Ausbun's sermon -- "Persecution in the Middle East" -- focused on John 15:18-25 and explored radical Islam, ISIS, and how Christians are treated by such terrorist groups. He explained that typical persecution methods included forced conversion to Islam, being taxed at nearly a year's wages, leaving the area or execution.
Ausbun preached the sermon Aug. 24 and uploaded it two days later. On Aug. 29 he received a message from YouTube informing him his account had been closed.
The experience of his sermons no longer being available to the general public was "traumatizing," Ausbun said in lighthearted fashion, speculating that the 36-minute sermon caused YouTube's automatic monitoring alarms to shut down his account.
"This was not meant for the general YouTube audience, though posting it certainly gives it that platform," said Ausbun, who has led First Baptist Church in Moreland, Ga., nine years.
"To show how popular my sermons are, that particular sermon only had four views in the couple of days before it was pulled," he said with chagrin. "It really was sorta pitiful."
Ausbun said he had no success in his attempts to contact YouTube to correct the problem. That's when he had the idea to send a tweet to Fox News commentator Todd Starnes in New York. After the Labor Day weekend, Starnes contacted Ausbun to verify his legitimacy and then published the story on Sept. 2.
"I'm not kidding, within 20 minutes my account was restored and all the videos were available again," Ausbun said.
Within two hours viewership of his sermon had jumped to 52 and was steadily rising. Within three hours there were 130 views. Two days later, 12,656 -- far beyond the 150 who regularly attend First Baptist on Sunday mornings.
Before the dustup, a deacon ordination service on the site had tallied 418 views, the sanctuary choir singing "Amazing Grace" had 301 views and a video of a church member playing his guitar and singing in a service had 102 views. A river baptism had been virtually flat at 56.
Interestingly, the deacon ordination service, for example, jumped to 722 after the reinstatement.
Ausbun said "nothing derogatory about the Islamic faith" was in his sermon "outside of the radical fringe groups who are in the media every day. I was simply educating my congregation on how those groups operate and the tremendous amount of persecution that Christians are encountering at their hands.
"I've been posting to YouTube for three years and never had anything like this to happen," he said. "But I do know that it's not unusual to be banned and, once individuals appeal their case, a 'real human' gets involved and makes a decision. There is no way they could hire enough people to evaluate each video each time it is uploaded," he said.
YouTube's community guidelines clearly state that it doesn't allow "hate speech" and Ausbun believes some of his content tripped YouTube's alarms, automatically shutting down the account. But there was nothing in the sermon that could be considered in that realm, and upon review that must have been why his account and sermons were reinstated, he said.
The good side of the story is Ausbun's sermon has been viewed by thousands more than would otherwise have heard his Gospel presentation.
What's the takeaway?
Ausbun paused for a minute and responded, "I guess the lesson is by speaking up you can make a difference. Don't accept an injustice, not matter how small you may think it is.
"I really don't feel this was a malicious act by YouTube. It was more than likely the result of computer programming gone awry than anything else, but when something like this occurs, appeal it to have the decision reversed."
For anyone interested, Ausbun preaches every Sunday morning at 8:30 and 11 a.m. The videos of his sermons can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/user/dgausbun.
Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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