Pastors use social site to share Christ

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Last Sunday, Alan Jones preached on courage.

Between services at Cedar Creek Church in Aiken, he caught up with a few friends and members.

By a few, he means 300.

Mr. Jones, the media pastor, used the time to post a prayer request to Twitter.com: "first service done. praying for the courage to preach on courage again at 11 a.m. :)"

His Sunday morning tweet, as the text messages are called among the Twitter-savvy, might not seem like much, but Mr. Jones has found a powerful ministry tool in his year with the site.

"It's become a natural way to communicate," he said of the site, launched in 2006. "You develop an online community. People want to be talking about life, ministry, struggles."

That includes fellow pastors, members of the congregation and friends.

"The pace of our culture is so breakneck at times. There is a need in us to connect with people," he said. "You need community. God wired us that way."

Twitter is hardly the only social networking site to allow users to post updates throughout their day, but it's the most popular. A number of churches have found novel, even attention-getting, uses for the site.

This spring, a Florida congregation made headlines when its pastor invited members to tweet from their seats so he could answer their questions about his sermon in real-time. On Good Friday, a New York congregation used Twitter to deliver a Passion play adapted from the book of Mark. The account gained 1,700 followers in just a few hours.

While most of the site's uses are routine, they're not without impact, said the Rev. Charles Goodman. He signed up for Twitter a few months ago to keep members of Tabernacle Baptist Church, where he's the pastor, abreast of his whereabouts.

He tweeted in May from the installation service of his predecessor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, who leads the Chicago church President Obama attended.

Last month, he shared with his more than 80 followers a few reflections on a service: "Church worship was great. I was a little longwinded but i hope that the message was relevant and received. Time to put the Word to practice."

A casual survey of local pastors using Twitter reveals that many are young pastors of young churches. They are often already technologically adept and incorporate new forms of media into their church's services and outreach.

The young pastors might be in the majority among Twitter ministers in the area, but the Rev. Goodman says that doesn't have to be the case. Though he's young (he just turned 30), he leads a church that has been a downtown institution since 1885.

"We all need to be using all mediums as ministry," he said.

He has met a handful of skeptics, but says most haven't used the site.

"Twitter is about interaction. Relationships are about interaction. It's the same thing we're talking about," he said.

Nick Carnes, 28, started using Twitter two years ago, well before a surge in popularity that has resulted in more than 19 million worldwide users to date.

"If we're a modern church we've got to understand what's going on around us," he said. "I signed up because I was curious, but that's what's kept me going."

More than 700 people follow Mr. Carnes' tweets on church planting. On Sept. 13, he will launch New Passion Church at Cedar Ridge Elementary in Grovetown.

Last week, he tweeted to Kevin Lloyd, a pastor at Stevens Creek Church, which is also starting a church in Grovetown in September: "We are excited for our first event! We are cheering for your Grovetown campus as well. It's All for the same Kingdom!"

Twitter helps build relationships, Mr. Carnes said.

"You're not just this pastor. Now I'm a real person," he said. "I'm not putting on a facade on Twitter. People connect with that, and it opens doors for the Gospel.

"Rick Warren said awhile back that people who use Twitter are narcissistic. Now he's using it because he's seen it has power to share Christ."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter at kellyljasper.

Roll Call

To follow a user's updates, go to twitter.com/username.

Local pastors on twitter

nickcarnes, Nick Carnes, New Passion Church, Grovetown

kevinlloyd, Kevin Lloyd, Stevens Creek Church

revcegjr, Charles Goodman, Tabernacle Baptist Church

RevCharlie, Charles Cochran, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

PastorMarcSmith, Marc Smith, The Sanctuary, Evans

JohnKenneyQuest, John Kenney, The Quest, Martinez

MartyBaker, Marty Baker, Stevens Creek Church

genejennings, Gene Jennings, True North Church

toddsturgell, Todd Sturgell, Stevens Creek Church

ajwired, Cedar Creek Church, Aiken

Churches and Ministries

newpassion, New Passion Church, Grovetown

883WAFJ, Christian radio station WAFJ-FM (88.3)

devharris10, Devon Harris, Full Circle Refuge Ministries

stevenscreek, Stevens Creek Church

truenorthchurch, True North Church, North Augusta

infocuschurch, InFocus Church, Evans

thewellaugusta, The Well, Augusta

SaintBarts, Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, North Augusta

Notable Names

johnnymhunt, Johnny M. Hunt, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention

Rickwarren, Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life

PastorMark, Mark Driscoll, author and pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle

TheNoomaGuy, Rob Bell, author, speaker and pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, Grandville, Mich.

johnPiper, John Piper, theologian, author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis

joelosteenmin, Joel Olsteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, Houston

Who else is using Twitter for ministry? Join the conversation online.


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