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OPINION

Via Twitter, pastors connect with church, others

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Read the sidebar, "5 Twitter tips for pastors," at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=38536

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- With social media sites like Twitter, pastors can easily connect with their church members or fellow preachers just by typing out a message and hitting "send."

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But navigating the constant stream of Twitter and other social networks from the standpoint of a pastor can be challenging since those websites are targeted toward more casual content. However, many pastors throughout the country are using Twitter as a tool to encourage and further teach the Gospel.

Micah Fries, lead pastor at Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo., said he tweets to share further thoughts on his sermons, so church members can continue to contemplate each week's message.

"I guess for me Twitter -- and Facebook to a similar degree -- is much like an extension of the pulpit," he said. "So I try to use it regularly during the week as a means of extending the sermon throughout the week."

But Fries does more than tweet Scripture references or sermon points. His Twitter feed includes day-to-day observations and comments on his family's activities. He said showing people both his professional and personal life is important because both aspects of life are intertwined.

"I'll be talking about sanctification and 30 minutes later I'm talking about the Florida Gators, and then I'm probably going to post a picture of me making milkshakes with my daughter," Fries said. "I do that intentionally because to me that's what life looks like."

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For Bart Barber, pastor at First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, Twitter gives him a place to share his thoughts on the topic du jour and keep an open conversation going with fellow Christians.

"A lot of times Twitter really feels like teaching in a way," he said. "It is the opportunity to react to the events of the day in a way that people who follow you see a new perspective about it or learn something about it."

Unlike Fries, Barber's congregation is much smaller and many of his church members do not use Twitter. So instead of using the site mainly to reinforce sermon messages, he reaches out to other Christian leaders.

"I'm using Twitter more strategically to communicate with a group of people that we share a similar mission, and they may not even be people I know. They're people who have the same affinity I have. They care about the Gospel. They care about Southern Baptists."

Like Barber, Chad Driggers, who preaches at First Baptist Church in Fruitland Park, Fla., uses Twitter to follow other pastors. But he also uses Twitter to keep updated on Baptist organizations like Baptist 21 and movements like the North American Mission Board's Send North America church planting strategy.

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Driggers said he uses Twitter to keep "informed of what's going on within Baptist life and within Christian circles" and learn about other ministries from around the world.

The social network has reconnected him to old friends, too. Driggers now talks to people he hasn't seen in years, like a student from his youth ministry days who is now a youth intern, and former classmates from his time at the Baptist College of Florida.

Whitney Jones is a writer with Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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