and discernment. That’s another key here. There are a lot of fresh analogies in this book about the light and the living water, believing, and turning open this faucet in our hearts by believing in Jesus. When you get that true light of Christ that begins more powerfully filling your life, you’re going to have greater wisdom to make good life choices and realize, wait a minute, this social media stuff is not working for me. This is not helping me. It’s darkness. I need to climb out of that darkness.

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Estimated reading time:
4 – 5 minutes

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