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Cheryl Bridges/First Baptist Colquitt

Pastor Carl Marshall of First Baptist Colquitt spends a lot of time in his car making visits. He counts the portability of Twitter as a major asset in his keeping contact with church staff and deacons while on the road.

COLQUITT — Admittedly an old(er) dog about to close out his seventh decade of life, Carl Marshall is absolutely giddy about a new trick he’s learned.

 

Pray for those in the hospital and the services tomorrow. See you at 9:00 prayer time.

11:04 PM Feb 14th from txt

 

The 69-year-old Marshall, pastor of First Baptist Church here, was first introduced to the micro-blogging site Twitter in December through his son Mark, pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn. Mark had initiated his dad into the world of social media via Facebook, before subsequently setting up the Twitter account.

Twitter (twitter.com) exists to answer the question “What are you doing?” Users “follow” others through posts of 140 characters or less, giving a look-see at their day but also sharing links to websites and news.

 

Great A M service, Baptized 3, what a blessing to be a Pastor!

12:37 PM Feb 15th from txt

 

“I immediately saw Twitter as a tremendous tool to be used in ministry,” says Marshall, a ministry veteran of 49 years whose posts can be found at twitter.com/carlmarshall.

“I talked to my deacons about it and have got most of them set up to receive updates through their phones. A lot of people in our church are on Twitter as well.”

In a country where everyone loves to hop on a bandwagon, Twitter’s had to make a lot of room lately. William Shatner twitters. So do Shaquille O’Neal and Demi Moore. President Barack Obama’s Twitter account played a huge part in his grass roots support during the recent election.

Even a lack of opposable thumbs didn’t keep General Beauregard Lee (Georgia’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil) from twittering on Feb. 2 his forecast for an early spring.

 

Pray for Mary Walker she is having surgery in Mmacon.

9:26 AM Feb. 16th from text

 

A report released Feb. 12 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed the upsurge in Americans using devices such as Twitter to share consistent updates about themselves. In December 2008, 11 percent of American adults online said they fell into that category, up from nine percent the previous month and six percent in May.

Not surprisingly, the largest chunk of Twitter users were young adults. Nineteen percent of those 18-24 years old have used the site, joining the 20 percent of 25-34-year-olds. From there numbers drop steadily (10 percent users 35-44 years old, five percent 45-54 years old, four percent 55-64 years old).

Marshall is one of the two percent of his age group, according to the study.

 

On my way to Breakfast a little late, I was with the Family of Joe Mcgowan until after 12:15 pray for them.

12:21 PM Feb 16th from txt

 

Cory Miller, founder of the blog hosting service happyjoe.com and a consultant in the usage of social media, sees Twitter as a way of “shrinking” the church.

“No matter the size of the church, a pastor can update posts on Twitter to become more personable to members,” says Miller (twitter.com/corymiller303), a member of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. “In a large church he simply can’t have one-on-one conversations with everyone. Through this, people feel like they know him better.”

In a rural setting, pastors generally have a more spread-out congregation and smaller staff for visits to homes and hospitals. It’s the portability allowed through Twitter that Marshall loves most. Whenever he posts a “Tweet,” that message is conveyed to his Facebook status. Combined, more than 300 people receive an instant message regarding an announcement at church or urgent prayer request.

 

In the office will have staff meeting and then spend a lot of the day at the Hog show. I am sure I will see a lot of you there.

12:25 PM Feb 16th from txt

 

“I first discovered the value of Twitter when a church member was having a brain tumor removed,” says Marshall. “I was at the hospital in Dothan [Ala.] sending messages back to my deacons.

“When I got back to Colquitt the next day I found out a number of parents were up to date on everything. School had been out that day, and kids had been keeping up with my posts through their Facebook pages.

“I see these tools (social media) as a way of keeping the door open [for unbelievers]. The contact is there. It creates a way to raise people’s consciousness of their need for the Lord.”

 

Now at the Hog show. Not many preachers can do this. Fun time in South Georgia1

12:40 PM Feb 16th from txt

 

“Students often ask me what I do during the day,” says Adam Reed, associate pastor of students at First Baptist Church in Elberton. “Twitter is a way of being an open book. I’m consistently looking for ways to connect with youth and other youth pastors.”

Reed (twitter.com/ypadam) tried Twitter out last April when he was unable to attend a conference. He was aware of several peers attending and posting thoughts via Twitter, so he signed up to receive updates. Though not the same as being there in person, through it he found kindred spirits.

“Once I got on I was pretty much sold. It was neat to connect with other youth pastors, share ideas, and make new friends,” he says.

“With finances, the funds may not always be there to go to conferences and learn from others. Twitter lets me experience that somewhat.”

 

Hog show crowed.

12:46 PM Feb 16th from txt

 

Marshall agrees that the isolation often accompanying ministry work can be lessened through constant supportive feedback, even in 140 characters or less.

“I’d like to see more of our pastors on Twitter,” he declares. “It’s good for us to know we’re not in a boat by ourselves. Preachers can use some fellowship and a listening ear.

“I was at the hospital the other day and thought about how I could let other pastors know how to pray for me and me to pray for them. It would be a way we could minister to each other.”

The online friendships have helped him as well, adds Reed.

“It’s helped with sharing ideas for Bible studies, events, and activities. It’s been a sounding board at times when I’m trying to get some ideas together and think through some things. It’s been a great way to encourage friends I’ve met along the way.

“I’ve built some good friendships. We share our lives together and help each other out.”

 

Mary Walker called. She is fine after heart cath. Cannot drive but daughter may bring her home this week. Pray for those who are hurting.

9:11 AM Feb. 17th from txt

 

With the abundance of social media possibilities, why add another?

Sardis Baptist Church Pastor Ken Nichols says his use of Twitter actually eases his ability to communicate with others. Nichols updates his status on Twitter, which also updates his Facebook page. Separate Facebook and Twitter accounts keep people in his congregation (and some that aren’t) up do date on events at his church.

In addition to posting announcements to his church’s Twitter account, Nichols operates a blog for the Hephzibah and Kilpatrick associations. The corresponding Twitter account is used to post news links and blog posts regarding news in the association.

“It’s a great way to streamline,” he says. “Not a whole lot of our people are using Twitter, but it’s important as a middle man in getting the message out.

“When the updates and links go to Facebook, people are more likely to click on them rather than if I made the entry on the Facebook page directly.”

Marshall likes the possibilities in spreading the gospel, one chirp at a time.

“The opportunities for it are unlimited as far as I’m concerned.”

 

The basics

Twitter was founded in August 2006 as a “micro-blogging” site, where users could connect with family, friends, and co-workers in short messages less than 140 characters.

 

Why the funny name?

One of the founders compares Twitter’s usability to the short chirps of birds.

 

How many users?

Up to as many as 5 million. Hitwise, an Internet monitor that tracks web usage, said traffic to Twitter has tripled since the beginning of this year.

 

Who reads my updates?

It’s up to you. Your updates are public by default, but you can change that to approve followers and keep updates out of searches.

 

Can I keep people from following me?

Sure can. If you block someone, they can’t follow you or send any direct messages. If your account is public, they can still view it, but they won’t show up on your followers list.

 

What Georgia Baptists are on Twitter?

In addition to those mentioned in the story, the following have Twitter accounts. To find them key in their username after the prefix “Twitter.com/”.

Gerald Harris, editor, The Christian Index. Indexeditor.

Ken Nichols, pastor, Sardis Baptist Church. KenNichols.

Greg Potts, pastor, First Baptist Dallas. gregpotts.

Patrick Thompson, consultant, GBC Sunday School/Open Group Ministries. PatrickThompson.

Brian Bloye, pastor, West Ridge Church (Hiram). BrianBloye.

 

Other Southern Baptists on Twitter

Albert Mohler, president, Southern Seminary. albertmohler.

Ed Stetzer, president, LifeWay Research. edstetzer.

Baptist Press, news service of the SBC. baptistpress.

Alvin Reid, professor, Southeastern Seminary. docreid7.

Jonathan Falwell, pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va. jonathanfalwell.